The American Idol Classroom

I just watched the American Idol final on Fox tonight ( Japan is a week late). There were special guests everywhere and brilliant songs, what a fantastic piece of TV. Great entertainment is all about moving people, changing emotions to inspire, to relax, to take people on a trip where you acquire knowledge without you even knowing it, at the end you feel on top of the World and want to try it all again. There is so much the education world can learn from entertainment. Even in the one show, American Idol, you have…

The story. It starts off with thousands of hopefuls and you know where it’s going to end. You have a pathway to walk on and a goal to reach. There’s no dawdling or looking out the window. You know where you are, where you are going, so you start the walk. In the classroom the content of the lesson is the Idol stars, the students are the viewers, let’s follow the story.

The Baddie. Simon Cowell doesn’t mind playing the bad guy, the one everyone loves to hate, the one who people tune in to see, he’s in charge of everyone’s recording rights. You need something like that in your class. What do you make the bad guy everyone can battle against? Unnecessary Japanese? Katakana pronunciation? Talking too quietly? Just remember that mistakes aren’t bad guys, they’re good guys. As long as you don’t make them thrice.

It’s mine!. The reason Idol is so popular is that along the way it’s not the producer or teacher that chooses how you walk that path, the viewers, the students choose. It then becomes their own, they own it. Let the kids choose.

The emotion. The ups and downs, the “Oh nos!”, the “What’s going to happen next?”, the “I can’t believe it!” all keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end. You need the lows and tears to appreciate the highs and joys.

The sounds & sights. Sights are what we see straight away, it’s got to draw the eye. But music is the most powerful tool to move people emotionally. Imagine American Idol without music. Imagine a classroom without songs.

The event. You were there, you were part of it! You saw them at the lowly beginning, you saw them at the end. If you were part of it, you knew how special it was. Your students aren’t just in any English class, they’re in your English class. That is special.

The happy ending. No one could watch Idol and not be happy at the end. Yes there was a winner, but everyone was a winner. And we all know the end is just the beginning of the next chapter, and we want to know what happens next. Every lesson should be the same, we know who won, but we all won, and we all have a chance to try again next time.

Over the years entertainment has learned what people want, what they need and what they crave. That’s what we need to use in our lessons, to use all the tools & techniques available to make as many students as involved and engaged as possible in the lessons, in the learning. We don’t just have to move their minds, we have to move their hearts, to take them on a story as they learn, and arrive at the happy ending, the learning of the new skills, that everyone deserves.

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...