Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Emptying, Filling

Two unrelated things are on my mind right now:

1) The 300 level class that started out so exciting and compelling has slowed considerably: we are experiencing something like semester-fatigue. A heavy reading and writing load seems to have burned out many students, and several including a couple of my best, are dropping like flies--four have withdrawn and three others have simply stopped coming. The rest are not doing the reading regularly. They had a paper due on Monday, but for today all that was due was a short story and a short essay by Salman Rushdie, and getting people to answer even the simplest questions was like pulling teeth. So how do you jump-start a flagging class like this? Carrot or stick?

2) Registration for Spring semester is starting, and enrollment numbers in undergraduate courses are almost-ridiculous-looking: 1/20, 3/40 etc. But the graduate course I'm teaching in the spring? 14/15! I'm almost full for January and its still October. No pressure or anything!


Sisyphus said...

heh, that enrollment info says way more about maturity, or at least having finally learned to stay on top of fees/reg, than anything else to me. The classes will fill and be wonderful --- it's just that the undergrads are still figuring out that the school year has started and haven't gotten up to thinking forward yet.

For the post-midterm/paper slump, sometimes assigning or bringing in short poetry helps --- you make everybody read it out loud, right there, maybe multiple times, and you _know_ they've done the reading then. Then if they don't talk I either threaten them with sticks or play the stupid poetry question game. It's harder to do this with novels and articles, though.

StyleyGeek said...

My classes had the post paper slump last week, and I jump-started one group by taking them outside to sit on the grass in the early summer sunshine and have an informal class out there instead. It was great! We talked about what they had found most interesting in the course so far, and what they had learned, what was different from their expectations, and what the hardest bits were. That last point led on to some basic revision of the harder topics, where they all helped and explained things to each other. Everyone was relaxed and talkative, and lots of them stayed well after "class" had officially ended to keep on talking. Plus we all managed to jump-start our suntans at the same time.

Then the weather turned bad for the rest of the week, so I could only do it with that one class.

Belle said...

Mid-semester slump: carrot. I'm taking this from my dog-training experience. Postive reinforcement works better than punishment.

Of course, I'm old. Not a measly 33 1/3. More like 147.