How you can bring students into the right mindset and get them curious about your topic before your class even starts.
Do you remember the awkward feeling when you sit in class a couple of minutes before class starts, the instructor is nervously shuffling some papers, students fill the room but there is an awkward silence because nobody knows anybody else? Or, as the instructor, do you sometimes wish you had started an interaction with the first student who got through the door, because now everybody is just doing their thing, waiting for the class to start, and approaching someone to chat with would be embarrassing for you and them? Or do you sometimes stand in front of a class that is busy chatting about anything — sports, their weekend, what’s on the menu at the cafeteria — and you know it is going to be really difficult to get them thinking about your topic of the day?
Well, here is something you might want to try (and what I am about to suggest is a modification of the first activity in yesterday’s Faculty Focus post by Barbi Honeycutt (link here)): Have a slide show of a handful of interesting slides in an endless loop!
Here are a couple of examples of slides one might use.
For example, after having spent the last lecture on hydrostatics and when wanting to continue talking about the topic in more depth, one might show the slide below. This will get students thinking about hydrostatics, and you can later on take up this slide again and have students check their answers and reasoning.
Or if one wanted to talk about different wave phenomena, one could provide pictures of lakes or the sea and ask students to spot and name as many different phenomena as possible, and then later during the lecture come back to the picture and “solve” the mystery.
You could, of course, also mix in slides with important equations or definitions, with the homework assignment students were supposed to finish for this class, with interesting trivia related to the topic you are teaching, or with any other information you want to share but not spend any class time on.
Yes, preparing the slide deck takes some thought and effort. And many students might come to class so promptly (or even late) that they don’t even get to see your slides*. But especially if you return to the same slides later on during your class**, the effort isn’t that large but potentially has several benefits, for example:
- students start thinking about your topic in those minutes right before you start talking.
- students might talk to their peers about the topics you suggest and benefit from the exchange, rather than do small-talk (or sit there in silence).
- students will have an easier time learning content later if they have been exposed to the question earlier on already, even if they couldn’t answer the question at that time.
So what do you think, will you give this a try?
*which is something that might change once your slides have become popular! :-)
**and please don’t use too many slides! As a rule of thumb, I would go with five slides and show each forat least 20 seconds or so, so students have the chance to read it and look at it carefully.