Making the most of class arrival time
Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
September 12, 2019
As most faculty have experienced, many Metropolitan State University of Denver students arrive at class over the span of 15-20 minutes – some early, others late. This is particularly true in bad weather and for what can be called “rush-hour classes” (those that start at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in particular). This drawn-out arrival time is clearly related to the fact that MSU Denver is a nonresidential campus, and many students head to class after dropping off kids at school or after work. If not accommodated and planned for, this student “trickle-in” is, at best, a wasted opportunity and, at worst, disruptive.
Take a SIP of this: making the most of class arrival time
There are a variety of ways to plan for and accommodate students’ staggered arrivals (including penalizing late students if so inclined) through structuring the time (roughly 10 minutes) before and at the beginning of class with a single activity that allows students to join in as they arrive. Doing so will help achieve three common teaching objectives:
- Getting to know your students better, and helping them get to know one another – an important way to promote student engagement.
- Completing administrative tasks such as attendance and presenting assignment guidelines.
- Academic work.
Examples of activities that make the most of class arrival time include:
- Arrive early enough to set up and be ready to chitchat as students arrive. Mingle with students before class, ask personal but unobtrusive questions or engage in other common topics of small talk such as the trip to campus, their major, sports, the weather, etc. In doing so, bring more than one student in on the conversation and facilitate students talking to one another. While this sort of low-intensity conversation may seem banal, it is a great way to lower students’ affective filter and get them ready to engage with the content you will soon be presenting.
- Hold office hours in the classroom. Given that trips to campus are timely and costly, holding office hours right before and into the first few minutes of class will be appreciated by students. Of course, you will need to be sensitive to students’ privacy with this one. Ideally, you’ll be able to portion off a corner of the room for relative privacy.
- Have a song, video or other audiovisual media related to the day’s topic playing on a loop as students arrive. Later, during lecture or discussion, it can be used as an example or illustration, or in another pedagogically meaningful way. For example, before a sociology class on moral panics, the video for “Darling Nikki” by Prince was shown and later given as an example of a song that led to the creation of the “Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics” label found on many recordings today. You can take this idea a step further and devote a Blackboard discussion thread to soliciting ideas from students.
- Have an upcoming assignment’s guidelines printed or projected for students as they arrive. Instruct students to read and formulate questions or concerns and brainstorm tips/strategies for completion, content ideas, etc. Once everyone has arrived, start class by sharing.
- Provide printed or projected questions upon arrival that students should be prepared to answer at the end of class in a short formative quiz or a 5-minute in-class writing assignment.
- Upon arrival, provide printed or projected discussion questions related to the day’s assigned reading(s). Ask students who are present to start and encourage them to include and catch up classmates as they arrive.
- Ask students to complete a formative quiz on the day’s assigned reading(s) as they trickle in, and start class by having students score their own quiz before moving on to new material. This turns the start of class into an informal review session.
These suggestions may be hard to swallow for faculty members who struggle with finding enough time in class to fully engage with course content. To create the space for these suggestions without feeling like you are losing time, try incorporating some pedagogical strategies such as “flipping” your classroom or adopting a hybrid model of online discussions to complement in-class work. Check out these SIPs, housed at the Well, for ideas on how to do this: Beyond the lecture or Creating a human component in online learning.
Still thirsty? Take another SIP of: making the most of class arrival time:
- Docan-Morgan, Tony (2014), Mingling With Students Before Class: What to Ask. College Teaching 62 (2), July 2014
- Cheesman, Kerry (2005), Methods of Engaging Students at the Start of Class: Encouraging Students to be Involved in Their Own Learning. Paper presented at SCST Sessions, Chicago, Nov. 12, 2005
- 7 Ways to Start a Great Lesson by Dorit Sasson
Visit the Well at http://sites.msudenver.edu/sips/ for more great ideas and resources for Strong Instructional Practices in your higher-education classroom
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