Friday, December 14, 2007

The Teacher's Toolkit

Following on from the previous post regarding the nature of teaching, I thought I'd follow it up with a post on a few tools that I think it is important for every teacher/lecturer to have to help them do their job.

A Reflective Journal

I think it is vital that a lecturer reflects on their lecturing. I have an A4 hardback notebook divided up into sections for my seperate courses. Each section contains printouts of slides for each lecture, as well as attendance sheets, handouts, labs, etc. associated with that lecture. Afer each lecture I spend five minutes writing down the key points of lecture, also I note any errors in slides and handouts. I sometimes take note of tricky issues that I need to rethink the way that I've taught and finally if a student proposes a good example or view it is usually worth noting.

If you really want to get into this you can include the following questions after each lecture

  • What did I do best?

  • What should I avoid?

  • What surprised me?

  • What were the good student questions?

  • What couldn’t the students answer?

Stopwatch and Hotel Reception Bell

I like to do timed exercises, they can be a lot of fun, and help breaks the class up into sections for the students and gives them time to reflect, e.g. after twenty minutes in the class say "Spend two minutes reflecting on what you think would be important to know for exams in this subject". To help get the students' attention back after such an exercise I have a reception bell that I give a few rings.

Sometimes when I ask students a question I use my reception bell to signal a correct or wrong answer, I do "ding-dong" for a wrong answer, and "ding-ding-ding-ding-dong" for a correct answer. I think it's better than having to say "No, no, no" all the time.

A Book of Short Stories

I always bring a collection of short stories into my classes, sometimes if the mood takes me I begin class by reading out a short story - this has a number of benefits; it gives me the chance to warm up my voice, it gives the students time to get tuned to my voice, also it gets them relaxed and ready to learn. I usually have some O. Henry's stories with me.


Even if you have all of your presentations in powerpoint and you don't have any need for markers, it is worth your while having a few (of different colours) just in case you want to elobrate on a point or sketch something out.

A Large Deck of Cards

Since I am a computer science lecturer, I use a large deck of cards when teaching topics such as Sorting, Seaching, Linked Lists, and Statistics.

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