Friday, October 16, 2009

Teachers - Exaggerate to Illustrate!

Learning and retaining dense information isn’t all about laughter, though it helps. For class, I comb the internet each day for wacky law cases. After a while, I can sense which stuff gets the best laughs. Like a comic working in a club testing out new material, I constantly work on delivery, timing, and audience engagement. However, the use of exaggeration in a classroom or boardroom is not about telling jokes. In fact, I can recall telling only one joke in class:

“What’s the only thing worse than biting into an apple and finding a worm?”
“Finding half a worm!”
And that’s why I stay away from joke telling.

Exaggeration is the secret to effective learning. It requires me to plant a picture so implausible and outlandish in the learners’ minds, that they can’t help but remembering the concept. For example, I use this hypothetical to discuss the legal concept of self defense:

You: Well hello there, Mr. Limping Crazy Man wielding a lumberman’s
axe. Your blade looks mighty sharp and shiny, even from 100 yards away.
Him: Why yes, better to slice you to ribbons.
You: Hang on a second as I record this scenario on my video cell phone.
Him: Did they give you a rebate on that phone? Hey, by the way, my name
is Johnny. Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!
You: Great. Come a step closer. And by the way, say hello to my little semiautomatic

Take Away: I believe that storytelling is a learnable skill, as demonstrated in the movie, Reservoir Dogs. In a few scenes, an undercover detective tirelessly trains a colleague on the fine art of spinning a tale. The key, he explains, is in remembering and exploiting the story’s rich details.

© 2009 Perry Binder, J.D. This passage contains excerpts from the book:
Unlocking Your Rubber Room: 44 Off-the-Wall Lessons to Lighten and Transform Everyday Life

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