Since writing my post on the first class day, I thought I might do a little series on how I manage some common teaching tasks. I’ve come up with pretty regular routines for starting and ending class, so that seemed like the next logical focus. Here’s my rundown.
Before class starts
- Post announcements and reminders on screen. I used to do this through a Twitter account, but now type a post in the Announcements section of Canvas, our campus’ online course site. I do this the night or morning before class, then post while everyone’s getting settled in the classroom. I include anything I would normally vocally mention, like upcoming deadlines or related campus events. Doing it this way creates a record, and gives students something to note while they’re getting ready for the class to begin.
- Take attendance. For classes under 40 people, I try to memorize student names within the first 2 weeks. Then the rest of the semester, I take attendance before class starts, while students are entering. This helps me to get to know the students, and to save precious class time for actual teaching.
- Play music. I think this works better in larger classes, but I occasionally like playing music related to ongoing course topics. Could be the soundtrack to a movie we’re screening soon, or a song about an issue we’re covering. Sometimes I draw student attention to it, but more often than not I just let the music play and wait to mention it once class starts.
- Let students be. I’ve often seen encouragement to sort of “start class early” by beginning activities or starting conversations with the students before the beginning of class. If there’s a reason to talk I’ll certainly do it, but I’ve ultimately decided we all need time to get ourselves together before class. We’re all busy, and we all need breathers. Students are often rushing from one class to the next, getting to class with a brief window to get themselves settled before we begin. I can give them a moment of peace.
When class starts
- Ask an Opening Question. I learned this from one of my professors. It doesn’t have to be too deep, just something connected to the day’s topic. In the first few weeks, everyone must answer; this helps me to memorize names and get to know them all better. After 2-3 weeks, it’s open to anyone. I usually take 3-4 responses.
- Provide an overview of the day’s agenda. I give a brief outline of what’s planned for that class. This always includes the theme of the lecture and any other items that need to be discussed, usually course assignments.
- Take questions. I try to clear up anything I can early in class.
Before class ends
- Give a preview. I make the last PowerPoint slide a preview, and ask students not to pack up until it’s done. It usually covers the next class, but looks ahead when necessary. It includes not only reminders but also frames, in terms of how to understand a reading or screening, or approach an assignment.
- Hold student meetings and office hours. Class topics and tasks are at the forefront of my mind, so this is when I prefer to handle one-on-one meetings with students. I’ve sometimes needed a meal break, so I’ll occasionally give myself 30 minutes to 1 hour between class and office hours, but I generally try to hold office hours as soon as I can after class.
- Work out. I don’t know about you, but after teaching I’m spent. I can barely do anything that requires brain power beyond class prep. I’ve found the best way to take advantage of this brain break is to get in some exercise. It ultimately rejuvenates me: I expend the nervous energy I’ve generated from teaching and give myself space to move on to other daily tasks.
As with everything, this is an evolving system subject to change, especially when every semester schedule can be so different. What works for you? I’ve disabled comments here, but feel free to give feedback through social media or your own blog post.