Starting Matters 6 Ways to Hook Your Students by Jo Mangum

by Jo Mangum

Thirty to sixty seconds. 

That’s it…to either get the classroom full of students on your side and rooting for you OR hating on you.  That’s all.  AND those precious seconds to grab their attention starts with the first words you speak.  No pressure there…

Experts agree a strong introduction is vitally important to a successful class. In fact, research shows you can be disorganized and boring after a great start and it simply will not matter if the students have already decided to like you. As Debbie Price, president of Well Said, puts it, “The art is in the start, the most important part of the work.”

As educators who teach laws and rules, we are accustomed to starting with objectives, housekeeping details, and rules of the classroom. Likely your audience’s minds will start drifting and you may not get them back.

Starting strong can be a big order and will require that you craft your opening and rehearse.  Here are X options:

  1. Tell a captivating story. The story can be about a relevant experience you had or a story of another person. Also, the story should be on average 60-90 seconds long and end with a lesson, a victory, or a discovered wisdom.

Years ago a young women, who appeared timid, raised her hand in class and asked a very profound question…

  1. Imagine scenario. You are asking your audience to mentally participate.

I want to ask you to close your eyes and imagine working with a client who…

  1. Ask an open-ended question. Your audience will immediately begin thinking about the answer in their head and become more engaged with you.

What are the most common reasons a seller uses the services of a real estate agent?

  1. State a shocking statistic. A statistic solidifies you are an expert while also engaging the brain of the student.

Look at the person sitting next to you.  Statistically one of you will fail.

  1. Use a powerful quote and ask the students to discuss the meaning and how it applies to them.

“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.”
— Leonardo da Vinci

  1. Play a short funny video. The student will immediately become more relaxed. Hint: make sure the video are PG-13 and non-discriminatory. Many times a good resource is old commercials.

When developing a class opening consider a couple of things:

  • Make sure the opening fits your teaching style. If you are generally analytical in your style starting with a slapstick video may be out of character for you. The class will notice that the opening in unauthentic.
  • Embrace practice. Not just practicing before you enter the classroom but also in the classroom. Notice student’s reactions and enhance or delete parts based on that feedback.

Now the work begins. Good luck!