Friday, January 9, 2009

First day of classes resources on SERC

My classes start Monday. I'm part-time this semester - it's a decision I made last year, when I wasn't sure how to manage after-school care for a kindergartener - so I'm only teaching one course. That means I'm not nearly as frantic today as I normally would be. But if others out there are frantic and need ideas for stuff to do on the first day of class (or later), you can steal stuff from SERC.

Heather MacDonald (one of the driving forces behind the Cutting Edge teaching and mentoring workshops) just sent reminders about these sites:

The First Day of Class modules

Teaching Introductory Geology

Teaching with Google Earth

I have a confession to make: I don't do a very good job on the first day of classes. Most of the time I default to explaining the syllabus, unless I have a flash of inspiration. My best exercise is probably in Structural Geology - I hand out a bunch of deformed rocks and ask groups of students to describe them and try to figure out what happened to them. I use the exercise to give students something concrete to think about while we discuss theoretical concepts like stress, strain, and rheology during the first few weeks. (The first time I taught about structure, one of the students raised his hand in the middle of a long, math-filled lecture, and asked "What does this have to do with rocks?" I try not to forget that question.) I don't have great starting exercises for most of my other classes, though, and I especially wish I did something more effective with my intro class.

This semester, all I'm teaching is my writing class. I've got a captive audience, so I'm not going to try to be exciting and innovative. The students will probably be really freaked out about needing a senior thesis topic OMG NOW, and the best thing that I can do is try to calm them down and convince them that the point of the class is to help them figure out what they want to do.

And maybe I'll use some of my part-time schedule to steal other first-day-of-class ideas for next year.

1 comment:

Mel said...

I do a similar thing when introducing geology to non-geologists. I have a couple sed, ig, and met rocks and spread them around the room. I descibe how rocks form (mnts eroding, volcanoes eruting, etc). Then I ask the students to look at the rocks in front of them and tell me where they formed on the diagram I have shown. I let them know I don't care if they get it right or wrong, I just want them to think about the stories that rocks can tell by looking at them (even with an untrained eye).
For the most part they do very well and I think they enjoy the exercise. It wouldn't work in a large intro class, but maybe as the first lab exercise.