It can be hard to regain focus after the break: students’ study routines have been disrupted, and the sense of community may have faded when your class dispersed.
To get back on track, you may need to reboot. The first meeting after break is like a second take on the first day of class. You already know each other, but it will be important to reestablish community, to knit the class back together. Students want, and need, to talk to each other. A shared problem to overcome, or a shared laugh, will help to renew the bonds that make your classroom a productive learning environment.
New routines or rituals can help. You can reestablish rhythm by opening or closing the class with a daily pattern. Willie Wright, of FSU’s Department of Geography, focuses students’ attention with music: at each meeting he plays a different piece, thematically tied to the day’s material, as students walk in. If you don’t already, you might consider opening each class with a couple of questions you want students to consider, and that the session will help them answer. (This has the added benefit of provoking curiosity). Two or three minutes of generative writing– which you’ll discuss, but don’t have to read—can get students thinking, at either the beginning or the end of class time.
You can inject some energy by getting students moving. A quick way to break things up is to insist that everyone move to sit in a new part of the room. Students tend to return to the same seats all semester, but even physically putting a new perspective on things can help refresh our thinking. You might also try a four corners exercise, where students have to move to the corner of the room representing “strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree” when you read out statements about the material. They then need to discuss and articulate their positions, explaining their reasoning or evidence.
The first day back is also an important time to revisit your learning goals for the semester. Students need to reflect on what they’ve learned so far, and what they want to retain. Then you can focus on where the class is going. There are six weeks left in the term: what do you (and they) need to do to reach your goals? To reignite students’ motivation, it will be useful to remind them of the value of the learning they’ll take away from your course. They should take stock of their progress so far, and set new goals. They’ll need to think about how they’ve studied and prepared, as well as what they’ve learned. What has worked, and what hasn’t? What can they do better? What do they really want to take away from the course, and from this year of their college careers?
UPCOMING EVENTS and OPPORTUNITIES:
Exam Design Workshop: Thursday, April 5 2:00-4:00
We’ll work on designing exams that are accurate measures of student learning in your course and learning opportunities. To RSVP, email email@example.com.