The 2020-2021 school year had its challenges, no doubt. Here are the top three things you should do to ensure a successful year for 2021-2022. Without further ado, let’s jump in!

1) Make your students excited to be back!

Burning dollar note lab

Yes, this is the absolute best thing you can do for your students. Students learn drastically better when they are engaged. A student can be engaged on multiple levels but the very highest level of engagement a student can have is when they are genuinely fascinated with the topic.

Dedicate a chunk of Day 1, if not the entire period to a fun, inquiry-based activity (they can read the syllabus on their own and you can briefly quiz them on it day 2). There are many discrepant events you can do and make a short, easy inquiry activity from. However, a teachers’ old favorite involves taking money from a student and lighting it on fire (click here for more).

An exciting and engaging activity like this will boost your students’ dopamine and serotonin levels in relation to your class. This subsequently will have a motivating and fulfilling effect on students that will carry into the year if you can keep elements of this excitement going. (So yes, your students will learn better when they have a little bit of fun). Throw this in after a year of computer-learning and you may just inspire a few future chemists.

Disclaimer: All lab experiments and science activities have potential hazards. All experiments and activities presented on this website should be used with caution and good judgement. Safety rules for laboratory conduct should always be observed whenever working in a laboratory.

2) Provide structure on Day 1

top 3 things to do on first day of school

This was hard to come by last year (not just for students but all of society). Providing this on Day 1 will help students form a clear idea of what to expect from your course. Students (and people) learn better when there are clear expectations of what and how they should learn.

Some things we advise structuring:

Seating Chart + Lab Partners: AP students know how they learn best, so they can seat themselves, right? Sort of. The biggest driver of students picking their seats is anxiety-reduction. Students will sit next to whomever makes them feel the most comfortable–which often means their friends. Sometimes, friends make good learning partners, but often they do not. Friends distract each other. And, for labs, it often means a reduction in work by one member.

Assigned seating quells the “where-to-sit” anxiety students may have on the first day. Additionally, it shows them that YOU are in charge of the class, and that everything–including their seating arrangements–has a purpose.

Unit Outline: This contains the learning objectives, assignments and assessments for each unit. Brownie points go to you if the learning objectives are correlated with their respective assignments.

Students retain concepts better when they are conscious of what their learning objectives are. This reinforces the metacognitive process. It is strongly recommended to delineate these to students before each unit, and to review them prior to the unit exam. They should also be easily interpretable for students. You may feel that using your own wording is best for some objectives.

These are just a couple things where structure is beneficial. Not every component of the class requires – or benefits for that matter – from structure. In fact, structure very much falls into the Goldilocks principle: too little is entropic, too much is constricting.

3) Have backup

AP chemistry supplementary resources

Not just in case the pandemic closes schools again! It’s great to have an alternative resource for reaching students who are struggling in the course. Nearly 50% of students score either a 1 or 2 on the AP chemistry exam! These are students who need additional support!

A study hall or office hours are great for autonomous students. It would be nice if every struggling AP student sought their own help when they needed it: as you’re probably aware, they don’t, unfortunately. However, a gentle push for such a student can often go a very long way.

We at Viziscience exist to offer this additional help to you and your students. Teachers, we know how much work it is to provide individualized curriculum and instruction for every student. Our modules allow you to assign individual topics–or entire units to your students. You’ll be able to monitor each student’s progress without having to do any grading yourself. This valuable time saved you can spend elsewhere to improve your classroom or lessons.

To find out more, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at contact@viziscience.com or send us a message.

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