I would really like to improve my teaching, and I would like to keep a record of stuff that seemed to work and a record of stuff that didn’t work. I want to use this space to be able to do that, and to be able to think out a rough draft before I post on my class’s blog post where I NEED to do it.

The first day was lots of administration stuff. I introduced the class, myself, and some expectations. I went to the web-site (blackboard) and showed the class where they can find the syllabus, the assignment sheet, and the schedule. I feel this is important to do with the class so that students don’t later have an excuse for not doing something. And I make sure to tell them this– I let them know that now they have no excuse for not doing homework, for not knowing what is expected of them, and for being responsible for any changes in the schedule. I also take this time to remind them that they HAVE to use the university web-mail.

Going over the syllabus, I reminded students to go hug their grandparents. get their cars checked, and to update their computers because these are all things that “die” when essays are due. I took the time to go over all the major points, and let students know that now, they know what the class will be about.

Afterwards, I briefly went over the assignment sheet and what the first essay will be. The students seemed to be very relieved that in doing an annotated bibliography, that they have all the sources they need.

At this point I asked the class if anyone was freaking out, and I let them know that this would be a good time to run out of the class and drop it.

Since no one left, I told the class how this is not going to be a lecture heavy course, that rather, one learns how to write by…well, writing– through practice. And that part of that writing process and practice would be taking place in groups, so that now was a good a time as any to get to know each other since we are all going to be working together. I told the class to break into groups of 2 or 3 people and to interview each other. I reminded them to ask for the basic information; name, major and whatever else they wanted to ask, and then I told the class to tell the interviewer two truths and a lie. I tried to let them know that what was true and what was a lie wasn’t important and that I would let them know why it wasn’t at the end of all this.

I had the students introduce the person they were interviewing and tell the class the three “facts” that were shared. This didn’t work out so well. Many of the lies were obvious, and other students informed us of what was the truths were and what the lies were. When it was over, I tried to explain to the class how, through a class discussion, “facts” were only what someone decides to be facts. I tried to show the students how the introductions connected to this idea, that a “fact” is something they each chose to tell, and that history and culture is no different than this.

I think next time I will try another ice breaker activity that will engage the class in more discussion than just giving their names and majors and some silly facts about themselves.

The classes were quiet, and I sometimes find it difficult to get a class engaged. What usually happens is what happens in all classes, at all levels, from undergrad to graduate: two or three people talk and the rest of the class lets them talk. I hope as I learn names that I am able to engage more of the class into the class discussion. Since it was the first day, and it was such a horrible, rainy, cold, and annoying day, I let the one’s who wanted to talk to talk, and the one’s who didn’t want to talk to not talk.