Preparing Students for Class
When students arrive in your classroom, they are expecting direction. Be sure to communicate with them what it is expected of them each day. What are you doing in your next class? Does it involve group work, discussion, or an in-class assignment? Let your students know each day what they need to be prepared for in the next class.
Do they need to bring a clicker, a textbook, a calculator? Although students have a multitude of resources they need to bring to class, they will lighten their backpack load if they don’t feel they have to haul it around. Be sure to let them know which resources and materials they need to bring to class.
Are you having a discussion, next class? What are you discussing? Providing the students with the topic beforehand is an excellent way to let them prepare. They may not create pages of notes, but they may write down key questions they want to explore, or key points they think are relative to the conversation. Getting the conversation started can sometimes be the hardest part, so giving the students a chance to prepare may prove a useful strategy. Think of asynchronous activities you can have your students participate in that can help them prepare for the synchronous or in-class activities that will take place in subsequent classes. Asking students to identify key questions they would like to explore, or to identify areas or confusion or dissonance are great ways to get students thinking about what they will have to do the next class. Ask them to submit these thoughts via email or a discussion forum so you can refer to them and keep your students on task.
Informing students about group work activities can help them get into a collaborative mindset. They know what will be expected of them, and although they may not be completely prepared, they may ready themselves for the challenge of working in a group. Let them know what tasks the group has to perform, so they can evaluate their skill sets and determine which tasks work well with their skills set. This process can help groups get organized and on task quicker.
Sometimes it helps to think of the classroom as a work environment. When you show up to work, you often have knowledge of the tasks you will have to take on that day before you even show up. As your students become familiar with the class, they will realize that some tasks are standard or repetitive, they will begin to be prepared for these. If you inform them of these tasks, you take out some of the guesswork of what needs to be done in class. Your class should be focused on course goals and student learning objectives, and not deciphering instructions of daily tasks.