students in class paying attention to a lecture

Agendas that Enhance Participation

Brief Overview

Brief Overview

Whether you are teaching in person or in one of the synchronous modalities, preparing students to participate in discussions and active learning experiences helps to foster a meaningful experience. There is nothing more frustrating than asking a class for their reaction and then finding that only a few students seem ready to participate.

Agendas sent out a day or two prior to class remind students of any homework they should complete, but also signal what you will want them to be doing when they meet with you in person or in a synchronous environment.

See below for a sample agenda for an English class meeting that relies on students having read certain sections of texts and being ready to discuss questions related to those texts.

Although you hope that students will complete all of the assigned readings and activities, the reality is that having students come prepared to discuss specific aspects of the homework is preferable to them coming entirely unprepared. After reading your agenda, students will know the elements that will be covered up front, so they are more likely to be able to contribute to group work and discussions. They are also more likely to remember their books and materials, and they now have an easy-to-reference outline of the concepts that you are prioritizing for class time.

  • Sample Class Agenda

    ENGL 3830, Literature for the Intermediate Reader

    Class Agenda for 4/6/21

    Webex Instructions

    We will be meeting via Webex for our class session, which will go from 10-11:40 AM on Tuesday, November 6, 2021. Here is the link to my Webex room: (

    10 - 10:30 a.m.

    Activity #1: Dunbar-Ortiz, Reese, and Mendoza's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People

    I will place you into small discussion groups, where you will have 10 minutes to brainstorm responses to these questions. For that reason, you should review the text prior to class so that you can contribute quickly once you are in your group.

    1. In Chapter 5, the authors cover some extremely complicated ideas, including extirpation (92), literacy (97), and the concept of the "client class" (101). Look through these sections and discuss how the authors make them comprehensible to young readers. Are the strategies effective? Are there other strategies that might be helpful in conveying these ideas?
    2. In the text as a whole, what were some of the passages that surprised your group the most? List the page numbers to share with the class.

    10:35 - 11 a.m.

    Activity #2: Fiction and Nonfiction combined in Hale's Treaties

    I will give an interactive lecture on Hale's text, pointing out key elements for your consideration. Be sure to have your copy of the graphic novel available and pay particular attention to pages 4-16, as I will be highlighting those the most.

    11:05 - 11:40 a.m.

    Activity #3: How to Analyze a Comics Spread

    For this activity, I will briefly lecture on how to analyze and write about a spread in Hale's Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood. Then, I will place you in groups and ask that you practice analyzing a specific spread. You will then share your conclusions with the class. To prepare for this activity, review the Comics Grammar handout.

Quick Tips

  1. Put the meeting information into every communication. Yes, you have listed the meeting time and link or classroom number in your syllabus, but it never hurts to remind students about where and when the class takes place.
  2. Use the agenda as an opportunity to show students what you value. Most students are unlikely to pay attention to a list of learning objectives, but if you provide guideposts for the topics covered, students can refer back to them when they are studying for exams or other forms of assessment
  3. Break the class content into manageable sections. By segmenting a class period into sections punctuated by short breaks, you help students remain focused and provide much needed transitions, especially when you are teaching in a synchronous environment
  4. Set time limits for activities up front. There are moments when a class activity or discussion becomes so engaging that you alter your timing on the spot because you don't want to interrupt the flow. However, having pre-set time limits allows you to keep the pace going on those days when students may be a little less engaged. Time limits are also helpful if you have a tendency to lose track of time or passionately elaborate about certain topics (and who among us has not gone off on a tangent or two?

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Finally, check out "Classroom Transparency" (2007) by James M. Lang for more tips on creating an agenda or lesson plan for your course.

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