Week 10 (!?) is a shakeup of the usual class schedule. For the first time, even including the first class, there was no new lecture material. Instead, the first hour was a review for the second exam, and the rest of the time was poster work time. When I was planning the course, way back in December, I figured that I could use an easier week by this point. Past Keith was correct in his prediction and I thank him.
After the first exam, I asked the students what both they and I could do different for next time. It turns out that the game I played was not viewed as especially helpful. Also, I was asked to provide a study guide. Sometimes I forget the simple things when going for the experimental! The good ol’ paper study guide was something that I had not even considered. I told the class I would put both suggestions to use for the second exam.
Before class, I wrote up a study guide that was a pruned outline of the course topics. I looked online for examples and some were just the slide outline. Boiling the last five weeks (nine, actually, since the exam was cumulative) into slide titles would have produced a guide that was too long to be useful. The 29 questions of the exam would only cover a small fraction of the slides anyway. Instead, I picked the top few topics and vocabulary words for each week. Making this guide was a great tool for me to design the exam as well. More on that next time.
On the morning of class, I met with the first student who cashed in the coffee drawing prize! It may be surprising to hear that no one who has won the weekly coffee drawing has actually claimed the reward. I suppose that the commuter college setup means that people are generally busy and far away when not in class. This first coffee chat was very interesting as I learned more about a student who was especially vague in the beginning-of-course survey. I also received some good suggestions about what to do in the rest of the class and for future classes.
The actual exam review had some highs and lows. I started with handing out the study guides and just going over what I had written. I’m pretty boring without cool pictures! I’m not sure reading over the study guide with the students really helped them. The second part of the review was more successful. I had told the students in the previous lecture and via email that I was going to have an activity and that they should be ready with questions from the course. Actually, I did not have an activity worked out until the night before class. A while back, I had read about an activity where students anonymously write questions and answer each other’s questions. I don’t remember where I read about it, but some version of the idea stuck in my mind.
In class, I had them form a big circle with the wheelie-desks and each get out a sheet of paper. I gave everyone around five minutes to write a question on the course material at the top of the sheet. Then, I collected the sheets and shuffled them, before randomly handing them back. The process was simple: each student should write a short answer or reflection on the question and pass the paper to the left. Each student would then add their own thoughts to the sheet until each paper had a comment thread of sorts about the top topic. Some students remarked on how this is like a low-tech message board! As sheets were passed, I caught a glimpse of some ‘likes’ that people left next to other people’s writing.
The commenting part of the activity went pretty well without direction. As papers piled up, students would be urged to wrap up their current sheet a little faster. I can directly cite where I came up with this part of the process: playing Magic: the Gathering with friends where we built decks out of shuffled cards being passed around. Anyway, since the questions and answers were anonymous, no one was put under high pressure to write something brilliant. I even told them that if they had nothing to say, or if they got their own question that round, to just pretend to write something and move on.
I sat in the big circle but did not write anything myself. I sampled the sheets as they passed by. Also, I had a great view of the clock, learning from my experience with the article discussion a few weeks ago! When each sheet had around ten responses, I had the students stop to get ready for the last part of the activity.
To capitalize on the low stakes anonymity, I had the students do some public speaking. Even though it was the tenth week, I had never heard the voices of a few of my students. While the pedagogy books are in favor calling on the quiet students in class, I am not comfortable with that advice. A long time ago, I was the quiet student who loathed being called on randomly. This activity presented a good opportunity. I had the students take turns going around the room, reading the question they ended up with to the class and then telling us about about the best comments on their sheet. It was great hearing the quiet students talk and they performed their roles extremely well.
I collected the sheets as “the natural conclusion to this activity,” even though I could not use them for attendance as they all lacked names. I did get to incorporate some of the questions into the upcoming exam, though.
The rest of the class time was spent working on the team poster project. I presented each team with the Elmers tri-fold poster, that I had bought (remember, there are only three teams). Each time started out working or reworking out their roles in class, but one-by-one they went to the library for research. Well, two of the teams might have “gone to the library,” since I didn’t see them there later! One of the teams was definitely there when I made my way to the library. A deal’s a deal with poster free time so I didn’t mind the disappearing act: it was their decision to make.
While at the library, I looked around the stacks since I like books and stuff. I saw a section set aside for books about teaching. I checked one out that looked interesting: The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success (Lyons, Kysilka & Pawlas, 1998). I may have to destroy it, though, since it knows my secrets. Under a section about what to do when you are underprepared for class, it suggested both having a class activity and having free work time!
Next time: making the second exam and my increasingly busy schedule. See you after class!
Lyons, R.E., Kysilka, M.L., & Pawlas, G.E. (1998). Adjunct professor’s guide to success. New York: Pearson.