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Visual Notetaking addendum

VISUAL NOTETAKING CONTINUED I am compiling examples of VNT from other professors and teachers.  Have a look at these creative designs fo...

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Visual Notetaking addendum


I am compiling examples of VNT from other professors and teachers.  Have a look at these creative designs for a Holocaust Unit on Night done by the high school students of Mrs. Perkins at the Central Davidson High School in Lexington, NC.  Thank you to the students and Mrs. Perkins!

If you are interested in my original blog post on VNT 
you will find it here: VISUAL NOTETAKING.

You will find my guide to Visual Notetaking here: 

I would love to hear from any other teachers out there!  
Please email at myuniprep@gmail.com.

Infographics in the classroom


In all of my first year undergraduate classes I assign Infographics as a way to engage my students in the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I always find this assignment rewarding for my students. It offers a helpful way to study, a different type of assignment, a way to engage visual learners, and I am usually surprised by their work.  I sometimes have them work in groups of two, sometimes alone, and sometimes they create Infographics as part of their final exam - the other part of their group work or final exam is creating a Dilemma One Sheet - I have a blog post about these here: DAILY DILEMMA

There is a lot of information out there on Infographics and several programs you may use - see below for several links - including one from Easelly. Easelly has an excellent guide: “The 13-step Guide to Building an Infographic.”

The article from Easelly explains what Infographics are and how to use them as an effective classroom tool.
While much of the article explains why and how teachers should use Infographics in the classroom, my approach goes further.  While I have several INFOGRAPHICS available for sale, I also have my students create their own Infographics.  

There are many ways to make an Infographic. I allow my students to use any of the sites below or use PPT or Slides:

I have found the marking of these to be less time consuming than grading an essay. I have created a rubric that helps students see how they will be graded along with student examples so they know what is expected of them - you will find it here:

INFOGRAPHICS in the classroom: 

rubric & student examples

This unit also has a few tricks and tips for you and your students and a Google Slides component. I find it useful to show students what others have done so there are five examples included - the two in this blog are amazing so be sure to show your students these too - I have included them in this TpT unit as PDFs.

You will be surprised at how much energy goes into these creations!

The following examples are from my class on Thucydides:

The following INFOGRAPHICS are in my store and for sale - click on INFOGRAPHICS:

Thanks for stopping by!

Why Teach Genesis?


I introduce Genesis at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Close Reading and Textual Analysis.  

I begin the semester with Genesis for several practical reasons - it is a text most students have some familiarity with, it is short and conducive to analysis and close reading, there are right and wrong answers to the questions I pose, but there are also answers that are open to interpretation and debate.  Furthermore, no matter what a student is studying, I think it is important to start a conversation with my students regarding moral responsibility and the concepts of good and evil.  Students are often overwhelmed with the choices that face them regarding their careers, what they should study, who they are as individuals, and what they stand for politically and ethically.

I focus on core topics - curiosity, free will, choice, guilt, justice, punishment, reward, and more.  Ethical and moral questions are raised and discussed.

Before I begin any of the class discussion or group work, I ask my students to first mark up the text using my Interpretive Note-Taking guide. I have a blog post here: Interpretive Note-Taking.
Here are some images from one of my students:

Here are some more reasons for teaching GENESIS 1, 2, & 3:



Scholars have argued over the meaning of Genesis for centuries.   The approach I take is in the spirit of political philosophy.   It is a fabulous text for digging deeper and going beyond the surface teaching.  For instance, on a very superficial level it appears that God created everything in six days but the text doesn't support this position.   Moses Maimonides in The Guide to the Perplexed presents the case that “beginning” is not a temporal beginning “for time belongs to the created things” (Book II.30).  This claim helps establish a valid response to the criticism of Genesis as regards the impossibility of God creating the universe in six days.  In this one respect, it helps reconcile the theory of evolution (the universe was created billions of years ago) versus creation (it’s unclear how the first moments are to be understood temporally).

Later in the semester my students work on creating Infographics on the Scopes Trial. The earlier work on Genesis proves to be a great beginning point as they are now familiar with Genesis One. This Infographic was created by one of my students. I have a blog post on Infographics here:




Genesis is about innocence and responsibility.



This is one of the most important reasons for teaching Genesis - it has an equivocal lesson regarding curiosity and wisdom.  Here is what I say about it in my unit on Genesis 2 & 3:



This question is raised in Genesis 1.  I discuss Stephen Hawking's theories during this lecture.



This short text may be used when you have extra time during the semester. My TpT unit would be an excellent text to keep on hand as an emergency sub lesson - you will find my bundled unit here:

Of course you could create your own questions too. 

If you would like to see my questions for Genesis One 
(also a great project that could be left for a substitute teacher) 
you will find my free unit here:  

Close Reading & Textual Analysis (Genesis Chapter One)

These are some of the reasons I use Genesis.  I would love to hear your comments.

For more information on teaching Great Speeches at the beginning of the semester see my blog post here: ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE.

Thanks for visiting,
Linda Jennifer

How do I get the entire class involved... with Shakespeare?


Last semester I was explaining to a colleague that I teach Great Speeches at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Higher Order Thinking, Close Reading, and Textual Analysis.  You will find my blog post about this idea here: ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE!

I explained to Anne that my students were marking up the text and answering questions but they still seemed to be somewhat disengaged.  Anne suggested that I break up the speech into small parts and have groups of two or three students focus on only a few words.  Each group defines any unknown words and gets ready to explain their section to the class.  She then suggested we read the speech together with each group reading, and explaining, their section to the class.

So simple yet so effective!   They knew the speech better than any previous class and seemed to enjoy working on it.  Some read their section with bravado, but others read it in their normal voices.  

In this case we were reading the Saint Crispin's Day Speech, so once we were done I played Kenneth Branagh's version - they understood it, all of it, right away. 

I did pass out a copy of the speech the week before the class and asked them to read it through.  I didn’t say what we were going to do with the assignment and reminded them not to use any outside sources - simply to read it and mark it up if they wish.

I think this read through can be done as a segue into any play as a reminder that they can understand Shakespeare - pretty easily - if they break it down.

I have created cards for the speech by Henry V, and you can find them for free at my TpT store here:

Thanks Anne!!!

I have just added my Hamlet Task Cards (also free).  You will find them here:

Classroom Doodles

I wanted to share a website I stumbled upon called 
Classroom Doodles. 

I have printed some of their free doodles and have put them in my waiting area at school - along with crayons - it's a great way to help students unwind.

You can find over 1,000 free coloring pages at this wonderful site: Doodle Art Alley 

Here's what they say about Doodling:
We all get stressed, nervous and bored for one reason or another. And we all have ways to deal with these states of mind. I like to call them nervous habits. Biting nails, popping knuckles, scratching at my scalp-I do them all. Now not only do these habits annoy my husband, (not that his constant drumming or leg shaking is any better) but they effect me physically and can even bring me harm. Hangnails, scabs, big knuckles, not to mention the bruises I get when I dare to pop my knuckles in the middle of the night in the ear of my husband.  Let's take the classroom environment. The professor is going on and on about something. You've repositioned yourself several times trying to keep your eyes open. You start tapping your pencil only to find your neighbor giving you the look. And you've already been threatened once for shaking your leg on the desk in front of you. You don't dare pop your knuckles. What else can you do? This scenario is all too familiar, and just not with students. Staff meeting, board meetings, conference calls, endless church meetings; they all bring out those nervous habits. Not only does doodling take your mind off of things, it keeps you from harming yourself and annoying others with those habits we have. Think of all the broken finger nails you would be sparing and the dirty stares you'd be avoiding. And on top of it all, you can produce your own wonderful artwork.


I teach Great Speeches, or small segments of the Great Books, at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Higher Order Thinking, Close Reading, and Textual Analysis.  I have taught Elie Wiesel, Hamlet, Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), Tocqueville, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Genesis, and more.  I usually keep the selection under 10 pages so that it may be read in a few days - this allows me to engage my students immediately.  When assigning a novel or longer text on day one of the semester it is impossible to expect them to read it by the next class, whereas a small selection is easily done.  I use Google Classroom and post a copy of the speech on the first day along with my Interpretive Note-Taking Guide.  See my schedule of the first four classes below.

Class One:
  • I post the course outline on Classroom and review the outline with the students.
  • I post the speech and Interpretive Note-Taking Guide. (For more information, see my blog post on Interpretive Note-Taking.)
  • I explain how to annotate a text using my own guide and ask students to read the speech and begin to mark it up for the next class.  I inform them that the marked up speech is to be turned in at the beginning of the third class.
Class Two:
  • I go over Interpretive Note-Taking again.
  • I show them examples of student mark ups.
  • I then give them an overview of the context of the speech or text.  For instance, if the text excerpt is from Nietzsche, I explain some key aspects of his philosophy, when he lived, and why he is famous.  If the excerpt is from Hamlet, I show them Part One of John Green’s Crash Course on Hamlet.  If the excerpt is from Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), I show them Kenneth Branagh’s version.  
Class Three:
  • The students work in groups answering the questions in Google Slides.  
  • They use their speeches that are marked up to help them answer the questions.  I tell them that the class is not for completing this assignment but to use the text to answer the questions in Google Slides.  I walk around the classroom to see what students have done - rarely do they add much to the mark ups.  They submit their answers and hand in their mark up at the end of class. 
  • Here is an example of a student mark up from my Hamlet unit on TpT:    

Class Four:
  • I give a short reading test on the speech.
  • I review the answers in Google Slides.
Thanks for visiting!

    Why are female professors viewed differently than their male counterparts?

    Is this how some of your students see you?  Alas, sometimes students misunderstand their female professors/teachers and misconstrue their professionalism as anger or rage.  

    Gender stereotypes continue to permeate academia - i.e. women are less rational and more emotional than men.  Although things have definitely changed for the better, it is naive to think that gender biases do not appear in our students' expectations and hence our evaluations (in the link below there is a list of articles supporting my position).

    When I attended University my professors were treated with awe, respect, and reverence.  

    While those days are long gone - in my experience anyway - it is frustrating how gender bias still exists.  FYI: I teach mainly first and second year undergrads, so perhaps upper level students understand that their professors are human - that we get frustrated, irritated, exasperated but we are teachers/professors because we overwhelmingly care about students and education.  We are not uncontrollably and irrationally angry with our students.  Sure we have our good days and bad days just like anyone else, but unfortunately those bad days seem to linger in our students' minds until they purge their resentment while writing their SEIs.  

    So why am I conflating anger and gender bias?  I honestly don't think that students see their male professors/teachers as out of control, irrational, and full of wrath.  I constantly hear in my SEIs how I am disorganized and have no clear purpose (irrational), I’m angry, and I should be "nicer"....

    There are several studies that confirm my own personal experience regarding student evaluations and how woman are judged by a different set of criteria than their male counterparts.

    In one seminar I attended many of my female colleagues argued that their SEIs contained similar statements: hard marker, tough on students, doesn't like students, rude to students, disorganized, unclear, angry, cold, distant, doesn't care, should be nicer, etc.  One science lecturer complained that her boss told her that she should perhaps be more "motherly" to help curb her students' anxieties.  She was justifiably outraged but our facilitator argued that we should understand that our students - rightly or wrongly - did view us in this light and that ignoring this reality - however unfair - could lead some students to feeling let down or hurt by us.  The professor asked if it was part of her job to care about their feelings - after all wasn't her job teaching biology to underprepared undergrads challenging enough?  

    I have to admit cognitive dissonance here.  I get it - it's not fair but it is what it is, and if I want higher evaluations I have to remember my students' preconceived biases will influence their perceptions of me.  I can play the SEI game - many do - curbing my teaching towards achieving higher SEI results, but I refuse to do this.  I have definitely tried to remember that this generation - called snowflakes - are fragile, but I won't become slavish to their own irrational demands.  I have hit a middle road.  My SEIs are still very frustrating but I have tried to combine the right amount of compassion with an unwavering professionalism.  I try to stay true to my principles while showing empathy to the stress and confusion my undergrads seem to feel. 

    Anyway, I'm writing this to help any lecturers out there who may be struggling to understand why their SEIs may be consistently lower than their male (and particularly older and male) colleagues.  Sometimes wisdom is power - maybe this will help.  Maybe it is obvious to you, but, to be honest, it did not occur to me that gender bias could impact a career in academia.  Furthermore, I continue to be disheartened when I read these reports.  Love to hear your thoughts!

    Gender and Student Evaluations:An Annotated BibliographyDeveloped at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan