Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Mindfulness – Merriam Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” I’ve come up with my own definition – paying attention on purpose with purpose. Mindfulness is one of those “hot topics” these days. TIME Magazine even devoted a special issue to mindfulness, and included this quote: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller. Who knew we could learn from everyone’s favorite high school wise guy?

It turns out that many of the problems we encounter throughout the quarter can at least be mitigated if we take a mindful approach to planning that first day of class. Here are some great ideas that you might think about from Kevin Gannon, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning and Professor of History at Grand View University:

Take some time in that first class to do a mini-lesson on one of the exciting, weird, intriguing, or controversial parts of the course material. Let your own enthusiasm for the material shine, and let it be a model for your students. If you’re teaching a new prep, use the novelty to your advantage — what are the interesting questions you’re going to cover in the course?

Sometimes an explicit discussion of your course structure — the pedagogical decisions you’ve made — can be powerful. By letting students peek under the hood and see the method and purpose of certain aspects of the course, you’re demonstrating that they’re partners in its success.

The first day can give students a taste of everything they’ll be expected to do during the quarter. If the course is going to be discussion-heavy, then a brief class discussion should be in the first day’s plan. If students will be doing a lot of the group work, then a group activity should be on the docket. If you plan on interleaving activities such as think-pair-share or minute papers, give your students an opportunity to experience that routine on the first day, and model your expectations and feedback for them.

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