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Start with an Appetizer

October 16, 2013

parmesan-walnut salad in endive leavesI was browsing through Penn State’s excellent Media Commons site and came across The Appetizer Assignment, presented as an easy video project for faculty and students. The web page includes prompts, a rubric template, a timeline, and suggested components — everything you need to get started.

I like this idea, and I like the “Appetizer” metaphor even more. It’s a great description for one of my favorite bits of advice:

If you are starting to explore a new tool,
use it in a short low-stakes activity before diving into a major project
.

Imagine this scenario:  The fall midterm exam is the first time that either my students or I have tried an online test. Sixty questions are divided into parts where questions are drawn at random from pools. As students begin to take the test we discover that someone has deleted questions, students are running out of time, there are errors in the answers, and it’s easy for students to cheat.

Here’s an alternative: During the first week of class I give an online get-to-know-you quiz. It contains five humorous questions, all answers are “correct,” and students can take it as often as they want. After dealing with a few bumps we all figure out how the tool works.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2013 12:30 pm

    Love it! A syllabus quiz is a perfect online exam “appetizer” – and you get the added benefit of stressing course policies or other syllabus content.

  2. October 16, 2013 10:04 am

    Reblogged this on teachingandlearningatmsu and commented:
    For those of us who teaching writing, it seems to me that freewriting prompts on particular topics that students will be covering in their former essays is a great way to start them off with an “appetizer.” If you want to break the in-class writing prompts into chunks: a freewriting activity asking them to freewrite on their claim, the next one on the evidence they might use to support the claim, the third on audience, etc. these little steps will lead them to their formal essay, give them in-class writing time, and allow them to discuss their choices with their peer before committing them to paper. I like this idea especially because I find that once a student writes an idea or takes a stand in their essay, they are loathe to change it. Positioning freewriting prompts around elements of an essay has them test out ideas before fully writing them, get feedback, and then leaves them with the core components of their formal piece. Worth trying!

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