Make a Boring Lesson/Talk Pop with this Technique!

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Have you ever looked at the material you need to teach and thought, “this is boring me, and I’m the teacher”. Have you ever looked at your classroom or audience and saw them nodding off, at wich point, you thought “I don’t blame them this material is snooze city”. Whether your teaching tax code to grownups or history to teenagers, there will come times when you need to get through some material even you are not excited about giving. Today I’m going to show you an idea to help you add some flair to your talks and lessons.

Painting of the Civil War
Civil War painting from

The first method I call incongruent pictures. In this method you use pictures that convey your point but in a setting completely outside of the expected subject matter.Let’s say you were teaching a lesson about the Civil War.  You could use pictures like this painting from the actual Civil War.


From the Marvel Movie called Civil War

You can also throw in pictures from Marvel’s Civil War Movie.  If you don’t know what that picture is, it’s ok. This is a scene from Marvel’s movie series called the Civil War. If your students are into marvel super heroes they’ll get it right away.

I think the best way to go about this is to not even mention that some of the pictures are not from the actual topic you’re covering. Let your students enjoy seeing a subject they might think is boring, given to them using characters and settings they love. They will undoubtedly pay closer attention to see how you’re going to link their favorite topics with the topic your teaching.

One note of caution here. Be sure to make your incongruent pictures as incongruent as possible. You want it to be obvious to your students that some of your pictures are for fun. Depending on the age of your students you may need to note that the incongruent pictures are just to make a point.

The last thing you need is for one of your students to quote you in saying that Marvel’s Captain America helped end The Civil War. This is why this tactic is probably safer when given to a grownup audience, and even then you have to be careful. I once gave a lesson to a group of adults, and only a few of them picked up that all the pictures were fictitious. Your audience needs to have enough information about the incongruent pictures or the actual topic to know which pictures are there for their entertainment.

The second method is along these lines but a little less risky. You can make up a story that helps teach your lesson and then use the same incongruent pictures, but now because the story is fictional and your class is aware of this, you don’t have to worry about your students thinking that Bugs Bunny really did invent the light bulb.

Let’s say for example that you were teaching a class on how to use a particular type of software or program. You could make up a narrative that parallels the lesson in some way. You could have a character that needs to accomplish a task and to do so, must master the what your teaching. That character can be whatever you students are into, Star Wars, Mine Craft, My Little Pony, etc.

Now that you’ve got the idea lets talk about the best medium to deliver your incongruent pictures. Generally, I’m not a fan of PowerPoint, unless you went to great trouble to make sure your talk or lesson is engaging, however, in this case, the pictures you use can be delivered just fine with PowerPoint. If you’re running a flip classroom or need to prerecord the part of the lesson where you will use the incongruent pictures, I would recommend using something like PowToon. PowToon by its very nature out of the box can help you create and interesting and engaging standalone presentation.

Here is an example of a talk I gave for fun where I taught the true history of Christmas.

I made the talk as preposterous as possible. Both my story as well as my pictures were completely incongruent and fictitious. I thought that because my audience were all adults, that they would know immediately that it was a joke. I’m glad I wasn’t actually trying to teach anything because almost everyone didn’t realize it was fake until I was 70% done. If you ever meet anyone who thinks that Santa Clause wrote the US national anthem, you know they were at my presentation. What I didn’t account for was that most of my audience was not familiar with my topic (American holidays) or the pictures (random sci-fi and comic book references).

I hope that was useful.

If you’d like a step by step approach to using in-congruent stories and pictures, sign up at the bottom of the page and you’ll get the invite by email.

EduCraft Ideas also offers one on one coaching for public speaking, speech writing, and storytelling.  Click here if you want to go to the next level of speaking, one where people never forget what you said.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone walked up to you and said, “I’ll never forget that lesson you gave a couple of years ago? It’s always stuck with me.”

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