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Tricks for Better
Okay, Class, Get Into
The Value of Nursery
Besides the pure fun of saying "diddle diddle dumpling", think of all the words that end in the schwa, words like "pencil" and "riddle" and "paddle" and "swaddle".
A GIFT* (Good Idea For Teaching) from David
I owe this idea to Elaine Silver, and I’ve used it ever since she told me about it. I put a sentence on the board with a fill in the blanks space, and as I do attendance I get each student to say the whole sentence.
On my National Day Holiday I _________________________________.
My favorite thing to do on a weekend is ___________________________.
This works best for oral classes, but I use it occasionally for lecture situations as well. I’m always concerned about the invisible students, the ones who come to my class and manage to be so inconspicuous that I hardly know they are there. This makes me listen to every single student at least once per class. It also gives taking attendance educational value.
This is also a great way to check out pronunciation problems, like the added “a” on words.
People in the past were ________________________________. (And then correct every student who says “people in the pasta”. I like to draw a cartoon of people in a plate of spaghetti to hammer this home.)
I’m unpredictable when I take attendance. I do not call
names in class list order, because the ones who haven’t
spoken are getting bored with waiting, or building up
anxiety. I jump all over the list, trying to have a pattern
that lets me keep track of who has already spoken, but not
letting the students know who will be asked next. This even
helps the student who has already spoken, because the
student sitting in the next seat will jump when asked.
My other favorite trick is to do snap opinion polls. I’ll put something up on the board and have the students come up and vote. I try to choose fun subjects – their opinion about current events or social issues. Do you believe in ghosts? Do people in China go to dentists? Should parents be able to decide who you marry? This gets them out of their seats, breaks the monotony, and gets them moving around.
Not only does this make the class more fun, it gives me an insight into Chinese culture, and I’m often surprised by the attitudes of my students, a very conservative bunch for the most part. You can see a whole collection of these opinion polls by clicking here.
Happy Teaching 大大卫
*originally prepared for a presentation at a teaching workshop reception, October 13 at Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China.
Feedback with Minimal Grading*
I like to give my students feedback on their work, especially in writing courses, but I really dislike grading, assigning a number or a letter value to their work. So what I often do is assign from 15 to 40% of the total course grade for term assignment feedback.
So here’s how it works. Let’s say the assigned amount is 20%. I tell the students at the beginning of the term that each of them has been given these twenty marks already, they are theirs right now – but they can lose those marks. There is a standard list of ways they lose marks that includes:
-not handing in an assignment (-3 to -5 marks depending on how many assignment there are)
-handing an assignment in late (-1 or -2 marks, depending on how late)
-missing a part of an assignment (-1/2 each)
-not following a specific assignment instruction (-1/2 each)
-not following an assignment formatting direction correctly (especially important in practical writing when using different format is a big part of what they need to learn) (-1/2 each)
I may also add other things to the list that
are specific to the course. In writing courses I always add
What I like about this system is that it lets me focus on providing useful feedback to the students when I am going through their work. I can focus on helping them improve their writing, not what grade should they should get for the assignment. Most of the feedback I write on their assignments does not affect their mark, but it does give them a lot that they can work with to make their writing better.
And because the assignments still affect their marks the students take them seriously. Most of the students also learn very quickly to properly format their work, and that makes the job of marking easier too. In addition, I can give the students a little boot upside the head by dinging them for a half mark, like when they aren’t reading the assignment instructions carefully enough.
All in all, a handy tool for lower stress in handling smaller assignments.
*prepared by Ruth Anderson for a teaching workshop reception, October 14, 2011, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China.
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