Although we now live in a high tech world and have access to a variety of teaching aids, there is one aid that is convenient, portable, uses no electricity, can be used effectively in light or dark and is available all the time.

The teacher as a teaching aid - methodology article

Yes, the teacher him or herself!

In my experience as a teacher I have discovered that I can involve students more in classroom discussion and activities if I follow certain simple steps.

  • Movement
  • Use body language
  • Eye contact
  • Gesture
  • Facial expression
  • Speech
  • Student talk
  • Names

Sitting behind a desk or standing on a dais creates a "distance" between the teacher and the students. Try to have an aisle and enough space between the rows so that you can easily reach those at the back. This way you can talk to individual students, allow the shy ones to ask questions quietly without the fear of embarrassment, as well as check their work and help them .

Some movement on your side is essential, because it allows the students to focus on you.

  • Stepping forward to emphasise a point, small steps towards different sides of the class lets the student feel that the teacher is taking genuine interest in what he or she is saying.

Use body language
Your body should be in your control. Hold it in such a way that you look alert and awake. Avoid slumping and sagging. Just as too little movement is boring, too much movement can be a distraction.

  • When your posture is erect it puts you in control of the situation and the students realise this. It also encourages the students, subconsciously, to become alert as well. You may notice the lazy ones sitting up and paying more attention to what is happening around them.

Eye contact
Make an effort to keep eyes lively, aware and interested. Move them around to take in everything. Fix them on specific students, but not for so long that they become uncomfortable! Avoid focusing on the worst or best students.


  • Knowing that the teacher demands eye contact keeps the students alert. It also gives the teacher a feedback on the impact of what he or she is saying. This is particularly important in large classes, where "distance" between the teacher and learner is greater, and individual attention is more difficult.
  • An effective teacher can control class behaviour to a great extent by the expression of his or her eyes.
  • Make sure that you make eye contact with each student, so that it seems you are talking to him or her individually.

Arms and hands are a very expressive visual aid. They can be used to describe shapes, actions, movements etc. but, remember to keep still while listening to a student . Otherwise the message sent to the student is that he is being longwinded or boring.

  • Habits such as fiddling with notes and books, playing with pens , key chains, or doodling with chalk on the black board can be both distracting and irritating for the student.

Facial expressions
There's nothing worse than a constant frown, which discourages students from asking questions, feeling free to discuss a problem or coming for help.
A smile can work wonders.

  • It encourages the student to participate more actively and dispels the notion that the teacher is over critical.
  • Look interested while a student is speaking.
  • A smile, a grimace, a curl of the lips, raised eyebrows etc. at appropriate moments will send messages as needed.
  • Send positive vibes and cultivate a sympathetic and encouraging expression!

Have you ever heard yourself speak? Do you know what your voice sounds like to others? A low monotone or a high-pitched voice can be difficult to understand or grating to the ears. Does the sound of your voice send students to sleep or running for earplugs?

  • Be critical of yourself. Try taping your voice - listen to yourself. Where are you slipping up?
  • Make your own personal checklist:
    • Are you speaking at the right volume?
    • Does the end of your sentence fall so low that students sitting at the back cannot hear?
    • Are you hemming and hawing too much?
    • Are you speaking too fast?


Student talk
Break the monotony and give students plenty of time to talk! It will keep them alert. Make small jokes, be friendly.

Call students by their name. It sounds warmer and friendlier and lessens the distance between the teacher and learner.

The teacher is the best teaching aid. Be sure that you are using yourself to the full effect.

Sima Jalil

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