Dealing with bigger classes…


Ever wonder how they determine “average” class sizes? Simple – add up all of the students in all of the classes, then divide by the number of classes. That’s your “average.”

Of course some classes are a wee big – at our school choir and band aim for high numbers: 70-80-90 or more. Freshman English is mandated to 20 students, more or less. And they stick to it.

In our district I think our overall average is around 32 or 34, which always worked out fine in my broadcasting classes. I have gear and computers for 36.

This year I’m stretching it – began with 45 in one class and 42 in the other, although they’ve settled down now to 40 and 38. But checking cameras out has become more complex. All of my Canon Elura 100s have stripped threads and won’t hug a tripod. (I just got the bushings in yesterday and will work on fixing that problem this weekend.) That leaves me with the Digital Media Club ZR60s and the five cameras I’ve bought over the years (all used bargains): ZR55, two Elura 60s, two ZR600s. Plus a ZR200 I scooped up when our last band teacher moved on (with a promise to the music department that my kids would tape their kids on request).

Now with less than four weeks of class – actually 16 days once Labor Day and two days of finals are subtracted – we have two major assignments on the table. The PowerPoint research assignment I’m not too worried about. Kids bring data from the Internet computers in the library back and will build those on their team computers (three students per). But the Autobiographical assignment had me concerned – until yesterday when I had a bright moment.

We’re going through full pre-production with the AB assignment. First, they wrote a three paragraph essay about themselves. Second, they must translate that essay into a storyboard (one sentence or thought per slide/simple sketch of the visual for each thought/sentence). Then they begin gathering their resources.

For stage two, production, they MUST sign up and reserve a camera. That is what cured my headache. Make the students responsible. So now, they must plan ahead and bring their resources (photos, etc) to class on the day they reserved the camera. They have to make an appointment with a teacher for an interview (one interview required in this assignment) or with another student – for a set day and time – and then reserve a camera.

Kind of makes sense – and I may continue this with all other assignments. And I did this back when I taught AVID (the college-bound class, not the editing program) by making my sophomores request a short meeting with me regarding their grades. They had to either email me, call me on the phone, leave a note in my mailbox, or catch me out of class to make the request (no walking up during class). They had to wait for my reply (needed to check my calendar to see what times I had open). The final step was to actually show up and keep the appointment – and I graded them on all of this. Face it: someday they will need to take control of their own lives. I’m doing this at home too. My youngest asked me if she could see the doctor about a problem a month or so ago and I told her to call and make an appointment. She hesitated, and then made the call…and took herself to the appointments and handled it beautifully. Less work for mom and a sense of freedom for her.


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