August 1, 2013 by Kara
Summer has been great! I crossed most things off of my to-do list. Now it’s time to return to normal working life. Where do I start?
I like to start my new school year prep by updating my syllabus. It gives me a chance to review my expectations, goals, topics, and procedures. Here are some things I’ve learned about syllabi over the years:
1. Most students don’t really care about them
They glance at them once when you make them. I’m sure they dread the first day of classes when teachers read their syllabi to them. Then they take them home for a parent signature, and I’m pretty sure the majority of parents don’t read them. Now I post it on Edmodo to save some trees and we can refer to it when needed. Try not to read it to them, but instead try one quick activity with it: http://creativelanguageclass.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/interactive-syllabus-challenge/
2. They are visually boring
Colored paper and fancy fonts only add a touch of spice. This is what I want to fix on mine this year. I discovered infographics last year and I believe this might be the way to go. I showed Elizabeth Barlow, our biology teacher, a syllabus with a pie chart from Thomas Sauer’s tweets. She ran with it and created the following example. She said the pie chart helped explain the grades better.
3. Explain expectations clearly
There are students that want to know exactly what they need to do to get an A and there are others that just want to know how to pass. This year I will include our proficiency rubric that I use for everything.
4. Keep it simple
Focus on what’s important. My first page is a description of the goal proficiency level. My second page is about grading and procedures. I suggest to keep it to 2 pages or less for high school. In this example, I put 1 chili pepper for level one, 2 for level two, etc. so I could identify it easily. I’d like to change this image to avoid the stereotypical Spanish class images.
5. Be vague on some parts
The last thing I want to do is to trap myself into a procedure or expectation that I can’t keep up with. Sometimes a broad statement like “Bathroom: Follow the posted procedures by the door.” would allow me to change it as needed.
6. Don’t forget to change the date
Have you ever updated your syllabus, ran 150 copies, and then, noticed that you didn’t change the school year on the top? I have! After that, I quit putting the year. Now I just put the updated year in the footer as a note to myself.
Now the fun part! Last year we had a Bulletin Board Challenge to kick off the new year. This year it is an Exciting Syllabus Challenge! Send us screen shots or attachments of your most EXCITING syllabus by August 6, 2013 to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share them on a post and choose a winner (who will receive a special prize in the mail from us). We are looking for something visually UNIQUE that covers the basics. What about a QR code? Maybe some borders, images, or background? Charts and graphs?
Here are a few for inspiration from the Internet:
Happy creating!! We can’t wait to see what you submit!
While we are waiting for the creativity to roll in…
What information do you include on your syllabus?
And the winner is… http://creativelanguageclass.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/and-the-most-exciting-syllabus-goes-to/