By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Last semester, I began a new learning activity in my ENG 102 course: having students teach the class.
This is nothing new to academia. I remember my college years.
In my Shakespeare class, every week a different group was responsible for presenting historical information relevant to put the Bard’s work in context. In my Introduction to Sci-Fi class, every student was responsible once during the semester for getting the discussion of the day’s text underway (I recall with fondness the dialogue I led of Alfred Bester’s 1956 The Stars My Destination).
For ENG 102, I split my class into teams and made a different team responsible each week for leading a lesson about whatever aspects of the week’s readings they deemed most important. Despite my written instructions which spelled out that I didn’t want students reading from PowerPoints and my rubric which placed an emphasis on engaging the class, I still got the sort of group presentations we are all used to.
I realized, too late of course, that the problem wasn’t with my students–it was with the way I presented and emphasized the instructions. And last fall I had so many new things going on in my class that I just didn’t have the energy or focus to reign these presentations in.
Even if the students weren’t knocking anyone’s socks off, they were still getting time in front of the rest of the class to shake off some of the jitters in preparation for their final research presentations (which was, after all, about 50% of the reason I decided to implement group presentations). So I let it go for the semester.
If at first you don’t succeed…
After the relative failure of group presentations in the fall, I almost dropped the assignment altogether for this semester. But then I remembered what I always tell faculty in workshops and consultations: don’t be afraid to get it wrong.
So, this semester, I pulled up myself up by the bootstraps and took a second shot. I didn’t start the group presentations until a few weeks later in the semester so that I didn’t feel as rushed in explaining them. I changed the name of the assignment to “Team Teach”. And, I spent more time verbally emphasizing to students the sorts of teaching they should and shouldn’t do.
My basic instructions, however, were still Teach an important concept to the class in an engaging manner. I wanted them to have room for creativity. I wanted them to show me what they’ve got.
Young Ernests For the Win
The first group to “team teach” did pretty well. They used Kahoot! to create a game show like quiz on the weekly readings. It was fun, accurate, and interactive–and it gave me a chance to compete with (and lose to) my students.
The second group, though, blew me away. Their team name is The Young Ernests, after Ernest Hemingway (whom I quote almost every class). I present to you, their magnum opus, an original rap dubbed Young Ernests Show You How to APA.
P.S. – Listen all the way to the end to learn which of Hemingway’s quotes I use every class.