This quarter I went full throttle and just made every activity a collaborative or visual project. (That’s full throttle for me, anyway.) Maybe my colleagues have seen some of the things my students have done on the classroom walls? I usually don’t implement so many projects into my courses, so I’m curious as to what feedback I’ll receive or what effect the activities will have on the students’ final assessments. So far, the results have been quite favorable. I’m seeing more reading comprehension and critical thought processes in their essay responses. I’m also seeing higher attendance towards the end of the quarter. Usually I find a good handful of students MIA the last few weeks, but not this time. The verbal feedback at the end of the quarter is also more positive, one student even saying that she left in the written evaluations that I deserve a raise. Hah! Another student told me that the only reason he keeps coming to class is because there are so many group projects!
As time goes on, I’m finding it easier to build projects for the reading book [SCC developmental English faculty use a non-fiction text and the Norton Little Seagull handbook in lieu of a traditional textbook or reader]. It seems like the first quarter is always the hardest when it comes to new books because I spend more time just figuring out the book along with the students. It isn’t until the second quarter that I start to get a good instinct for what I can do to make the reading experience more productive. (I’ll be honest, though, I did receive some resistance to implementing so many interactive activities and projects, especially towards the end of the quarter, but I’ve found that the students are pretty open to whatever I ask them to do so long as I’m enthusiastic and I don’t recycle something they’ve already done. I have to keep it fresh, I guess.)
Some things I’ve tried:
· Board games with pieces and dice and a blank board they can fill out themselves
· Drawing ideas with markers or crayons (colorific creativity)
· Poster creations or collages
· Mapping course material with outside events or future careers (with quotations)
· Group debates and class collaborative summaries on the board
· Video presentations related to book chapters or examples
· Modeling with Legos or similar toys
· Analyzing photocopied annotations of each other’s books
In the end, this quarter has been very helpful. I’ve learned a lot about best practices as I continue to experiment and try new things, like the modeling activity we were told about during our conference in Kearney by the keynote speaker, Linda Hecker, from Landmark College. That was sort of the catalyst that got me thinking/going.
Todd Kahle works as Developmental English Faculty at Southeast Community College–Lincoln. Have questions or comments for Todd? You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org