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When It Falls Flat

Maybe the classroom is too hot. Maybe you aren’t feeling your best. Maybe there’s just something in the air. Whatever the reason, your well-planned and executed lesson just falls flat. I can usually tell about 10 minutes into class when things just aren’t jibing–rather than blank stares of confusion, I see only glassy eyes of apathy.

I try to do a lot of things to prevent classes from being boring, especially since I teach at night and we only meet once a week. We do a variety of activities, I try to get people out of their chairs and learning in multiple ways. But sometimes it isn’t enough.

How do you resuscitate a floundering class? I find that a quick break, acknowledging that we’re all struggling with interest, can do wonders. Sometimes I change the order of activities — e.g., instead of writing at the end of class, I’ll shake things up a bit and do that earlier. Other times I make sure to revisit material from the last week, especially if I know that students weren’t fully engaged and may not have really retained it.

What I am certain of at this point in my career is that I have a lot of power to control attitudes in the classroom. If I fight the lethargy well and show enthusiasm, it increases the odds of things going well. Not all the time–you can’t make students care–but you as instructor set the tone.

Do you have tips for turning a class around that is falling flat? How do you salvage your lesson when it isn’t going well?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography.]

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