Small changes in teaching: the first 5 minutes of class

In a series of articles in The Chronicle from his book “Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning”, James M. Lang presents simple and practical ideas ideally suited to try out in lectures. In the first article, four quick suggestions for grabbing students’ attention at the start of the lecture are presented:

  1. Give students a chance to answer one or two interesting questions, or even pose them online beforehand, then return to them at the end of the lecture.
  2. Review the previous lecture but flip the normal approach by asking the students to tell you what the main points were.
  3. Initiate a discussion on what the students know about the topic already and probe any misconceptions they have.
  4. Ask the students to write down their responses to whichever of the exercises above you use. Spending a few minutes writing is an excellent transition from a distracted outside world to a focussed class.
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