SIP 11.4 Going for a Stroll as a Teaching Strategy

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?Students walking on Auraria campus, cityscape in background.

What can you do when students in small groups seem reluctant to talk? You might already pair students up to talk about a concept in class. But have you paired them up and then still heard crickets? It could be because the students feel uncomfortable – uncomfortable speaking with someone new, uncomfortable about talking about the topic out loud, uncomfortable that you will hear them. How can you make these pairings work better? You can incorporate movement ideas for 1- to 2-minute Brain Breaks shared in SIP 11.3. You can also send them for a stroll. Creating time for ambulatory discussion can help students in all disciplines, from sciences to the humanities, to process difficult content.

Take a SIP of this: going for a stroll as a teaching strategy

We know several things. Brains work better when they move (see SIP 11.3 for more on this). Students often talk more freely when they don’t feel like they have to be “on.” The idea of walking and talking is used in medicine and in psychotherapy. Movement is a good “cognitive strategy to (1) strengthen learning, (2) improve memory and retrieval and (3) enhance learner motivation and morale” (Jensen, 2005). So how do we get our students low-stress time in class and moving at the same time? You let them go on a stroll. Here are step-by-step instructions to get you started.

  1. Know what you want them to talk about when they stroll (using wheels or feet).
  2. Have them write down a prompt or hand out small sheets of paper with the prompt so they do not forget once out of the room.
  3. Let them know you want to hear back from each group when they return. Decide if you want them to write their answers down before coming back or if this is an oral activity.
  4. Set an appropriate amount of time for their walks. Fifteen to 20 minutes is often enough.
  5. Remind them of exactly what is going to happen when they return so they know the importance of returning on time, and also remind them that this is not the time to go and get a coffee (or build in enough time for people to get a coffee but affirm that it is their responsibility to get back on time).
  6. Understand some groups will want to stay in the classroom.
  7. Welcome groups back and listen to responses.

Added benefits are that students get to know each other better on these strolls and you get a few minutes to prepare for the next portion of class. Students have less anxiety speaking with their peers when they do not feel you listening in.

Still Thirsty? Take another SIP of this: Going for a Stroll as a Teaching Strategy

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