Imagine living and working in a hot country… Take a moment to imagine the warmth, being bathed for months in glorious sun, golden beaches and relaxing under a parasol for hours on end.
Then winter comes and there are no radiators.
I have lived in very cold countries but rarely had to suffer the elements in the winter because of robust insulation and heating. So when I moved to warmer climes, it took me by surprise when I had to teach wearing my jacket to help stave off the cold.
But really, why isn’t there any heating?
During one especially cold and wet winter a few years ago, I stumbled across a looped video of a roaring fire and thought it would be fun to start every lesson with the interactive whiteboard blazing away. Flames flickering, the crackling sound of burning wood emanating from the tinny speakers attached to the wall, if you closed your eyes, you could almost feel the warmth on your face. I loved it.
Before taking the register I would hold my hands up to the interactive whiteboard to warm them and proudly announce to my learner group that the room was going to be as warm as toast very soon. They must have thought I was barmy but I bet they secretly loved it, too.
As each lesson got underway, I would leave the sound on but muted the visual display. Then after a while, I would turn the video off completely. As soon as the sound faded out I was almost always met with appeals to put it back on. Many were convinced it actually made the room warmer!
The very act of removing the sound changed the mood in the room. My learners became more aware of their surroundings, more talkative, maybe even more animated. When I turned the fire back on, it always seemed to quell those impulses, the room was noticeably quieter.
So what if this could be used as a classroom tool to pacify rambunctious young learners? Could it help them manage their energy levels? What is it about a looped video of a fire which is so hypnotic? See for yourself, just click here.
Welcome back! How long were you away? A few seconds? A few minutes, or did you stay for the whole 8 hours?! Captivating isn’t it?
With my young learner groups, I started my lessons with the fire- visuals and sound, removing the visuals after the lesson introduction.
During the first collaborative speaking exercise, I would mute the sound. At the point when attention was waning and/or behaviour became too spirited, I would turn the visuals and sound back on, repeating the initial process.
Did it help? Arguably yes. It may not be a panacea for all classroom management problems – we still routines, don’t we? – but it certainly took the edge off some unwanted behavioural issues in my classroom.
On a side note, you may notice there are hundreds if not thousands of these videos available. Maybe you would like to be on a desert island, or imagine being caught in a blizzard snow storm, or how about 10 hours of rain.
Having experimented with a few, I have found that those with predominately bass frequencies work best. They sit well as background noise which fills the air but is less noticeable and easier for your learners to talk over. Also, the more monotonous and repetitive the sound, the better it seems to be.
Another favourite of mine is this glorious train journey. Mesmerising and beautiful- you might wish to start it from the middle after the sun has come up. It is the entire journey, Trondheim to Bodø, all 700km! This would explain why the video is almost 10 hours long! My guilty pleasure is that I have watched the entire journey, although piecemeal. The sound on this video is not especially train-esque and arguably aggravating, maybe because of the pitch. Instead turn the sound down, keep the visuals but use the audio from this video. Ahhh, that’s more like it!
I hope this is food for thought and sparked your interest, as it did mine. But one word of warning, be careful of the roaring fire, if you watch it for too long, you may well just…. fall…fall… into a… a… deep sleeeeeeep…