Here's a few teaching strategies that helped over the last year:
Some students have a difficult time reading academic texts and primary sources. Last year I made a Youtube clip that shared reading comprehension tools.
I select a text per week and use it to show students how I "read to understand." Meaning, I put myself in their place and ask the following questions out loud:
What happens if I do not understand a word or phrase?
What if I am unclear how the reading relates to class or why it is important?
How do I find a thesis?
How do I find evidence?
What is a methodology?
What types of questions do I have for this author?
Over the full course of the semester, I also have students ask me to model reading with the class. My assistance lessens as the weeks progress. They must all eventually try, fail, fix, and do the work.
Why did I start modelling reading?
Every semester there's some students who come to class ready to read, analyze, and ask thought provoking questions. Others struggle for a range of reasons.
English Language for Academic Purposes [ELAP]
I learn as much from students as they learn from me.
For example, as a scholar trained in US History, with a focus on African American Life and Culture, it initially was frustrating to see some students write "civil war" in small caps. I marked up a few papers for grammar. But, eventually I started asking why/how there was a small number of students who did the same thing every semester.
Time to think is not just helpful, but necessary.
Of course some students first think of "civil wars" or a "civil war" before, "THE [US] Civil War." People who grow up outside of the US or are raised in homes where the US is not the primary cultural identity. So, the question for me became: "How could I use this personal reflection in the classroom?" Doing so has enhanced my teaching.
Q&As--I responded to the individual emails by sending the question and my answer to entire class. [Identifiers are removed to protect students' anonymity]. If one student has a question, others may also. But, this method also helps gauge the effectiveness of my course prep materials.
Reinforcing Evaluation Metrics --I send a mass email [and/or add a slide in the next lecture] after major assignments are due that summarizes what the strongest submissions had in common.
My Lateness Policy
I shared in a previous post when I changed my lateness policy. Read the old post to see the initial benefits. Here's my policy:
I expect to receive work on time but understand that sometimes life gets in the way. We will treat this class like I hope you treat your job(s).
If an emergency arises [you do not have to explain what that is], you need to tell me: (1) as soon as you know that you will not be able to submit the work on time and (2) when you will complete the work.
I expect to hear from you before the deadline. If you do not submit work by the time your next assignment is due, then this will affect your grade on the original work.
Is this policy still working? Yes. I'll write more about the continued benefits of this method in another post at some point.