I have been making substantive changes in the way that I am teaching this year. Chief among these changes has been an effort to tranform my Amerrican Studies course from one that is lecture/teacher based into one that activity based and student centered.
In my world history class I went 7 1/2 weeks without a single lecture. The change was not difficult, in fact I find that the change has made the class more enjoyable to teach and made assignments easier to grade. I spend much more time interacting with students and I have interactions with a far greater number of students each day. Making these lessons isnt hard because I have only been teaching this World History course for three years. I see it with new eyes and I think in activities and learning activities.
Making this shift in American Studies is a horse of a different color. I have been teaching US history in general and American Studies specifically, for all but 2 of my 17 years in the classroom. As a result I have an well ingrained program with nice connections and themes. There are thematic strands and there are connections to the literature built in throughout. I havee taught the class using a thematic approach, the decades approach and I have even taught it backwards. The downside is that despite the organiztion of the class, the core of the program has been pure lecture. Another level of difficulty is that the class in 55 students (with two teachers). Any activity has to consider this factor.
So the transformation has begun and I am pushing ahead. I have been running through the lessons as they were every night and trying to build activities that keep the rich connections between the units. I have been working dilligently to inject the unit to tunit themes that make my curriculum cohesive. Ihave found that it can be hard work if only because when I am pressed for time or in a pinch I tend to default to my old lecture mindset.
It is working and the process is getting easier. I feel the class changing; more from them, less from me. These are some takeaways and the things that I find are helping with the transition:
- The idea of making the class more activity based is working for me and I feel it is working for the program. The group of American Studies teachers meets every Monday and we have increasingly included creating activities for the art and achitectiture poritons of the class.
Overall I am pleased with the resutls. I am going through the enevitable “Why Didn’t I Do This Earlier” debate in my head but even that is a good sign. There is a lot of work ahead, but I am moving forward.