Reviews Teaching Writing Technology

“Small Changes in Teaching: The Minutes Before Class” by James M. Lang

James M. Lang begins an excellent series on small changes in instruction with an article on making the most of the minutes before class.  In this short time, Lang urges teachers to take advantage of the time with students, instead of using it as a time for administration or organization.  Drawing from three books or studies, Lang suggests building relationships, displaying an agenda, and wondering with students.  

1. Building Relationships

This can be done through simple questions and short conversations before the official start of class.  By building trusting relationships, in-class discussions and the classroom atmosphere are improved.  These relationships can even mean student writers are more willing to take risks in their writing.

2. Displaying an agenda for the day’s class

By displaying an agenda or framework for the day’s class, students are able to organize new information into the framework of one’s teaching.  And a teacher’s framework is much like the organizational structure of one’s writing: it helps readers to not get lost as they progress.  When the teacher references the agenda throughout class, students have a better understanding of how course materials and concepts fit into bigger ideas.

3. Wondering with students

This can take the form of photos, headlines, a sound clip, etc displayed at the beginning of class.  All these media sources allow students to pause and prepare for class, while opening up space for discussion and relationship building.  Wondering is an excellent source of inspiration in writing, and by modeling the practice for students, students can begin to incorporate it into their own writing process.

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