The importance of signposting

Talking about reviews in the previous post brought to mind how important it is to give constant signposts to your students. From personal experience, I know what it’s like to get so preoccupied keeping up with weekly lessons at the expense of losing sight of the larger arc of a course. A well-written syllabus will guide students through a course and show how each week contributes toward a larger lesson. But another way of reminding students where we’re at and where we’re headed is by writing down a daily class agenda and doing regular reviews at the beginning of class.

Daily class agenda: This practice is equally beneficial to both teacher and students. It lets everyone know what to expect in the hour or two we will be together and functions as a mini lesson plan for me. In fact, at the top of my lesson plans, I got into the habit of writing something like this down:

1)     Repaso del pretérito / imperfecto

2)     Subjuntivo en cláusulas adverbiales, nominales, adjetivales

3)     La casa en Mango Street: discusión y preparación para la primera composición

4)     Organizar las presentaciones orales

Tarea:

1)     traer un diccionario a clase

2)     leer Cap. 8 vocab pp. 228-30 en Pasajes

3)     leer el subj en cláusulas adverbiales, pp. 233-5 en Pasajes

4)     en el WB: describir y comentar A, B, C; 30 A, B, C, pp. 183-4; 30 A, B pp. 184-5; corregir las respuestas con un bolígrafo de color diferente

In the five minutes before class started, I’d put up on the blackboard the daily agenda. For my Spanish language classes I’d also write down the homework for the following class. Homework assignments were listed on the syllabus, of course, but for some reason (and I suspect it’s because the standard syllabi that we handed out to all Spanish sections is often hard to decipher) many students preferred to copy it off the board in the way I’d written it out.

Review: As you can see (if you read Spanish), class begins with a review (repaso) of last week’s lesson. This is really important in a language class, where repetition is beneficial to learning, and also in a demanding course where a lot of information is thrown at students. (For conceptual courses in literature or cultural studies, it can even be useful to preview the following lesson in order to connect it to what they have just learned.)

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