Splash! Chicago

Want to teach a class but don’t know where to start? Creating a class from scratch may seem daunting, but it’s a lot easier than you think. Follow these simple steps to create a class you can teach confidently and proudly.

Step 1: Choose the subject of your class

Think of a topic that you enjoy. This can be anything from your academic major, your hobby, or anything else that interests you. It is important that you consider your class subject to be interesting and worth learning, so that you can convey these sentiments to your students!

Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. Many of our best classes are on unconventional topics, such as pirate history or Chinese calligraphy. Classes that combine two or more subjects, such as the morality of superheroes, are also interesting.

Pick a subject that is accessible to high school students. You might want to share your passion for quantum physics, but it will be difficult to convey that passion unless you have a more intuitive way of explaining the material.

Step 2: Think about why you consider your subject to be interesting.

First, think in general terms. If you are teaching an astronomy class, you might be fascinated by the sheer vastness of space. If you are teaching a history class, you might be fascinated by how different historical events are connected.

Next, think of specific examples. For your astronomy class, you might think about how the nearest star to the Sun is over four light-years away. For your history class, you might argue that the French Revolution was inspired by the American Revolution.

Finally, think of ways to convey your passion. For your astronomy class, you might create a scale model showing the relative size of the solar system and the distance to the nearest star. For your history class, you could make a timeline of events in the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

Step 3: Create your class description

Keep your description short. Anywhere between 50 and 100 words is ideal.

Begin your description with a hook. Starting with a fact or question that will amaze your students or will challenged their preconceived ideas is always good. For example, the first sentence of your astronomy class could be, "Did you know that the distance from the Sun to the nearest star is so vast that it takes light four years to travel the distance?"

Step 4: Make an effective lesson plan

Make sure that the ideas of your class are specified in a clear, logical progression. You should begin with some sort of introduction or hook, and end with a satisfying conclusion.

Try to incorporate a variety of different activities into your class Classes that mix lecture and discussion are generally effective. It is fine if you want to teach a mostly lecture-based or discussion-based class, but try to get the opinions of your students in a lecture-based class, and present your own knowledge in a discussion-based class!

Make sure that your lesson plan is manageable for your allotted class time (usually one hour). Try rehearsing your lesson ahead of time to make sure that it is not too long or too short. Also, try to think of material that you could add or cut out if your actual class goes more quickly or more slowly than your expected.

Other Tips and Tricks

  • Vary your vocals! Your voice has a wide range—explore it. It’s interesting. Sometimes louder is better. Sometimes softer is.

  • Use your space. You have an entire classroom. You can sit, stand, walk around, lie down…Do what keeps you and your students interested and engaged.

  • Free your hands! Gesturing is great!

  • Provide breaks. This can be a game, activity, stretching or even “calligraphy time.” Everyone needs a break.

  • There should be no “wrong” answers. As much as we want discussions to go our way, the group dynamic will really propel itself. Learn to guide and not direct.

  • Have a plan B! You might not always get to everything, or you might find yourself running out of things to talk about. Always have a backup plan.

  • Ask your students for their names, and remember them! It shows that you care enough about your students to learn a little about them, and is really helpful for classroom management. Especially important for Cascade!

  • DON’T BE AFRAID OF SILENCE!! You ask a question. Dead silence. It’s okay, become comfortable with it. Wait a little bit and give your students time to think. Rephrase the question and try again.

Last modified by ageng on Aug. 12, 2013 at 07:15 a.m.