Voices

The best resource on teaching First-Year Writing courses in a flexible environment is the instructors who have taught in the room themselves. Here you’ll find advice, tips, and helpful observations from those who have gone before you on using the resources in a flexible classroom, as well as adopting an active learning, student-centered pedagogical approach. If you have any thoughts or tips you’d like to share on your experience teaching in one of the flex classrooms, please “leave a reply” at the bottom of this page.

Using the LCD Screens
  • “Familiarize yourself with the technology before teaching in the room, and know where to get help when you need it.”
  • “If you’re going to use the LCD screens to share writing, do it early in the semester. Establish that as a ground rule for your classroom community.
  • “I would encourage instructors to periodically turn off the large projector screen at the front of the room and have students huddle/work around the LCD screens. The LCD screens are better for group work and discussion.”
  • “Use them for groups to do collaborative drafting.”
  • “Have students practice hooking up to the LCD screens for low-stakes activities so that it will come naturally for any higher-stakes uses. Find playful uses for the screens (e.g. as part of a competition–groups hook up for their reveals) to help students become more comfortable sharing in this way.”
  • “Use the LCD’s to have individuals or small groups of students present their work (and have the rest of the class gather round). Get used to students looking in all different directions when you put content on the screens. Using the screens to give notes are a good way to move around the room and “lecture” from different places and still be able to gesture to your own notes. When students compose on screens, you’ll find that some students are more comfortable composing in this semi-public space than others.”

 

Practicing Student-Centered Teaching
Senior Lecturer Matt Porter discusses the various rhetorical situations of academic and popular science articles with his students.
  • get out from behind the podium. T126 is a super large room and sometimes your students will sit along the wall. I don’t like that, so I tell them I’m needy and ask them to come forward; however, I must be willing to meet them halfway by getting out from the command module.”
  • “I’d encourage new instructors to take advantage of the space’s opportunities for collaboration as much as possible.”

 

 

Using the Mobile Furniture
  • “Take advantage of it! It freed me and my students up so much to be constantly on the move, especially since I taught a 100 minute class. I had the students take responsiblity for configuring the room as much as possible, and I think they felt a sense of ownership as a result.”
  • “Have students move the furniture themselves (under your direction). Don’t waste time giving students a prof-arranging-furniture show at the beginning of each class.”
  • “If you want to control the use of this furniture, do it on the first day. Once you cede control over how students use or move the furniture, it’s hard to get any control back.”
  • “let the students sit wherever they like…if you need to move them around but there’s inherent advantages to a sort of scattered layout–discussions feel more natural, less teacher-driven and I think some students may be more likely to speak up because of the informal/non-linear layout.”
  • “be aware that not all students will welcome the new arrangement.”

 

Using the Whiteboards
  • “Use the mobile white boards for small group activities, and have students move them when they are ready to present their work. For me, these became my go-to bad-lesson-fixer: if students are not answering questions or just not responding to what I’d planned, I’d put them in small groups and have them compose something on the white boards.” 
    A group of students work together to analyze an article to share with their classmates.
  • “Use them regularly! Students have much more engaged small-group discussions when given a “deliverable” task to put on the whiteboards. They document their conversations more and have more to say during full-class discussions.”
  • “They’re fun and useful. I often use them to have student generate lists for pre-writing or sharing and discussing theses.”
  • “Use the rolling whiteboards! Get students to draft on them, line them up and configure them, form them like Voltron. Get them to snap cellphone photos of notes/work they want to keep.”