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Making Lectures More Interactive

An interactive lecture is one that combines lecture with student active breaks; it seeks to involve students in a variety of ways that will maintain and reset their attention. If you are interested in incorporating interactive lecture activities on a regular basis, a possible structure for a class period might include:

  1. Start Class with a Question
    • Ask your students what they know or hope to learn about the topic.
    • Provide an image and ask them what they see.
    • Pose a problem based on the homework.
  2. After approximately ten to fifteen minutes of lecturing, stop and have students take a few minutes to do one of the following:
    • Write a Question:
      Ask the students to take two or three minutes to write a question they have about the material just covered. Ask for volunteers to ask and answer questions.
    • Write - Pair - Share:
      Pose a challenging question and have students write their response for a few minutes. Have them share their response with their neighbor. Ask volunteers to share their responses with the large group.
    • Pair and Compare:
      Students are asked to pair up and compare notes, expanding upon them as needed.
    • Making Material Relevant:
      "After lecturing on an idea or concept, stop and ask students for examples from their own experiences or readings. Or, you might show a news clip or a movie segment and ask students how it relates to the lecture material." (The Office of Instructional Consultation, http://www.oic.id.ucsb.edu)
    • Periodic Recall:
      Students stop taking notes, close their books and write down two or three main points from the lecture thus far. Students could then compare and discuss what they have written with a partner.
    • Re-order the Steps:
      Present a series of steps in a mixed order and have students re-order the steps correctly.
    • Graphic Representation: Ask students to represent a key topic in a non-narrative format (i.e., picture, graph, etc.)
  3. Conclude your class session with a two to five minute recap
    • Ask students to summarize major points.
    • Have students take a short ungraded quiz individually, or in small groups. They should be able to answer the question(s) (without much difficulty) based on the lecture and their class participation.
    • Assign a one-minute paper by asking students one or more of the following questions: 1) "What do you consider to be the main point(s) of today's class?" or "What one or two things stood out for you from today's class?" 2) "What was the muddiest point?" or "What question(s) still remains uppermost in your mind?" Collect these papers and start the next class session by noting any trends in their responses and/or by addressing their muddiest points and/or questions.

Please note: If you expect student resistance to a new format, take a few minutes to describe to them what you are going to be expecting of them and why. In addition, start small, and as the course progresses, add more activities.

References

Nilson, L. Teaching At Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors. 1st ed. Bolton: Anker, 1998. Print.

Paulson, Donald. R., and Jennifer L. Faust. "Active Learning for the College Classroom." California State U., 2006. Web. 19 May 2010.

"Interactive Lectures." The Office of Instructional Consultation. U. of California, 2006. Web. 19 May 2010.

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