Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Managing Class Time Well

How do you start class?  This question has been on my mind as I readjust to 50 minute classes after a hiatus.  We all want students to pay attention, to be engaged, and from there, to think creatively and critically--in other words, to learn deeply.  Certainly, deep learning is the aim of higher education; this term points to the ways in which students think about our subjects, mull over concepts and questions, and in short, take time to think. 

The Higher Education Academy points to characteristics that students need to develop and bring to our classes: curiosity, time, and confidence in their abilities. What can we as teachers bring?  We can bring our own enthusiasm for the subject.  We can help students make connections with previous learning and engage their brains through active learning. 

How can this happen in 50 minutes?  The first minutes of class are important.  If you take 10 minutes to warm up to your topic or your students while getting into your teaching personae, then take 10 minutes before class starts to be in the room.  Get geared up by talking with students before class starts.  Ask them about how they are doing with the topic matter, the homework, the class sessions.  Find out what they think about your topic of the day.

When you are ready to start, plan a significant start and get their brains going.  Introduce your goal for the day, your teaching objective.  What do you want them to think about?  Ask them a question or pose a problem so that they are thinking before they start taking notes.  Try "Just In Time" teaching by asking them a question right before class and start class with their answers to that question, tackling their assumptions, and addressing strengths and weaknesses in their thinking. Ask them to do something unusual in their notes.  Start class by asking them to draw a circle and tell them to place five concept words in their from last week's classes. 

If you can startle them out of their routine, then you might startle them into deeper thinking!

For ideas about thinking creatively, here are two interesting sites:
Marelisa's ten techniques (a creativity specialist) at http://www.squidoo.com/creative-techniques

and an interesting collection of links at http://creativethinking.sumsungproducts.co.cc/creativeandcriticalthinkingdefined/

(Einstein played piano to encourage his own deeper thinking.)

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