Category Archives: Faculty

Making the Most of the First Five Minutes

I have the pleasure each semester to observe faculty from across all disciplines teach.  I look forward to these observations because it allows me to learn and grow as a teacher myself, seeing what is working well in our classrooms .  Some of the most successful teachers I have observed utlize the first five minutes of class to set the tone for they day and to excite their students about learning.  They accomplish this by:

1. Greeting students by name as students enter class.  A friendly, individualized good morning or good afternoon goes a long way to establish a positive rapport.

2. Thanking students for coming to class.  Many students have made a great sacrifice to be at GCC, so the recognition of them making the effort to be here can also help establish the positive learning environment.

3. Beginning class with a writing prompt to activate prior knowledge and set the stage for the learning ahead.  While taking attendance, one instructor has students reflect on a question or prompt that either reviews material from a previous class or the reading that was assigned.  Another instructor asks students to complete a practice problem while settling in.  In both instances, learning takes place as soon as students arrive.

4. Reviewing the objectives for the day.  Some instructors write the day’s learning objectives on the board; others verbalize to students what will be accomplished.  Either way, instrutors set the stage for students by indicating the goals for the lesson and what students will hopefully learn.

The first five minutes of class are valuable minutes to establish the positive classroom environment and to set the stage for the learning for the day.

 

BTW I like chocolate chip cookies…

Academic feedback and chocolate chip cookies…hmm…quite a story here!

I allow my RDG 091 students to form novel study groups based off their own personal interests. This has been a huge success, as many of my students coming in to my classes HATE to read.  The fact that they are provided some choice in what they read, discuss, analyze, and evaluate goes a long way for the overall buy in.

What surprises my students is I let them know that I am also reading their chosen  books…yes all 15 novels for both of my RDG 091 classes. They are asked to create a schedule over a six week time frame. I then model a lesson on what active reading is, and allow them to practice in class with a selected article. For many students they don’t understand active reading because they read something  and can’t remember what they read five minutes later.

For their first seminar meeting they bring their Active Reading Journals to class. I enjoy flowing in and out of the groups, listening to them discuss the seminar prompts. I love when they “test” me to see if I have really read the same assigned section! By the second seminar meeting it is a given:)

The students then always ask, “Are you really going to read all of our responses?” Actions speak louder than words. When they receive their graded journals back with written feedback they have their answer. It is a true pleasure to have a student come back and respond to a question I wrote on their paper, or to make a connection to one of my responses. This type of academic feedback leads to an important aspect of teaching….the connection you have with your students!

You always get one though….which leads me to, “BTW..I like chocolate chip cookies.” This was randomly written in the middle of one of my student’s responses. He laughed when he read my response. He told me “Ms. you are the first teacher to catch this. I do this every semester to see if the teachers are reading what I write.”

This student came back to me the following semester, and I take that as a compliment, and affirmation that as an educator making that connection is what matters the most!

 

 

In Cat Puke and Making a Difference

How do I make a difference?

That’s a difficult question on a difficult day.
My day began this morning, early, when I stuck my elbow in cat throw up. Before I realized what I had done, I managed to rub the tender pink puke all over my black pants.

I changed pants and reported to my 8:30 a.m. ENG 091 class where I had to face my students with professionalism and aplomb. I had to keep in mind the new best practices I was learning for active engagement through the recent MCLI LearnShop in Scottsdale when all I wanted to do was go back to bed. Besides the cat puke, I have custody issues for my youngest son weighing on my mind. I am Out of Sorts. I do not want to be In Charge today.

I don’t know how I make a difference. I’ve been teaching at the college level for over twenty years now, and I still can’t answer that question. But here’s what I do know: that I *do* make a difference. It’s just really difficult to articulate how because my job is to arm my students with the necessary writing skills they need as they go out into the world. Once they’re out there, I only know what’s going on when they check back in, and that only happens every so often.

Still, I say this: teaching is an act of faith. To me, it’s as much an act of faith as taking Communion on Sunday or observing Lent. It’s as much an act of faith as raising one’s child to be the best person he can be and hoping it’ll work out when he or she is twenty-two and living in another city.

How I make a difference, I think, is by believing this, by believing that I make a difference, however it is that I do it. *What* I do doesn’t make nearly the difference that my mindset and belief allows me to make. That’s where the power is, and it’s where and how I make my decisions–through my utter belief in that which I cannot articulate. Professional development? Yes, please. A conference that takes me away from my family? Yes, please. An MCLI workshop that forces me to drive an hour in rush-hour traffic in a direction I never go in? Yes, please. I accept these opportunities for professional growth because even though I don’t know specifically how I make a difference, I know, deep down, that I do. And that’s what keeps me moving forward semester after semester, year after year, even on the rare days that begin with inadvertent submersion of my elbow into a pile of waiting cat puke.

 

Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine.  

There is no magic pill, except the kind that you see depicted in the image below.

whatsyourmed_forweb-01

Exercise is Medicine is a global initiative that was created by the American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine. In a nutshell, they want doctors to recognize physical activity as a vital sign.  So next time you visit the doctor, don’t be surprised if you are quizzed on the amount of physical activity you are doing.

The value of this overarching message is everywhere around us. At the community college, it can be seen at every level of learning and it impacts every single one of us.  A healthy employee and a healthy student is the best recipe for college success.

Teaching: As faculty, are we taking the time to look after ourselves so we can serve our students at our optimal ability? SPICES stands for social, physical, intellectual, career, emotional, and spiritual wellness.  This is an ongoing journey, not a destination.

Learning: Students who engage in regular physical activity will benefit from improved selective visual attention (SVA), which experts agree is the key to learning.

Student Success: Regular participation in physical activity is a determinant of student success.  There are literally thousands of studies on this topic.

Trend Toward Inactivity in the Workplace: When we add online teaching and learning to our list of responsibilities, the amount of sitting time increases exponentially. In 1950, 30% of Americans worked in high-activity occupations. By 2000, only 22% worked in high-activity occupations. Conversely, the percentage of people working in low-activity occupations rose from about 23 to 41%.
Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/physical-activity-and-obesity/

Check out this infographic on Sitting is Killing You to see why inactivity is a concern for your overall health.

Do you believe exercise is important?  Please take the following survey.  The results will be shared in next week’s blog post.  Survey: My Benefits of Physical Activity.

See you next week!

 

 

 

Walk 1-1

What an exciting project!  I’m happy to be part of this.

This is my teaching philosophy:

“If students can’t learn the way we teach, then we must teach the way they learn.” 
adapted from Ignacio Estrada
Lori Walk
Education and Reading Faculty
5-3751
HT2-113

 

 

Frequent Assessment

This post is about how changing from chapter tests (one test roughly every 3 weeks) to weekly quizzes dramatically changed the success rates of my students.

I used college algebra students as my guinea pigs. When I looked at my students from fall 96 through fall 98, I saw that they had a 50% chance of passing, 10% chance of a D or F and a 40% chance of withdrawing. Not being happy with these statistics I began a conversation with my wife who taught 2nd grade. She said “Test them more!” So, being a good husband, I complied. Starting in Fall 99 through Fall 2004 I gathered data on how my college algebra students did when I switched from 6 chapter tests and a final to, 13 weekly quizzes a midterm and a final. The results were that now 78% were passing, 7% were receiving a D or F and 15% were withdrawing. Also, I gave the same final that I gave from Fall 96-98 and the scores on my comprehensive final were the same, at around 73% average.

Therefore, I encourage all of you who teach to consider more frequent assessment. There is also a byproduct that I hadn’t anticipated besides the better success rate. That was, that I found that grading smaller tests once a week was not as daunting as looking at a pill of large tests every 3rd week. Grading isn’t as disliked by me as it once was.

Give this a try and as the ad said many many years ago “Mikey Likes It!”

 


When life gives you lemons, take a walk??

stephanieThis is a guest post from faculty member Stephanie Sawyer, M.S. | Fitness and Wellness. Last week was tough for many of us, and Stephanie had a great way to handle it.

I wrote a PAR blog about yesterday’s Canvas situation. I shared it with one of my mentors, Louise So, and she thought you would get a kick out of it. When life gives you lemons, take a walk?? Enjoy! Stephanie

After my refreshing quarter-mile walk from the parking lot to my office (I know this because my I-Runner app calculated the distance), I was greeted with a district-wide message stating that Canvas was down. Not believing that such a thing was possible, I logged into Canvas to find that it was true. I didn’t panic at first because the class in Canvas that I needed to access didn’t occur until the evening, still several hours away.

However, as the hours passed while I went about my day teaching other classes, the panic started to set in. I kept thinking that it was just a matter of time before Canvas was restored. Unfortunately, that was not the case as I was now two hours away from a two-and-a-half-hour night class. I needed access to two power-point presentations, a Discussion Board activity, and an interactive, web-based activity, which were all on Canvas. I can “song and dance” a class as well as any of my colleagues, but two-and-a-half-hours is a little long.

As I started looking for my power-points on my office computer, I realized that they were on my home computer since I had created them before becoming full-time faculty and having an office computer. Therefore, I had to hike another quarter-mile back to my car, drive home and e-mail myself the power-points from my home computer. This event took about an hour in all. In addition, I had to run to the copy center and print out copies of everything that was on Canvas.

I am happy to report that I made it to class on time, had all of my materials on hand and accumulated over 14,000 steps for the day. The lesson learned was to not always rely on technology, to have a backup plan and make sure that there are master copies to retrieve in a pinch.


Week of Accountability ’15 Teaching Tip: What just happened?

     At the beginning of most class periods, I had out a small sheet of scrap paper to every student.  It's about 1/4 of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.  At the beginning of the semester they always ask, "What's this for?"  As we get farther on, they stop asking, they might groan, or if I do not give them one that day, they may ask for one!  In the last few minutes of class, I always ask students to write something for me:
1.  something they learned
2.  something that is not clear
3.  a question
4.  the topic they are writing on
5.  a working thesis
6.  the title of a good source they found
7.  a short rhetorical analysis
    This could be anything, and it can serve several purposes: to keep them engaged for what's coming up, as formative assessment, as communication between us (often I respond and pass it back the next class period). Students who do not like to raise a hand in class feel heard and get questions answered.  It's a quick way for me to see what they get, the direction in which they are going, and to know which students may need extra visiting during the next class.