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Teaching Tips

Here are a few teaching tips that I have borrowed, learned, and developed. 

  1. Create your lecture notes and syllabi according to weeks, not days. This helps immensely if a Mon-Wed-Fri class becomes a Tu-Thur class. Looking at your notes and syllabus as a week gives a sense of rhythm and movement, and can be adapted as need be, while doing a daily assignment of reading and notes is a chore that may be unhelpful next semester.
  2. Use outlines for your lecture notes. Outlines are great, as you can glance and scan, skip and move forward, as need be. When your notes are written out in paragraph or lots of detail, you will get lost or bogged down.
  3. Creating a podcast of your classes is not too difficult, and makes it easy to catch students up as well as supply alternate assignments. 
  4. I use Evernote to organize my materials for class. Evernote is a great place to put articles, blogs, video, and podcasts related to a class. 
  5. The iPad is terrific in class, especially the small size. The larger one gets surprisingly weighty given a good hour or so in front of a group of students. With the small iPad I can gesture and walk around, along with the textbook, and still have some energy left over.
  6. Use an attendance app for taking attendance and learning students' names. I use Attendance2. I can take attendance and see who is skipping class often very easily. I take the students' photos the first day of class, which is invaluable for learning their names. Let's face it: names are power.
  7. I always end class on time, and I start at 1 minute after the assigned time. Students don't appreciate being held over the end time of class. Actually, neither would I. It doesn't matter how important it is, stop talking. 
  8. Finally,  offer second chances. My father always told students that making a grand effort, even at the end of the semester, would lead him to skew the numbers in their favor. Giving greater weight to a student's final exam grade, after they've turned in a really strong final exam, gives them hope and another chance. Teachers should always be about second chances.

Jonathan Coulton's Bourgeois Melancholia

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