And it Begins Again

basThe semester has begun, and since my thoughts are focused on teaching and I am reading students’ work from the first week of classes, I thought I’d share an early activity that worked well.

For the first class meeting, rather than handing out and going over course policies, the syllabus, assignments, due dates (boring!), I decided to get students to work from the get-go. So, after going over the roster and seeing who was there, I had students get into groups of 4 and come up with 2-3 questions they had about the class. There was a lot of talk about what their classes were like last semester and sharing where there were from, their majors, and similar stuff, then they got to work.

I gave them 10 minutes for this task. I then had them go to the course LMS and access the course policies and syllabus, and look for answers to their questions. We then came back together as a class, and talked about their questions, what answers they found, and what they still had questions about. Time seemed to fly buy, unlike most first day meetings, and together we went over everything I would have talked about and more. I think the activity was a success, and it set the tone for what I plan to be active and collaborative class meetings.  As a follow-up to that activity,  I asked students to do the following before our next class meeting:

Please review the course policies, syllabus once again, paying careful attention to the course policies, procedures, assignments and expectations.

Next, go buy the textbook and review it as well. Finally, after our first class meeting today, think about your first impressions of this class.

Drawing on these three sources of information—course policies and syllabus, textbook, and the first class meeting—write two or more paragraphs about how you think you will do in this course. What projects or activities do you think might be particularly interesting and/or challenging and why? How will you meet the demands of both in class and online activities and deadline? Have you previously developed projects using audio, visual, and alphabetic texts? If so, what advice to you have for your classmates who are new to such projects? If not, what would you like to know as we head into the semester?

This is a hybrid class, which for those of you outside academe is a class that meets face-to-face and online. For my class this means we meet as a class on Tuesdays, and I post activities and discussion prompts Wednesday evenings that are due by 11:30 pm on Sundays. This gives students who work, and most of my students do, a good bit of time to complete the online work so they can work on Thursdays and can also do the work around their work schedules or other commitments they have on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I read their responses to this activity earlier this morning, and I think this activity was also a success. Students wrote about their impressions of each major project, what they thought might be particularly challenging, what they understood to be the due dates, late policy, etc. Our third project this semester is a collaborative one, so many students wrote about previous experiences they’ve had doing group projects; this presented me with an opportunity to share what I have planned in terms of holding individual students responsible for their contributions to the groups, why I think group work is useful, and how they might think about the project.

I’m also hoping this activity will help combat a frustrating problem last semester: students not reading and/or not following directions. For this work, they had to read_all_thingsREAD all the course materials and acknowledge they understood deadlines and other requirements, and they had to describe what they understood to be the major course projects. So, if I start to get the “well, I didn’t know emails,” I can point them to their response that indicates they actually do know. I’m also hoping this activity makes clear the importance of reading everything and not just what they can see on their phones or whatever they’re using to access materials.

Time will tell.

What are some successful activities you’ve done in the first or second class?

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This entry was posted in campus life, teaching, Uncategorized, work and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to And it Begins Again

  1. Doc says:

    Another great exercise that should get students to take more responsibility for their work. And get them interested, too. This assignment almost makes me wish I were still teaching so I could steal it. Almost.

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