A Giant Post-It Note Classroom Activity idea and experience from a community college professor in a 100-level gen-ed course no one wants to take.

Engaging students in a 100-level, gen-ed college course is not the easiest of tasks. If you ask students why they are in your class, you’ll get every answer from “My parents are making me” to “I just need this to graduate.”

I know this because I do ask!

All the time.

It’s hard not to take it personally when your students aren’t interested in the subject matter you teach. Especially when you pour your heart and soul into a lecture or project as I do.

I’ve learned my passion can only inspire up to a point, then, I start to lose them.

So, this year, I challenged myself to come up with an active learning activity per week — because who wants to sit and listen to a 40-something-year-old woman talk about how much she loves technology?

Based on the student’s interest level in my classes, the answer is simple: no one.

The activities I’ve integrated to date have been fairly simple. I’ll ask the students to recall something we did last class or I’ll put them in groups and have them solve a problem.

Last week, however, I got fancy.

I brought in one of those giant post-it note pads and stuck post-its on the walls around the classroom. Then, I put the students in groups and had them flow chart the solution of a programming problem we were working on in class. After each group jotted down their answer, I had the groups rotate around the room and explore the solutions their classmates proposed on their post-its.

Afterward, we debriefed as a class.

It. was. awesome!

Here’s a panoramic of one of my sections working on their solutions.


My Giant Post-It Note Classroom Activity Experience

When I first introduced the giant post-it note activity, I got the typical grunts and groans. Students would rather not be engaged. At least, that’s what they think. By the end of this class, however, I saw more interaction among students than ever before. They weren’t afraid to ask each other questions or make small talk during open lab time.

This. is. HUGE!

According to The Value of Peer Interaction in the First-Term Community College Classroom,

…the value of promoting social interaction in the community college classes is found in: (a) enhanced learning, (b) appealing classroom atmosphere, (c) student development and growth, (d) membership in a supportive community, (e) student success, and (f) safety and comfort.

…there is qualitative value for both the student and the instructor when social interaction is present in a community college classroom.

Anecdotally, this semester, since committing to a more active classroom, I can see this value. My attendance rates are slightly up. I have more students engaging with me and with each other. And, well, how do I say this?

I am a happier teacher!

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than I was standing in the back of the classroom, watching twenty or so students actively working together. It’s was an amazing feeling. One I find hard to put into words.

I hope to post more active classroom ideas and experiences. As I mentioned before, I tend to thrive off sharing ideas. It inspires me. If you have any classroom activities that work for you, leave a comment below. I’m all ears. And if you are looking for inspiration, I love the book Small Teaching by James Lang. It shares some simple teaching techniques and why they work.

Published by Roni

A 40ish - wait, what?! - Mom who loves to try new things, share her adventures, and inspire people to reach their goals.