I'll be in Davenport, Iowa, on April 3-4, 2008, to facilitate a workshop for the faculty at St Ambrose University. Dr. Paul Jacobson, Director of their Center for Teaching Excellence, regularly organizes teaching circles, book discussions, and speakers. I found these tips on their website for "Beating those Bio-rhythm Blues: Keeping the 8:00 and 3:30 Scholars Involved and Learning" by Professor Rachel Serienz. Her advice?
Be active. Enter the classroom briskly and joyfully conveying to students the message, "I enjoy my discipline, I enjoy you, and I enjoy the act of teaching through which you and my discipline can meet." Walk around as you speak. Use facial expressions to convey your own reaction to a concept being addressed whether that reaction be acceptance, amusement, or disgust. Use gestures, keeping hands apart and reaching out to students as though inviting them into your own enthusiastic sphere. Nothing is less motivating to students during those "blues times" than a static, solemn, arms-folded dispenser of facts.
Engage in community building. Get to know your students as the persons they are outside your classroom. Learn who is in band, choir, athletics, and who is currently involved in a theatre production. Keep current on who is achieving what...Acknowledge these achievements with a brief mention. Even elicit a brief round of applause. This can be done just prior to the time when the "start bell" sounds, so that no teaching time is sacrificed.
Open your lesson in a way likely to engage student attention. Mention a current event that relates to upcoming concepts. Ask a challenging question to which students can discover the answer by paying attention. Read an appropriate poem or a brief literary passage or show a picture that captures the essence of your day’s topic. Share a personal experience and invite others to do the same. All these serve as "advance organizers" giving students "hooks" on which they can hang in an orderly fashion new concepts they will be gaining that day.
Acknowledge and honor learning diversity. Two students make be equally intelligent, yet learn best in quite different ways. Realize that your class will contain auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners and make sure that each lesson makes students listen, look, and write or do. Nearly half of college-age students are quite concrete-operational meaning that they learn best when actions and objects are used in teaching, or when teaching is related to their own concrete experiences. Make presentations object- and experience-centered whenever possible. Use pictures, simulations, and not just words to convey concepts.
Create a Wave. To prevent student drift, alternate periods of high-intensity concept presentation and note-taking with lower-intensity periods of group discussion, audiovisual presentation, simulations, etc. You can easily sense by monitoring students’ facial expressions, body language, and response level when it is time for a change of pace and mode of instruction.
Link lessons. If possible, make the end of one lesson be the start of the next. Present a question to which students are expected to bring an answer to the next session. Have students open a session by reiterating what was learned during the previous session and then show them how what is to follow will be an extension of what they have already learned. But still use a novel "Launch" at times. The best way to fight the bio-rhythm blues is through diversity.
Great advice for teaching classes at any time of the day!