I am! Yup, I will be back in the classroom this Thursday! I’ll be teaching American History to 1865. I am so incredibly nervous but I’m also incredibly happy. This will be a 7 week course that meets one night per week for four hours. Right now I’m in the process of finalizing the syllabus ~ I know, I know…I’m kind of working on a tight schedule, especially since class starts in two days!
This semester I’m doing things a little differently. Usually, in this type of format I do a lot of lecturing with a heavy reliance on the textbook. Generally, these are adult students who are coming to class after a long day at work and they’re exhausted. So I’ve been putting more of the pressure on myself instead of them. Funny how you re-evaluate things when you have nothing else to do. Anyway, I get tired of listening to myself talk, so I’ve decided to take an active learning approach and make the students do more of the work.
Instead of focusing on my lectures and the text, I want the students to look at primary sources and evaluate them. I’ll introduce the time period and the significant events but then I’ll have the students look at documents, pictures, maps, etc to see how they relate to the event. I’ve set up discussion questions for each primary source and provided relevant links. I’ve also set up basic discussion questions to offset the lectures and directed the students to do their own research outside the class so they can bring “something” to the table. These are adults (as opposed to younger students who tend to not be quite as talkative – during class) so I’m expecting a lot from them. As further incentive, I’ve noted that class participation is a must.
Finally, I’ve assigned a final project which will consist of a formal paper and an in class presentation. The paper has to be 5 to 7 pages long, not including the works cited page. They also have to use a minimum of 2 primary sources. Then, for the grand finale, they have to do an in class presentation of 10 to 15 minutes. Now to take some of the pressure off the students, their classmates have to not only pay attention but they have to ask them questions at the end of the presentation. No, this is not some form of educational torture. I just want to be sure my students are learning something. Hopefully, this will be fun, interesting and educational.