The Value of Formatting





Formatting.  No, not a document, class formatting. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I try to stuff too much into class most of the time. Not because I want to, but because I want to share as much as I can with students. Everything is just “too important” or “really necessary”. So much info – too little time! How to cover everything? I really did not realize that I had the same organization until a student pointed it out to me by telling me how much he appreciated the same activities each class. After thinking about it, I realized I do have a ‘format’ to class. Here’s a couple of things that help me: 1) set up groups early in the class, and 2) use a standard format for each week:  Set a Theme – Do Reading – Talk -Watch – Discuss – Do.


To set up groups, I use colored card stock (4 colors, depending on number of students); each color is a group. So, whenever I tell the class to get into groups, I don’t have to waste time with counting off, or rows – they just get into groups. I do allow them to change if they wish.


  • The theme usually follows the textbook content, and I build everything else around it. For example, if the chapter is on writing a business summary, the theme might be e-Commerce. Everything else, then, is in the same theme.
  •  The reading is done outside of class from the chapter and outside reading from newspaper articles to web sources based on the theme.
  • We talk in class about what the theme – maybe some history or current events – and the goals for the week and for assignments and projects.
  • I usually show a video on the subject (as current as possible) or my own presentation, but no more than 8-10 minutes max. (OK – if we are pressed for time, this may not be shown.)
  • Then we discuss the reading, discussions, and video in class, and any questions that may arise thus far.


  • The “do” is usually in a group or with partners. It can be a quiz, pair and share, a journal writing, or assignments that are completed over a couple of classes.

For example, if I give a quiz, I may give it twice. The first time individually, which gives me a snapshot of their content knowledge. If time, I do the same quiz in their groups where the content is discussed and deliberated, and the answers are determined collectively and by consensus. Students study (and learn) content so they can pass the quiz, and then they learn more as their discussion with group allows them to understand it more deeply. It also helps them practice critical thinking skills. If it’s a project to reinforce learning, they must keep within the theme, and they sometimes work on and complete the project outside of class. For example, this might be time to work on a marketing summary, or class presentation.

Do I still try and put too much into every class? Yep. But I find that creating groups and keeping to a format really does help me see what’s been covered. It also helps create continuity so students know what to expect each class period. Any suggestions?


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