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Making up snow day classes as a teacher


SunshineLolipops
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Being in a temperate climate for all of two years of my schooling, I never really thought about this too much. But there are things other than snow days that can unexpectedly cause you to lose class days such as the instructor being sick, family emergencies, conference travel (although usually this is planned in advance), holidays (e.g. maybe you have a course plan fully laid out for a semester with a different number of holidays and now you have fewer class days this time around!).

Here, I'm assuming you mean a University or graduate level course, rather than elementary/high school (no experience with the latter!). My advice is to be flexible in course planning. I wouldn't plan every single lecture out ahead of time because something might happen and you might lose a class day. In the classes I TA, I am usually involved with the instructor in deciding what materials to be covered and we usually leave one week at the end unscheduled. This gives us some wiggle room, so that if the class is struggling more than we thought, we can slow down and provide more review material early in the semester, and then push classes back. Or, if something happens and we have to cancel class, we can make it up in this week. If we somehow go through most of the semester without needing the extra classes, then we can introduce new "bonus" material. In senior and graduate classes, we often have a final project rather than a final exam, so the final week can also be workshop time to work on these projects.

Another suggestion is to simply skip the class and cover less material than originally planned. This doesn't work unless you have control over the curriculum though. But I am of the opinion that an instructor should tailor each course to the interests of their students, so maybe not everything is required and even if you had all of your classes run, you would be choosing to highlight certain topics more than others anyways. 

For graduate level courses, my experience is that we often vote on a "backup class time slot" that everyone is available for in cases where something like this happens. I've never had a graduate class where the instructor was there for 100% of the scheduled class dates because conferences always run during the semester (so either class is cancelled/moved [because often the students in the class are also at the same conference], or we get a guest speaker, or classes rescheduled to another week).

Finally, for another option, you can also just assign reading material for the missed class and expect students to learn it on their own. Maybe have extra office hours the following week for those who have questions.

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Thanks for your advice TakeruK.  When I planned the course as a relatively new teacher, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to fill each fifty minute class with lecture time and thought I might have the opposite problem regarding having too little to teach in too much time.  Having run over my time in a lecture in the first week, I see the value in building "light days" in my lesson plan to absorb lectures that run over time or help to absorb the loss of teaching time with a snow day.  I really like the idea of leaving the last week unscheduled, and I believe that I'll find a way to work that into future syllabi.  

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There's always too much material to cover. One good rule of thumb is to plan out the semester then cut out about 25% of it since you won't have time to get to it all. As for snow days, there are several options: you could record your lecture, put the slides up, and make them responsible for reviewing both. You could find another video or activity for them to do primarily online which will help them get the same material. Or, you can try to cover two classes worth of material on one day, recognizing that you'll cover both in less depth and potentially in a poorer way than you might otherwise. I'm lucky in that, even when I've lived and taught in places with snow, it's always been at places where there hasn't been a snow day in 15+ years.

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I teach part-time at local CCs. In some classes, I have complete control --  i.e. I decide what to include, I make all exams. In others, I still control what material I present, but the final exam is the same for all sections of the class, so I have to make sure the students are prepared for that. I try to mix up the format of my classes. Some days are all lecture, others are hands-on activities. If I miss a day, I can condense or skip some of the in class activities. I have also scheduled make-up classes on Saturdays (often optional review sessions). Students actually DO come! That's not my favorite solution, but students actually seem to appreciate it.

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  • 2 months later...

The key is to plan your classes well in advance and make sure that you teach all the important chapters that are essential for students' educational progress. The course material always has a lot of topics to cover, but as a teacher it is up to you to decide what to teach and what to skip. At the end of the day, students shouldn't feel burdened. 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I generally hold one or two non-mandatory "make-up" sessions near the end of the term to review what we've gone over so far in an effort to counterbalance the effect of holidays. I have the students vote in doodle polls to pick the dates, so that most of those who want to can attend.

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