Now that the Fall semester has ended, I’ve started to reflect on what types of in-class activities worked well and which ones failed or simply need tweaking. In the end, I realize that activities that are successful might eventually work less well depending on the time of the semester. For this reason, I can’t stress enough how important it is to adapt to the classroom environment by either modifying an activity on the spot (if this is possible) or scrapping it altogether. If you are me, I tend to have 2-3 ready to go even if I’m only planning on using 1-2 just in case. Depending on the morale of the students, some activities worked better than others.
For instance, normally I try to break up a 90-minute class by lecturing for 10-20 minutes, then pausing for a brief activity. I used PollEverywhere often during the Fall semester, and typically it had great results. (An aside: Only 40 students could respond unless the university wanted to pony up $$$ to allow for all my students to participate). However, in the last 3 weeks of class, students seemed “over it.” Put another way, bored and tired of using this technique. While I never used it every class, I could tell that it had no longer become effective. So I stopped using it, and continued using some other strategies.
Games proved to be particularly effective for this class, but I only implemented them towards the end of the semester. Bingo and Jeopardy were the favorites. I’ll write a longer post about each at some point, but I can’t recommend games enough. I developed a semester-long Bingo game, as well as had them for individual lectures. There was nothing more exciting than having students stand up and shout “Bingo!” during lecture. I had fun seeing them try to win. The one downside with Bingo was that students started to look up information on their phones or computers, so I had to develop Bingo boards that were impossible to complete unless they were paying attention to lecture. I was not always successful, and continue to think of ways to prevent this. One way would be to encourage it during a scavenger hunt type of game during class. Food for thought….
Another technique I used was asking students to read short passages during class. If we were discussing the Iliad, I’d distribute 3 short passages that I wanted to discuss to 3 different students. At the appropriate moment, each student would stand and read the passage aloud (ideally with some dramatic flair). Students responded positively to this activity, no doubt because they tire of hearing me talk and this broke up lecture nicely.
More to come.