“Chunk” Your Syllabus


cooperative and active learning

In addition to perusing the school agenda, every teacher I
know discusses her syllabus on the first day. 
Some keep their syllabi brief, but often they simply read it to their
students while the kids look at them with glazed eyes.  And really, can you blame the students?  Can you imagine listening to all of your
teachers review a syllabus or agenda for eight hours straight?

Unfortunately I was guilty of doing this, too. 
In the past, I routinely read my syllabus to my class; however,
several years ago, I created a new method for reviewing my five page syllabus. 

I use the reading strategy “chunking,” which breaks
up reading into manageable sections. 
Furthermore, my activity incorporates cooperative learning, so it gives
me an opportunity to see how my students work (or don’t work) together.  The activity is always popular and gets my
school year started positively.  Best of
all, after my students complete the activity, I have posters of their work to
display on the VERY FIRST DAY of school, which pleases my administrators and brightens my classroom.

Here is how I implement my activity:

1.  Since my syllabus
is five pages long, I number each page and divide my class into five
groups.  Each group is assigned a page to
read and analyze.  I also give a poster-size
construction paper and marker to each group.

2.  I tell the
students to identify at least five essential details that the class needs to
know from their assigned pages.  They
must also make an inference.  Typically,
I give an example:  even though it
doesn’t state it explicitly in the syllabus, we can infer from the course expectations
that good attendance will help students be successful.

back to school activity

3.  Each group chooses
someone with legible handwriting and writes the details and inference on its
construction paper.  They also decide on
how to present their posters to the class in a way that involves everyone in
the group.  
Recently, I’ve tweaked this activity and my students turn their posters into the “front pages” of newspapers. 

4.  When the groups
are ready, each one presents its poster to the class.  This gives me a chance to check for
understanding, answer questions, and elaborate on any points that are
important.  Finally, I collect the
posters for my display.

My students are involved and grateful to do an activity
that’s different than the typical first-day lecture.  Best of all, I get them reading and writing,
so I can meet curriculum standards right away. The displayed posters serve as an excellent
reminder of content, expectations, and procedures for the first week, too!

Want more tips for back to school?  You can download this free BTS eBook for 7-12 ELA teachers. 

Read more ideas for back to school here.

Do you have ideas for reviewing classroom rules, procedures, and routines?  

Please share in the comments below.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

hello there!

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher and curriculum designer. I like to make learning active, relevant, and fun while encouraging students to think critically about the world around them. With 24+ years of teaching experience, I also want to empower educators – in the classroom, online, and at home- so they can provide the best lessons to their students!


Sign up for an exclusive freebie!