The Class That Follows
Designing a Classroom Activity
When you know that most of your students have completed the required reading, reflected on it, and answered questions about it, your options for what to do during class expand exponentially. The language used in class to present and discuss the content comes directly from the student responses. Each class session is unique because the students in each class are unique.
- Typically student responses will fall into a fairly well-defined set of categories. Before going to class, select representative examples for class discussion from the set of responses. Make sure that all the students get their day in class.
- Revise the lesson flow now that you have the actual responses. The lesson does not have to be elaborately written out. Just a flow of ideas is usually sufficient. The fact that the wording actually comes from the class makes the lesson fresh and interesting to the students.
- Go to class and be ready to improvise if necessary. The lesson flow is pretty much predetermined, but the words used in class will flow from the student responses and, most importantly, will be influenced by the feedback from the live class.
Here are a few possibilities to consider:
If student answers to one or more of your questions show differences of opinion, you can capitalize on that to spark a discussion. Make a slide or overhead showing two of the contrasting answers, project them, and ask your students what they think.
Seeing one anothers' responses, commented upon by the teacher and by other students, is an important tool to sharpen students' learning and communicating skills. Ask the author of a particular response to defend the response. The class can then be asked to respond. If several alternatives emerge the activity can move into a peer-instruction mode where students vote on the alternatives, converse in small groups and re-vote. Personal Response System technology (clickers) can be very effective here. You can use the contrasting answers for a think-pair-share exercise.
If student answers to one or more of the JiTT questions highlight a common misconception related to the course material, you may be able to address that misconception with an interactive demonstration. Misconceptions are difficult to overcome, but students tend to believe their own senses.
If the topic of the day is pertinent to a real-world problem, ask students to analyze real data or use an investigative case study. Tying course material to real-world problems helps students to see the relevance of what they're learning and increases their interest in the course.
If the topic of the day lends itself to a role-playing activity, use one. In a small class, assign each student or small groups of students to particular roles. In a large class, depending on your tolerance for chaos, you can have students form small groups with each playing a particular role, or you can ask for volunteers to take on roles in front of the class.