Teaching for the first time can be a scary experience.  But successful instructors tap into that anxiety; their nervous energy makes them dynamic teachers.  The following hints may help you get through that first few days of class.

Excerpted from The University of Pittsburgh The TA Handbook

  • Familiarize yourself with the classroom and all the tools, show them in class as visual aids
  • Familiarize yourself with the entire syllabus and text books
  • Get a copy of the enrollment list to take attendance and sort out issues
  • Gather your materials, including reference works you may need for yourself
  • Observe a class, if possible sit in on a class before you have to teach it
  • Ask students to fill out index cards about themselves, previous experience and goals
  • Prepare an ice breakers- some instructors like to begin the first class with a fun activity
  • Be enthusiastic.  It sounds like a cliché, but enthusiasm is the best teaching technique.  If you enjoy and respect the material, the students will also.
  • Get in the habit of reviewing your students work.  Make them show you what they’ve done, or look over their assignments right away.  Take notes to speak  to individual students about their work so they can make progress

Laboratory Sections

Laboratory sessions offer students a hands-on experience linking theories with actual practice of a discipline.  It is often in a lab section that vague or confusing concepts become concrete, clear and credible.  Each lab requires some preparation.  The following checklist may help you get ready:

  • Perform the entire task or experiment in advance.  Even the simplest task does not work as initially described. By going through the techniques yourself you’ll be familiar with the stumbling blocks your students may confront.
  • Prepare a brief introduction to explain the task’s relationship to larger issues- each show in the shop that quarter, etc
  • Arrive in class early and verify the necessary equipment and supplies are available and that everything is in working order

General Teaching Tips

  • Teaching consists of 5 steps:   Tell them what you’ll teach, Show an example of what you’ll teach, Teach the topic, Ask the student to use the knowledge in context, and Summarize with an Overview
  • Make it fun!  Never underestimate the power of rewards, silly hats, stickers, crayons, gold stars or funny prizes.
  • Prepare more material than you think you will need
  • Whenever possible, try to break out of the “Sage on the Stage” lecture format.  Involve students in discussions or presenting their work
  • Recall when you were a student- what teachers inspired you most?  What techniques did they use?


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