These are strategies to
adapt and vary when designing your lesson plans during the quarter. Not all
students learn in the same way, so using a variety of instructional activities
will bring the material to the greatest number of students and encourage the
largest number of students to participate.
Thoughtful discussion questions
are a great way to encourage students to do the reading for the class and/or
attend lecture. They also enable the TA to gauge student needs and progress.
- Prepare weekly study
questions which can serve as a basis for discussion, exam preparation, or
paper topics. Distribute the questions in the lecture before the section meets
or at the beginning of the discussion as a lesson outline the students can
- Require students to
submit questions to you a day or two in advance of discussion so that you
can design a class that meets the students' needs.
- Ask students to write
their questions on the board at the beginning of discussion. Let students
try to answer the questions themselves. Try to get to all the solicited questions.
Focusing on the Reading:
Focusing on the reading
assignments or lecture material is a fine way to prepare students for exams,
to review difficult reading assignments, and to encourage students to do their
reading assignments and attend lecture meetings.
- Have students direct
a close reading of a passage of the text or a quotation from the lecture on
the overhead projector.
- Ask students to focus
on a difficult or ambiguous passage with role playing. Put a character or
historical figure on trial, "perform" a poem, or enact an event.
- Select excerpts from
the text that have not been previously addressed and ask students to relate
them to issues presented by the professor in lecture.
In Class Writing:
Writing in class allows
students to format their responses before they speak. This can lead to more
complex discussions and increased participation, not to mention stronger writing
- For the first ten minutes
of class ask students to respond to a question about the lecture or the reading.
- Ask students to draft
potential paper thesis statements or even paper introductions. Go over their
responses in small groups so that the students will get feedback before they
turn their papers in.
- If discussion is lagging,
ask students to stop for a minute and write about the subject at hand. This
may give them time to develop questions they need to have answered or to refine
ideas so they will have something to add to the conversation.
- Ask students to respond
to a quotation from the lecture or the reading.
- Write an outrageous
quotation or a provocative juxtaposition of quotations on the board and ask
students to respond.
Students respond with enthusiasm
to outside resources that help them to see material in a fresh way. Even quiet
students will have opinions about popular culture, films, or cartoons. Bringing
in information or media from outside the course will encourage students to remember
information and to apply what they learn.
- Bring students on a
field trip. Go to the library to show students how to begin their research
papers. Visit the art museum for a new perspective. Study human nature or
take a poll at the UCen.
- Bring in magazine articles,
video clips, or photographs that students can process quickly and which expands
on, complicates, or provides an alternate viewpoint of the subject in the
reading or lecture.
- Use different media
equipment to present information. Use the overhead projector, all the chalkboards
in the room, slide projectors, video equipment, etc.
Brainstorming is a non-threatening
strategy for motivating students to participate. For students working on papers,
brainstorming can be used as a method for generating fresh ideas about the material.
- In preparation for paper
assignments ask students to brainstorm on possible topics. Write the topics
on the board and refine them as a group. Ask students to develop thesis statement
for the topics and provide textual support for their arguments.
- Using a volunteer's
paper or exam (or a 'faked' example), put excerpts on the overhead projector
and brainstorm about its strengths, its weaknesses, and different approaches
to the same question.
- Begin class by asking
students to cast actors for the movie production of a text.
- Go over students' homework
as a group. Ask students to brainstorm on the next step in solving the equation
or the problem. Then ask students to write a step-by-step strategy for answering
similar questions when they come up.
Small groups can be employed
in innumerable ways. Using groups is an excellent way to increase participation
by drawing shy students into the discussion. Groups permit students to do some
independent thinking and to try out new ideas in front of a smaller audience.
- Ask small teams to meet
early in the quarter in order to design and implement oral presentations introducing
material to the class or leading discussion with questions.
- Write the questions
students have about material on the board. Divide the students into small
teams to answer two or three or the questions and present their findings to
- Ask students to explain,
pose questions, or analyze a section of the reading or lecture material for
the rest of the class.
- Limit the group size
to five students or less.
- Give students the directions
orally, and then write the specific tasks on the board.
- Give students a time
limit so that they begin to work immediately.
- Circulate to answer
questions and encourage slower groups.
- Have students report
back through a spokesperson or as a group.
This material was developed
by the TA Training Committee for the English Department at the University of
California, Santa Barbara 1991-1996.