Seminar style classes -- need help


I'm teaching an upper-level undergrad course this fall that meets once a week for 2 and a half hours. (Our semester is 15 weeks). I've never taught this style of class before. Has anyone else? Any suggestions you can give me? I'm a little stuck on how to manage all that time at once without things getting too tedious for the students or burning myself out. This is a dramatic lit. class, if that helps.

ABD Candidate:
I was asked to teach a seminar class during winter term, earlier this year. Fortunately, I had enough time to arrange ahead for guest speakers to visit the class. If you do use guest speakers, be sure to remind them the week before, and if at all possible, find out if they are decent speakers and use interesting visual aids. I've been in class with a guest speaker who used slides that were yellowed, stained, and pathetic. They just didn't care. Another one showed up to class, sat down and said, "Okay, what do you want to talk about?" The class didn't flinch -- the silence was really uncomfortable. Provide them with a syllabus too. That helps them to prepare the appropriate material. Some great speakers I've used were in the department I was teaching for, others were professionals in the field (natural resources). The class lasted 2 hours.

To keep their attention, and to keep it interesting, you'll need to have a variety of things for your students to be part of. You can combine small group discussion, lecture, video, guest speaker (though I wouldn't want one every time you meet -- students will end up feeling like it is a "talking heads" course). Be sure to take a break midway through. Have them go out and look up subject material that is of particular interest to them, then ask them to present it back to all the other students. Sometimes, students can work in groups of 2-4 for a final project, then you should require them to turn in a paper that's their own work (for grading purposes and to check that they've done the research). A field trip might be appropriate for your class?

This probably won't work for you, but who knows? I was able to find a natural resources "Jeopardy" game on the Web that the whole class got to play. We had great fun, and they learned a lot too.

Good luck!

I have taught long classes numerous times, as much as 4 hours long on somewhat dry materials. Dramatic literature is more fun.

Try reading the literature aloud, including performance work, especially plays. This works very well.

Use in-class reaction type papers and collect the work when finished. Pose one or more questions or quotes from the authors on interpretation. Always count their work toward their grade and insist on quality writing.

Think about the subtext of the poetry or play.


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