Field Note Friday: Reading the Syllabus

Syllabus Screenshot

I’m sure every kid’s favorite day of the year is that day that I read them the syllabus.  I mean, what could be more exciting than hearing all about all the rules and the grading policy in every class?

Yeah, let’s not answer that.

So this year I decided to try to accomplish more with the reading of the syllabus than simply make sure that every student had heard the policies.

I’m pretty sure that lots of kids tune out when I’m reading them the syllabus, and I’m pretty sure that no matter who signs that they actually read it, they probably haven’t really.

I wrote an especially long syllabus this year, mostly long because it contained the letter I wrote to my students this year.  The letter was mostly long because, for the entire day before I returned to in-service, my children were at Grandma’s house.  And a little bit long because I’m a bit self-indulgent.

Self-indulgence aside, I definitely didn’t want to read this document all aloud.  I also didn’t want to waste any class time reading something without an actual reading lesson or objective.

Therefore, the syllabus became the first reading assignment of the year.

I taught my students about how to spot patterns and how to use patterns to form observations of texts.

I then assigned the syllabus as their first text to read and to use to create their first set of textual observations.

After they created their observations, we discussed them as a class. The discussion involved both an assessment of their understanding of the observation stems and also an uncovering of any of their concerns about the class.

Some reflections:

  • The syllabus WAS way too long. I really need to separate my philosophizing from the nuts-and-bolts. We didn’t really get to talk about many of the class policies.
  • I liked the philosophizing, though. The kids seemed to appreciate reading more of a teacher’s personal thoughts and seeing what’s in our heads. Next year, I may just assign the letter for reading or split the reading into two sections.
  • I might go ahead and do some kind of fun quiz over the class policies just to see if they read that nuts-and-bolts stuff.  I do need to make sure that we get to the boring stuff at some point.

How do you deal with the “here are all the policies and procedures of this class” days? How do you communicate the requirements but still build community and skills at the beginning of the year?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s