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Lecturing? Let Your Students Do the Work!

Many disciplines require some lecturing throughout the term, but that does not mean that active learning cannot be incorporated. Below is a simple method for actively involving students into lectures.

Prep Work:

  1. First, divide the entire lecture into four mini-lectures of no more than ten to twelve minutes each. If using PowerPoint slides try not to use more than eight for a ten-minute mini-lecture. Plan to do no more than four, ten-minute mini-lectures per class.

Before Class Begins:

  1. On the board write a series of question prompt starters:
    • Explain ...
    • How does ...
    • Describe ...
    • Why ...
    • Discuss ...
  2. When students enter the room, ask them to sit with a partner, each getting out several sheets of paper, pen, or pencil. This will be their learning buddy.

During the Lecture:

  1. One learning buddy will be the quiz maker and the other learning buddy will be the note taker for the first ten minute mini-lecture.
  2. Ask them to write QUESTIONS across the top of one sheet of paper and NOTES across the top of another sheet.
  3. As you present the first 10 minute mini-lecture, one of the partners will be taking notes and the other partner will write two quiz questions.
  4. At the end of mini-lecture one, give partners two to three minutes to look over each other’s work and then ask them to switch sheets. Now the quiz writer is the note taker and vice versa.
  5. Proceed to the second 10 minute mini-lecture
  6. At the end of mini-lecture two, again give students two to three minutes to look over each other’s work.
  7. Continue on with mini-lecture three, asking students to exchange roles again.
  8. For a two-hour class, plan on presenting four mini-lectures of 10 to 12 minutes each. That way each partner has the responsibility of writing questions twice and taking notes twice.
  9. At this point you should have 40 to 45 minutes of class left. You could opt to do one more mini-lecture or you could stop and have students work together on their lecture notes.
  10. If you stop, ask students to sit with another group and compare notes, adjusting to adding to their notes.

After the Lecture: (You have some choices as to what to do with all of this.)

  1. Ask students to work together to locate where additional information about their study notes can be found in the textbook. On their study notes, ask students to include the page number for reference or a one sentence quote from the textbook.
  2. Ask students to pass their notes to another group and have them add to the notes. The first group adds to the notes for Part One, then pass the sheet and the next group adds to the notes in Part Two, and so on until all of the lecture parts are completed. Then return the notes to the original group.
  3. Collect all of the quiz questions and build an actual quiz for the start of the next class or create a study guide for students and ask them to use their notes to answer it. This can be done as a homework assignment, posting the quiz, or study guide online.
  4. Have students join with another group and discuss what they didn't understand from the mini-lectures. Ask them to write questions they feel need more explanation or clarification. Instruct students to turn in their questions before the end of class.

If you decide to keep lecturing, ask students to switch their roles one more time. Deliver the last of the mini-lectures.

  1. For homework, ask students to type their questions and determine where in the lecture or textbook to find the answer.
  2. Collect the questions from everyone and then compile them into a quiz or study guide to be used at the next class.
  3. Ask students to make another copy of their notes so that each student has a copy by the next class.
  4. In the next class, you could ask pairs to sit with another pair to compare notes.

Wrapping It Up (to be done either at the end of the class or the next class)

  1. (optional) At the end of class, put up a slide or an overhead transparency that identifies one or two items per mini-lecture that students should have gotten on their notes. Give extra credit or a piece of candy to each set of learning buddies who had those items on their notes.

Things to consider:

  1. While students are listening to the lecture, note how many are writing and how many never write until you stop talking. This will tell you one of two things: 1.) your lecture style is totally captivating, or 2.) the lecture is too difficult or hard to follow. You should be presenting in such a way that students will be able to tell when something needs to be included in their notes or that a question should be asked. You should see students writing!
  2. If students are not writing, you might have to "prime the pump" (i.e., stop on the first one or two points and indicate that these are examples of things that need to be recorded.)
  3. You might have to stop at the first important point that you would like to see on the quiz question sheet and have students formulate the first question together.
  4. While students are conferencing with their partner during the two-minutes, prepare for the next mini-lecture and observe which students appear to be engaged.
  5. At the start of each mini-lecture, you might give students a clue that will guide them in their thinking about the notes and the questions they should focus on.
  6. Keep power point slides to about five per mini-lecture. This should help to keep your mini-lectures down to 10 - 12 minutes.

This Teaching Tip was developed by Carole Kendy, CTE Faculty Development Facilitator.

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