I don’t know about you, but the new school year is in full swing, and things are crazy around here (stacks of papers to grade, keeping my son on track with his new homework load, planning for a new course, and cooking dinner, oh, my).
But something has been at the forefront of my mind as I plan for this year–how to make my classroom more interactive. I’ve always found this easy to do in an English class, but it’s more challenging in certain courses.
In world history, in particular, we don’t have textbooks, and it’s a content heavy course (the history of the world in 18 weeks), so I do rely on lecture. I try never to lecture for longer than 10 minutes without transitioning to a reinforcement activity, or a get-out-of-your-seats review, but I have students this semester whose attention spans can’t even handle 10 minutes, so I’ve been brainstorming for new ways to deliver content without lecturing.
Keep in mind that the students I teach in world history tend to be struggling and have a difficult time self-starting. It tends to be the opposite end of the spectrum in psychology and sociology. Of course, in some classes students fall everywhere on the spectrum.
Here are five ideas I’ve come up with so far:
Turn Your Notes Into a Gallery Walk: Strapped for time? Need students to get specific information, but lecture’s no good for them? This one’s easy.
Print the slides of your PowerPoint, and post them around the room. Give students a copy of a guided notes handout and put them in groups of three or four. Play some music, and have groups rotate clockwise around the room. I ring a bell when it’s time to rotate.
When they are finished, give students a handout with a question or two about each section of the notes that encourage them to reflect on the notes in terms of cause and effect and analysis.
Have Students Create the Gallery Walk: If you have a little more time, this is the better option. Give each group a handout with a specific topic and specific guidelines and information to include. Have them create their own gallery display. You can get an example for free HERE.
Picture Notes: Give students a copy of notes already filled in, and have groups of two or three, have them transform the notes into a series of pictures. Here’s a handout I made for this that you can download now:
Video Webquest: Find a series of short videos that relate to your topic, make a handout with reflection questions, activities, and QR codes to the videos. Instruct students to bring earbuds (never a problem for mine :)). Students tend to really like this, plus (bonus) the classroom is really quiet. I have a WWI trenches video webquest that you can see HERE.
Simulations: Be on the look out for concepts that can just as easily be taught with simulations. *A note on simulations. Be careful not to simulate experiences that can be traumatic for students. For example, don’t simulate events surrounding the Holocaust, slavery, or other horrific events. There are much more appropriate and respectful ways to teach these topics. Stick to things like the example below if you’re going this route.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with simulations in psychology. An example is teaching the difference between sensation and perception. I led the students on a walk around campus, and they had to record the different sensations they experienced. Back in the classroom, they compared their observations and discovered that, even though everyone experienced the same things, what they recorded was different. We then discussed that this is because we all perceive (or organize our sensations) differently.
You can download the handouts for the simulation right now by clicking the link below the picture. It’s part of a larger package that you can preview HERE.
Every so often this school year, I’ll post alternatives to lecture that I’m experimenting with. What are some alternatives to lecture that you use in your classroom? Leave a comment below to let me know!