Student absences are frustrating for teachers. We spend so much time dealing with issues related to students with poor attendance that we can be tempted to throw our hands up in despair. Before you give up in frustration, over the next few weeks, I will share ideas from your fellow teachers on how they motivate students. It is hard to put into words the magic that happens with certain teachers. Great teaching is more than just techniques since a teacher’s passion for the subject and for students can transform an ordinary class into an extraordinary one, but I think it helps to share ideas and techniques because that is part of the magic.
Dusty Childress, Dean of the Lebanon Center and biology instructor, does not leave making personal connections with students to chance. He deliberately builds connections since he believes this keep students in class. After arriving early to class, he makes it a point to ask three different students, by name, how they are doing and brings up a topic he knows is important to them. He uses the cards students complete the first day of class to learn about their major, hobbies, families or other interests. For his online classes, he emails five different students each week to ask them how they are doing and if they have any concerns. He always brings up a topic that he knows interests them that he has gleaned from their self-introduction.
Childress says, “Each month every student gets a personalized message from me. Emailing just five students a week, but rotating the five each week, is very doable yet really seems to make students feel important, and I think, more determined to stay in the class!”
Natasha Johnson, a French instructor, likes to provide frequent practice activities and keeps it fun and interactive. While learning a foreign language students need a lot of review. She uses the Quizlet app to make electronic flashcards and create review games. One aspect of learning a foreign language that students find daunting is the conjugation of verbs. To make practicing verb conjugation more fun, Natasha uses a beach ball game. On the beach ball she has all of the French pronouns such as je, tu, elle, and nous. The students toss the beach ball around and when a student catches the ball he must conjugate the verb using the pronoun closest to his right thumb. It takes a few minutes of class time but it relieves the tension of verb conjugation.
Natasha admits to using some manipulative techniques from the pages of kindergarten teachers, but she has found that adults like these kinds of activities and they reinforce learning in an effective way. This activity can easily be adapted to help your students review in many classes. Individualized emails and incorporating fun activities can be two more tools that could encourage students to keep coming to class even as we get closer to the end of the semester.
Bad joke to start the week
Why don’t mummies take vacations? They are afraid they will relax and unwind.
“Students don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” Jim Henson