Back to school can mean lots of sitting

ta_orientationMy own experience this week of being in multiple meetings is a reminder that for students school can mean lots of sitting and often in darkened rooms with PowerPoint.

As teachers, we can forget about all the sitting students are required to do, as we are on our feet, moving, talking, etc.
So what can we do to help students avoid nodding off?

When I made my presentation to the 400 new teaching assistants, they had been sitting in the ballroom for about four hours — with a lunch break an hour before I arrived. I told them that we were going to get ready for the start of football season, divided them into two sections, and led them in UF’s “Orange and Blue” cheer. That did get them perked up.

You can ask questions or ask for comment that can get the class involved. If you let your class know that you are going to be asking for questions and comments, that can get them thinking in a different way — making note of questions they have or issues to raise. Yes, they could be doing that anyway, but in so many classes students aren’t asked to respond or there isn’t time to respond that they can get into a more passive mode of listening and taking notes (or maybe not even doing that).

You can give them a task to get them into active mode. “Turn to your neighbor and decide what would be your lead for the story based on the information you have.” “Make a list of three people you would want to interview for this story and be ready to explain why.” “Move into groups of three. You have five minutes to list what you think are three important concepts from the assigned readings and one question you have based on the assigned reading.

You’d then follow up with a class discussion. Sometimes you may have a little challenge of getting everyone back into the class mode. But if you’ve given a good activity, allocated a good amount of time, and are assertive in calling them back to the class, you’ll get them settled down and ready for your discussion.

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