Seating Charts and Attendance: What’s Next? What Can I Do?

A change from a physically active and widely used space to one that is more contained may be jarring initially to students. There are also logistical issues in taking attendance, especially in larger classes. Some ideas to help smooth this transition: 

Take attendance at the END of class and not the beginning.
For any variety of reasons, students may be late to class and miss an early attendance check. Taking attendance at the end of class accounts for late arriving students and can be incorporated into wrap-up activities. Worried about how much time attendance roll call can take with a large class? Consider the next idea…

Streamline attendance roll call using teams. 

Assign students to 4-5 member teams based on seating proximity. Each team creates a group name (this is a great place to insert some playfulness into a class!). During attendance roll call, a team’s task is to determine if all team members are or were present. The instructor calls roll by team names, not individual students (e.g. calling out “Frolicking Flamingos” versus “Mary Washington”). Teams either share ‘all here’ or notify the instructor who is missing. These teams can also serve as small group learning teams for class activities, note sharing, and out-of-class study groups. 

Smaller class? Use name tents to take attendance.

Have students create name tents by folding thick paper or cardstock in half and writing their names clearly. Students turn in their name tents at the end of class to indicate their presence. For the next class session, place the name tents out for students to pick up on their way to their seats. Be sure to scoop up any unclaimed name tents before present students turn theirs in at the end of class! 

Use collaborative tools to promote student interactions

Where you relied on large sticky paper or long whiteboards for groups to congregate around, set up collaborative documents or slide decks for cross-room sharing. Live polling is another way to engage students across a room without requiring them to be in close proximity to one another. 

If you are looking for ideas about how UMW faculty used collaborative technology last year, check out these ReFocus Online sessions about Google Hangouts, Flipgrid, Padlet, and Google Docs. Each of these tools can be utilized in face-to-face as well as online learning spaces. Bonus: some of these tools can be integrated with Canvas or shared with students as links so that anyone unable to attend class can still participate.

Design class sessions in 10-20-minute chunks to promote engagement. 

If you used physical movement around the larger classroom to break up class sessions, a change to limiting movement might complicate a student’s ability to manage attention. Review your class plans to ensure that you are using a variety of activities to productively shift focus and process experiences. 

If you are looking for activities that can be incorporated into your sessions, check out this guide on in-class activities (via the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence). Each activity can be tweaked to include collaborative tech tools if you want to limit physical proximity and can be designed for face-to-face and online environments. Activities are categorized for individuals, large classes, and smaller groups.

Unsure of how to translate these ideas to your classroom? Book a consultation with the Center for Teaching and we’ll help you find a solution!

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