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I do a lot of participation activities in my classes, since engaging in class activities is a great way to keep students involved in their learning experience and a great way to get a sense of how well students are understanding class content. In today’s post, I go over five types of participation activities that I use in my classrooms and explain how these participation activities are used to achieve certain learning outcomes.
5 Types of Participation Activities
Activity Outcome 1: Learn a Major Class Concept
There are probably at least a few overarching class concepts that your students need to learn or better understand in your classes. Participation activities can be used as a way to test if students have understood these concepts to the degree you expect or wish. For example, in my Composition and Literature course this semester, my students and I discussed the dialogic relationship between literature and culture. To show their understanding of this relationship, I had them find an example of a literary cultural artifact: an example of a commercial, physical object, business, etc. that alludes to a literary text to help create meaning for its audience. Students submitted these examples through a discussion post. [Find out more in the above video.]
Activity Outcome 2: Progress in a Major Project 1
When assigning major projects to students, one way to make sure they are understanding the small details of that project is to have them complete participation activities that tie into that project. For example, my students need to have MLA citations in their papers. So, I have them submit 2 MLA citations of sources they plan to use in their papers (as a discussion post). That way, I can let them know before their papers are turned in if they are accidently using Chicago or APA citation or if they are missing key aspects of MLA citations.
Activity Outcome 3: Progress in a Major Project 2
In addition to working out small details for major projects, participation activities can also help motivate students to work on major projects at a good pace (rather than doing it all at once near the deadline). For example, my paper outline activity (described in this video) requires students to plan out their thesis and topic sentences for their papers weeks in advance of the paper deadline. My public feedback activities (video on that here) require students to turn in thesis statements or supportive paragraphs from their future papers.
What small activities can you create to make sure students are working on their projects?
Activity Outcome 4: Complete Necessary Homework Assignments
Okay, this is a big one. In teaching literature courses, doing the homework readings is essential for class discussions. But, some students aren’t invested in the reading, so how can you give them more reasons to be invested? Assign participation activities that require them to do the reading. This can be reading quizzes, or it can be other small class activities that require knowledge of the readings to complete. I’m not a big reading quiz person, but I’ve started them up this semester due to issues with students not completing the homework readings. Here’s a video on how I design reading quizzes.
Activity Outcome 5: Create a Class Community
My first homework assignment is always a discussion post where students introduce themselves. Including small activities that are more personal are a way to help build class community, as students can get to know each other better and find out what they have in common. These activities are particularly great for freshman students, as they might not know many of their classmates yet.
These are five participation activity learning outcomes that might appeal to you for your class situation. I highly recommend giving some of them a try to help students get more engaged in your classes. If you have your own suggestions, let me know in the comments below! And if you want more class activity tips, here’s a blog post about in-person class discussion designs and another on online discussion designs.
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