Thank you to everyone who made suggestions in response to my plea for ideas
on Wednesday. Thursday's class was considerably better, in part thanks to your help.
If any of you have other suggestions for livening up class discussion, particularly in a too-small room during what typically counts as the dinner hour, when people's blood sugar and concentration are at a low ebb, please feel free to share them.
Heo, I've already used a variant of the "name your ideal . . . " exercise in class, and it worked very well! Believe me: many of my better in-class exercises have been adapted from stuff I read about what high school--and even, sometimes, elementary school--teachers were doing in the classroom. People who have to teach a full day of classes, five days a week, tend to have some pretty fantastic ideas.
Bardiac, I especially love your suggestion for exchanging writing. I hadn't ever worked out a very good idea for allowing students to stay anonymous before, and I think that will be a wonderful device for peer reviews.
Bellwethr, I wish I'd thought of bulk chocolate while I was at COSTCO last week! Damn. And yes, calling people out by name would be a good thing, too. I need to get more comfortable with that.
For that matter, I need to make sure I've learned all their names. I think I'm going to have to break down and buy some iZone film and get snapshots during next week's classes so I can make flashcards for myself. I am SO awful at learning names.
GSH, I think I'm probably going to use some version of that critical thinking exercise next time, and your other ideas are going to come in handy, too.
And Scrivener, I used a variant of your "basic question" idea during the last class: I gave them what should have been a pretty simple quiz, just establishing basic, reading-comprehension level stuff about what they'd read for that day. And then we went over the answers together after I'd taken it up.
That's something I'd done, to some extent, before, but I made the questions even more basic than usual this time, and I was impressed by how much it helped. Sometimes, I think I overestimate how much of the material will be "obvious" to them, and that exercise helped to clear up some important misperceptions.
The trouble with the jumping jacks isn't, really, that I wouldn't want to make the students do them: it's that my godforsaken room is so ridiculously small that I don't think they could *do* them without harming themselves or others.
After all, I have to ask people on the "chalkboard side" of the room to scoot way into the table so I can write stuff on the board. And there's no way to configure things without somebody having his/her back to me. Stupid room! I hate, hate, hate it! Keep your fingers crossed that I'll get a better one soon.
Mom and Dharma: I'm doing my "folk and fairy tale" class, and we'll be reading a translation of Perrault's "Bluebeard" with Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber," then doing Sandra Cisneros' "Woman Hollering Creek" and Bernard Malamud's "The Magic Barrel"--if that helps at all.
Subject-specific ideas would be great, but I'd also love more general ones that I could use in any class. In fact, I'm thinking that it might not be a bad idea to do a "mega-post" in which I collect some of my old techniques and add in the new suggestions I'm getting with attributions to the folks who made them. If I can get my act together and figure out how to make a permanent internal link to such a sidebar, maybe I'll do that this week.
And Mr. Helmet, darlin', you're very kind to suggest that I might be able to "kick ass and take names," either now or in a month or two. But honestly, I think the process is going to take considerably longer than that. In fact, I've made the tortoise of Tortoise-and-Hare fame my personal totem for martial-arts training, because it's taking me much
longer to learn things and get stronger than I want.
However, I will say that my kiyaps (yelling from the diaphragm--no, not that
one) are getting much better. But, while throwing punches at them and hollering out a kiyap or two would be likely to make them more alert, it could be considered, ah, slightly inappropriate. Unfortunately.