Teaching Query- Advice Required!



This is the first thread I have composed but I have been lurking in these pages for some time and know how helpful everyone can be, so I hope some of you can help me with this ponderance:

I am going to start teaching a module I have not taught before in a new university to a much larger group of students than I am used to (200ish). The subject matter is something I am OK on and as they are first year students, I am confident that content-wise I will be able to meet their needs. BUT the lecture is 2 hours long followed by a one hour seminar. I am going to need to schedule a break obviously. Is 15 mins long enough? Or should it be longer/shorter? They will be in the first semester of their first year so I think 2 hours of learning is LOOONG. but am I underestimating them? When I was a first year undergrad I only did 1 hour of lessons, so I am just using my own experience to suggest that 2 hours is long. What do you think?

Anyway, then I was thinking that during this break I would play some film/TV/iplayer thematically related to the lecture, but otherwise completely non-essential to the lesson, to provide a bit of light relief and so that if they dont go and get a cup of tea etc their brains have a full rest. I will have the technology to do this in the room.

And I was thinking that at the beginning of the lecture I would give them my mobile number so that they can text me any questions that arise in the lecture, I can have a look at them and answer them there and then, so if they are too shy to ask a question, they have another means through which to contact me. We used to have a lecturer that did this and we thought it was brill. Obviously it could completely backfire, and they could use the number in ways which it is not intended, so does anyone have any experience of doing this?

Finally, is all this a bit cringingly trying to be 'down with the kids'? Any advice/experience is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for reading... Q x

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I think the film idea is great. Although I'd give them a 10 min break on the understanding that, particularly if its a large group, they won't be back seated before 15. If you give them 15, then they'll be back in 20 etc etc.

I personally wouldn't give my number out, unless you have a separate PAYG phone. I have about 10 emails per day from students needing help at the moment, I'd hate to think how many phone calls/texts I'd get if I gave my number out!


When I was an undergraduate we had quite a few 2 hour lectures and a break in between was always nice, some of the lecturers would sometimes ask us if we would prefer a 15 min break in between or to finish 15 minutes early and not have a break. For the later lectures it was normally decided to finish early, perhaps you could ask the students.

Regarding giving out your number I would strongly advise you to not do this, some students (especially first years) get very anxious about work/exams and you will end up with numerous late night phone calls; plus it is not totally professional, as students you are teaching are not your 'mates' they are customers in a sense. do you have a university email? if so it would be best to give out this email, rather than a personal number.

The film is a good idea, this happened a few times when I was an undergraduate though it didnt tend to be anything realted to what we were learning more just something funny that the lecturer had found. You will find that most people will go out to the toilet or get something to eat/drink and generally talk, just put it on and see how it goes.

With regards to, as you put it 'being down with the kids', i know you want them to like you but dont try to hard as i have said they are not your mates. They will be very happy with you if your lectures are well presented so they understand what you are teaching them.


I agree, don't give your number to your students. 200-odd students? You're bound to have a few that would completely take advantage it - save yourself from creepy texts from students you don't know at 3am! If you want to involve them more re: asking questions, then perhaps you could highlight it at the beginning of the lecture that questions are welcome throughout. Depending on your teaching style let them know that you want them to stick their hand up if they want to ask a question, or that they can just yell out the said Q. Personally, I prefer the old school hand up as it allows me to finish my sentence before taking the question.

If you are planning on letting them out of the room during the break, for example, 15mins, then tell them they've got 10mins! Students are incapable of using a clock or watch (and include myself!). Playing some film/tv footage sounds good but have a backup, especially if you plan on using iPlayer. I remember having 3hr lectures in my 1st year as undergrad (lecture & screening). I wish you had been our lecturer as our bugger didn't give a break!

With regards to being 'down with the kids' (haha!) they main thing is not to try to hard, just be yourself. Don't go OTT with appearing to be super strict because you'll lose them. Too friendly and they could take advantage, discipline-wise. Undergrads are a bit like dogs (stick with me on this) because they can sense fear. If they feel that you're not in control, or, in my case, APPEAR to be in control, they can sometimes be less cooperative.

I have no idea if this is any help. Good luck!



I agree with what the others have said, that the film/something to break up the lesson is a really good idea. I think for the break, you just want to give them long enough to go and get a coffee or whatever and come back, as has already been said, it'll take them longer to get back than you give them, so I think saying 10 or 15 minutes is about right.

I wouldn't give out my number, as even with the best of intentions, the students could mis-use it or it could get into the wrong hands. i was recently at a teaching training thing, and one of the techniques they suggested for large lecture theatres might be useful. You can get them to write on a bit of paper any questions/suggestions whatever you want, and then they can place these in a box at the front during the break. this way they can be anonoymous. if you want something more fun, and are a bit braver, they also suggested you could hold up an empty bin or something, and get the students to make their bits of paper into paper planes or scrunch them up, and the ones that they can get to land in the bin are the ones you read! I've not tried this personally, but i've seen it done, and the students tend to enjoy it.

I'd agree though that you don't need to try too hard. Don't push yourself beyond what you feel comfortable with to try and entertain them. But you're doing the right thing in looking for something a little bit different that will engage them, and the fact that you're thinking about these things shows you're gonna be a great lecturer!


Thanks for all your messages. and for some really great ideas purplecat. I think that using the bits of paper is a really good way of achieving what I was trying to do with the text messages, but without the risk of my number being mis-used. Without having a dedicated work phone, I think that idea is unworkable, and as you have all identified, a bit problematic.

Thanks again, its been very helpful to get your feedback. I will go ahead with the film/video in the break and during that time they will be able to drop bits of paper in to me if they need to..


Q x


I think a break is important--when I have two hour lectures, I try to give a break at about 45-50 minutes for 10 minutes...longer than that and the students seem to get fractious and want to start up again, shorter than that, and they cannot really get up, stretch, get a drink or whatever. The study on lectures show that attention spans wane after 20 minutes, so during the lecture, anything that you can do that is interactive helps bring the attention span and learning up again. Depends on what you are teaching, I would imagine as to whether there is much you can do---I try to put a problem question or two in a lecture, right after going through some concepts, and ask them to apply them then and there...and then we talk through the answers. I give them say 2-3 minutes to try to come up with something, and tell them to talk to their neighbour if they want. I think mostly they do talk about the problem and not the football scores...then I will do something like ask for a show of hands of everyone who thought x....and then y...and sometimes I make x or y outrageous answers, just to get their attention, and then move on to the right thin...

Breaks are good, to keep attention spans and learning up....Good luck with this!