Bringing Life Into Your Classroom

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 8:09 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

Bringing Life Into Your Classroom


~by Carmen Jones, Ed.D. c.
     IPSA Contributor

When I first started teaching college courses, I found myself facing the board the majority of the time. Writing, writing, and more writing was what I felt was best to get the information out to the students. What made it worse was that I am left-handed and it was difficult for students to take notes and watch what I would write next. Being a college professor for the first time, I wanted to make sure that students captured everything I said.

Everyday, when walking through the halls I would pass other classes. I caught glimpses of professors flipping through PowerPoint presentation as they spoke about accounting principles, cultural perspectives, or math equations. The lights were dim in these classes to allow for a clear view of the PowerPoint slides on the board. I would say to myself, how boring that must be sitting in a classroom, watching a screen, listening to the voice of the professor, and wanting to fall asleep because the feeling of the classroom resembles that of relaxing in you living room watching television in the evening.  

I never thought about the possibility of a disconnection between my students and the information I was sharing through my writing until a one of my students complained. The student expressed a concern for the board writing and the lack of connection with the material taught. Taking a proactive position, I requested to have a peer observe my class and review my teaching.  The school scheduled a visit with one of my peers so they could observe my class and uncover areas of opportunity with my teaching.

After the observation, my colleague congratulated me on how well I was able to demonstrate each topic and engage the students. He also commented about the constant writing on a board. He believed that since the majority of these students were adults who were coming to class after working an eight or nine-hour shift that they may become disengaged or sleepy watching me write on the board. He suggested that I think of way to keep them alert and ready to learn in an evening class after coming from possibly a boring job.

His comments helped me realize that even with the similarities and differences between the student’s perception of my teaching style and my actual teaching style, my style was good. In addition, I received information on books that covered practical ways to teach college courses. His useful feedback helped me realize that I need to bring life into my classroom and wake people up. I discovered that students could participate and have a good time doing it as long as you keep them engaged.

I found information in the books that helped me develop better teaching practices. The material focused on three strategies that professors can use in the classroom to keep students focused, engaged, and awake! These strategies included the following:

The board can be your friend.  Writing on the board does not have to take up the entire class. Use this space to post important points before using PowerPoint or as an area to post the objectives for the lesson. Another use is as the bridge to the next subject, if there is more than one topic discussed for the day. The board could be a compass that helps direct the class throughout the day in connecting topics.

PowerPoint makes a good point. This style is great for those students who have different learning styles. Note taking may not be their strength but they retain more information with their visual perception. PowerPoint can give you a break as well as a moment for the rest of the class to catch up in note taking. Another good point with PowerPoint is that if a student misses information you can always go back to capture it whereas in comparison to board writing, once the information is erased, it is gone. This medium can bring more attraction to the eyes of the students with the use of sound, pictures, and animation, which could make it even more interesting. PowerPoint also comes with a slideshow that has presenter’s view, which is great tool for timing your presentation and using note techniques that come with the program instead of using note cards.

Classroom activity puts your words into action. Engage your students with activities. One example is to include small class projects that justify the principles of the subjects taught. This technique allows students to stretch their minds and reinforces their learning through demonstration as well as allows professors to see their learning in action. Activities cause teamwork and the breaking down of walls that hinder communication. Professors gather a real-sense of the students and their individual learning. In addition, the students gain knowledge from the experience of working out real-life situations.

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