This semester’s teaching features something I’ve never done before:  regular homework.  Reading quizzes aren’t cutting it.  In fact, all across my discipline, I hear over and over again that quizzes achieve nothing — those who would study do well, those who don’t, fail.  Survival curve.  So the first couple days’ lectures have been just a pure “here we are” lecture with the course basics plus motivational speaking, plus, for the benefit of those who have never actually used a textbook (aren’t high schools lovely nowadays?), “this is how to take history notes.”

Get them willing to give it a shot in the beginning, and tell them why giving it a shot will set them up for a slam-dunk grade at the end… and maybe it will stick.  You don’t have to have a brain to do history:  history is nothing but gossip put to writing.

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  1. celogo

     /  January 16, 2008

    Woah. It really is that bad out there, isn’t it? I’m not just imagining things.

    I swear, I have SO MUCH respect for those of you who brave teaching kids (sorry, adults?) who have never learned how to learn. I don’t know how you tolerate it.

  2. blackpine

     /  January 16, 2008

    There is a way, but you have to be cruel. Break the class into groups of five or four. How they are chosen is flexible. Intro your class and tell them that you believe in group efforts. Therefore, to teach teamwork, you will give the group a quiz. Only one person from their group will take it, randomly assigned on the day of the quiz, and all of their grades will be taken from the one random person who takes the quiz, you never know who that will be, so don’t let your team down kids. One quiz a week, set up your study groups ahead of time.

  3. blackpine

     /  January 16, 2008

    It also saves time on grading.

  4. I’d be fired if I tried that, blackpine.

    Celogo, actually, I think people over-praise teachers. It’s not that hard a job, actually. It just feels like it sometimes – I’ve been just as worn out and run down doing other things.

    Now, if we can just avoid more supposedly brilliant federal interventions… *shakes head, shudders*

  5. Zathras

     /  January 16, 2008

    so what exactly is the homework then?

  6. celogo

     /  January 16, 2008

    I might understand when you say teachers are overpraised, if by that you mean the art of teaching is not all that difficult.

    I have tremendous respect for the lengths you go to get your students on the right track. Making up for 12 years of a substandard education has to be a pain in the backside.

  7. Basic review questions. Or, for the textbook that doesn’t have built-in pedagogy, I make them outline their chapters. That way, they have a leg up on the exams… and have been forced to use their books.

  8. Jodziewicz used to do a fun thing I recall. He’d pick out random facts directly from the book for homework.

    He made it pretty easy too – as essentially the flow followed the text nearly 1:1. As long as the questions were dense enough – you pretty much ended up reading it all anyway.

    Silly questions like… why was jackson called “Stonewall Jackson.”

    It’s basically the same thing as outlining… only you’re giving them the outline ahead of time.

  9. yeah. Not exactly rocket science. I’m convinced that most of the “aww, poor widdle teachers” comes from the unions trying to drum up salary increases (not that I’m averse to the latter). The real reason most of the teachers I know think teaching is hard doesn’t have jack to do with the students, but with their administration and bureaucracy, instead…


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