Typhani Harris | September 2016

The Syllabus: 3 Ways to Make it Engaging

It is common practice to provide a syllabus in secondary levels.  However, we tend to just read through it with our students.  This is boring, uneventful, and results in students forgetting the important information.  Here are my top 3 ways to engage in the syllabus in secondary levels.

It is interesting that we spend so much time preparing engaging and interactive activities when presenting new content information to students, yet when it comes to our year-long expectations we tend to stand at the front and merely read through the multiple pages we call a syllabus.  Our syllabi outline the important information students need to know in order to be successful in our classes, so shouldn’t this be just as engaging?

When introducing your Syllabus In Secondary Levels, consider some of the following ideas to help students retain the important information.

Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a great way to engage the students in finding and justifying important expectations.   List important items for students to find and let them hunt away!  This can be done in groups as a competition, or you can place questions around the room and have students get up and move around.  Similar to a gallery walk, give students a minute or two at each question, where they find the answer and then rotate.  You can use this same gallery walk as a prediction relay.  Before giving out the syllabus in secondary levels, place important categories (from the syllabus) around the room.

Using sticky notes, have students predict what they think should be in each category by placing their prediction on a sticky note on the poster.  This can also be set up as a competition, where students receive “points” for each correct prediction.  At the culmination of any of these activities, have students justify why the expectation is set, explaining why they think it is important.  This will also open the lines of communication where students may add additional items to the syllabus in secondary levels.  If they think something should be added, consider adding it.

Syllabus Relay

The syllabus relay is simply a syllabus quiz in an interactive form.  Set up your room with either two or four sides, and a bell/buzzer, or something to grab in the middle.  Pose questions regarding the information found in the syllabus, and have groups run to the center when they have found the answer.  This can get loud and chaotic (which is not a bad thing), so ensure you have set parameters and procedures for your students so they understand the safest way to enjoy the relay.

You Design It

Allow students to design their own syllabi.  This can be done in a whole class setting, or in groups.  Design the cover to the syllabus, with standard information such as, contact info, general class info, grading scale, etc., specific things that are non-negotiable.  Then set up additional sections that students can contribute to like, rules, consequences, makeup or absent work, or student leadership roles.  Allowing students to help design the expectations will give them an active role in their education.

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About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.