We’ve all been there: that unexciting experience in a stuffy classroom with a disinterested instructor trying to learn the lifesaving skills of CPR. You certainly don’t want to be remembered as that instructor. In fact, you probably want to provide your students with the most engaging experience possible so they can retain the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform CPR and use an AED when seconds count. If you are a CPR instructor, chances are you teach one of the national curriculum, such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, or the Health & Safety Institute, to name a few. In addition to teaching your courses according to standards, you can certainly add some more flavor and excitement to your classroom.
Here are five simple ways you can make your CPR class more fun and engaging for your students. Take them or leave them, but know that I have successfully implemented all five of these suggestions with thousands of students over the years.
- Inform your students – I know this may sound simple, but students like to hear from their instructor two things at the beginning of each course: what topics will be covered and what time class will end. First, they want to know what is going to be covered. Students should have already been issued a course agenda, but reaffirming the agenda verbally and walking them through the topics will help them to be more at ease during class. Secondly, students lead busy lives and have made a special effort to attend your class. Tell them up front what time the class will be finished. Sharing these two pieces of information help set the table for students’ attention throughout the course.
- Statistics and facts – many learners love to understand perspective when it comes to learning a new skill or topic. Do a little research to find out the survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in your area, as well as some other interesting CPR facts. Couple these statistics with some averaged response times for emergency medical services and share them with the students. Helping students learn their role in the bigger picture hits home the importance of learning the skills of CPR.
- Candy – who doesn’t like to be rewarded for participation? Next time you’re at the store, grab a bag of Lifesavers or some individually-wrapped bags of your favorite candy and bring them to your next CPR class. Once students realize that asking questions or answering them involves candy, students become more comfortable and excited to engage. Promoting participation during your CPR class can help students retain the key concepts taught while fostering an environment conducive to learning.
- Know names – we all have one. Why not learn the names of your students? Consistently addressing students by name throughout the course paves the way for a more personalized learning experience. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by allowing students to fill out and wear a name tag during the course. A good way to engage students by using names early in your CPR class is through introductions. Make your way around the classroom and allow each student to share their name, where they’re from, if they have ever been to a CPR class before, and maybe an interesting fact about themselves. Not only does this help break the ice, but begins what should be an individualized experience of learning the lifesaving skills of CPR.
- Follow-up – this one really doesn’t have much to do with the course itself, but life after the class. Touching base with your students soon after the class demonstrates your professionalism and care for your students. An email, phone call, or even a good old-fashion handwritten note is usually plenty to express your gratitude and see how they enjoyed your class. Keep a database of your student contact information so you can communicate upcoming specials, CPR-related news, or other information. Additionally, your student is more likely to remember your follow-up when it comes time for recertification.
These are just a few simple ways you can bring life to your instructional style when teaching your next CPR class. Be creative and consider other fun pieces you can add to your instructor toolbox. Ask another instructor permission to monitor their class and see how they engage their students and a fun way. As an instructor, you have the amazing responsibility of helping your students learn to save lives… why not make your classes the highlight of week for your students?