Woman smiling with chalk board behind her

By John Burbage
Bio/Chem Department
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

If you have ever taught a class in an accelerated format, you know how hard it can be to keep the student’s attention for three, four, or even 5 hours. To keep the students engaged, I like to include a project that requires the students to become the teachers. Let me share with you an example that I have used in a five hour Environmental Science class.

For example, one of the topics covered in the course is the use of recycling to reduce the impact of solid waste on the environment. Instead of just lecturing the students on the types of recyclable materials and the processes and energy associated with their recycling, I bring in a box of various recyclable materials. I break the students in groups and have each group pick one of the items from the box.

It should be noted that I have carefully selected the materials so that each of the major classes of recyclable materials will be utilized in the project. I give the student 30 minutes to learn as much as they can about the recycling process for their object. I utilize departmental laptop computers, but the research could also be done using the student’s own laptop computers or even smart phones if laptops are unavailable.

After the research phase has ended, I give students an additional 30 minutes to prepare a five to ten minute PowerPoint presentation which highlights the results of their research which they then present to the rest of the class. I let the students be the teachers. While each group presents, I sit quietly and listen. I only interject if the student’s presentation contains a significant factual error.

I find that the students really get into the project. Oftentimes, informal competitions develop between groups to see who can create the most “flashy” presentation. They are proud of their work and are happy to share it with the class and instead of looking at the clock to see how much longer the class will be, I find they look at the clock and then ask if they can have more time to work on their presentation.

So the next time you are faced with a long class and you want to add some spice, let the students be the teacher.

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