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With the semester half over, many students may be experiencing the dreaded mid-semester slump.  However, there are tons of great activities you, as the instructor, can incorporate into your classroom to pull students back in.  In Teaching What You Don’t Know, Therese Huston notes multiple wonderful activities that instructors can have on-hand to nip lackluster student engagement in the bud.  To name a few:

Activities of Two to Five Minutes

Comparative Note-Taking

  • In pairs, have students take 1-2 minutes to compare their notes with a neighbor.  This will help students whose attention was waning to re-focus, as well as give them an opportunity to rework notes that aren’t clear while ideas are still fresh in their minds.  Once students have had time to talk with their neighbor, open the floor for questions and take a few minutes to clarify ideas which were unclear to students.

Intentional Mistakes

  • Individually or in pairs, have students find and correct the errors in an incorrect proof, weak argument, inaccurate statement, or illogical conclusion which you have presented to them.  This is a good way to draw attention to the common mistakes that students often make or a topic that students often find confusing.  Once students have composed their notes, have them share their suggested corrections and reasons why the original is wrong with the class.

Activities of Seven to Fifteen Minutes


  • As the name suggests, this activity includes asking students a question and giving them a minute or two to think about it and possibly jot down a few ideas.  Then, students pair off and compare their answers with one another.  Finally, after a few minutes, bring the class back together and ask a few students to share what they learned.  This activity is a handy one for those moments when you pose a question to the class and are met with only a few blank stares.  By giving students time to not only compose their thoughts but also to compare those ideas with another student, they are more likely to share their ideas with the larger class.

Activities of Fifteen to Thirty Minutes

Video Predictions

  • For this activity, either before watching a video or pausing at a key point, ask students in small groups (3-4 students each) to predict what they think will happen.  Groups should write their predictions on a single sheet of paper (requiring the group to work together) and should provide specific details about what they expect will happen in the video.  This will serve to focus their attention and, after which, they watch the video to see if they predicted correctly.  Whether students were able to predict what happened or not, have them explain their thought processes that led them to think that would happen and, if their expectations were inaccurate, have them talk about why it didn’t work out as they expected.  By contradicting students’ expectations, they’re likely to learn a lot from the experience.

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