Designing a Syllabus Painlessly

When school begins, there is always SO MUCH to do. So much of it I love, but a few of the necessary activities just seem to drag on my time. I think we can all agree that watching the video on blood borne pathogens for the thousandth time is not an exciting launch to the year. 

But creating an inspiring classroom space and rolling out dynamic fall units is a blast. Shopping for new office supplies is not really an onerous task either...

I like to focus my attention on the things that inspire and motivate me, and always find myself slow in getting around to typing up my syllabus. Can you relate?

Though I love creating courses, I have never been the best at summarizing them in a neat little package for my students on the syllabus. My initial go-round is usually four or five pages and even I can't honestly believe my students are going to read it, no matter how amazing I find my own unit descriptions. Ha. 

So I condense and condense, and pass it out on the first day. I give students a few minutes to look it over, and then I move on, because I've ridden the reading-the-syllabus-out-loud-on-the-first-day train and it is not one I care to board again. Talk about unengaged students! I far prefer first day activities like these.

So what to do about the syllabus? Well, I've come to the conclusion it is not worth spending hours and hours on. It needs to be clear, attractive, and set a nice tone for the class. It needs to exist so that parents and administrators who want to can look at it. But that's about it. 

So what should you put in this dynamic little document? 

Elements like these:
  • SHORT course description
  • Units of Study (no need to describe them in great depth)
  • Materials to collect for the class
  • Ways to contact the teacher or access course materials (Google classroom, class blog, Instagram, FB group, etc.)
  • Grading categories and policies (late work, rounding up or down, extra credit, etc.)
  • A short "About Me" section so you can introduce yourself to your students and their parents
  • A photo or two or three - of you, of something fun related to your class, of students' work in the past, of books, etc. 

I've taken the liberty of designing some editable syllabus templates for you, to speed up the process. If you decide to have me send this free download to you, just open the Powerpoint, and then you can edit all the information inside the categories, delete my photo, and add your own. Hopefully it will take you about ten minutes instead of hours. 

You can sign up below, and I hope you do. Then you can put your time in August into things like genius hour, launching an independent reading program, or designing your first escape room or murder mystery class.  


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  2. Oh my dear Betsy!!! You are a LIFE SAVER! I am the visitor flag from Dushanbe, Tajikistan! I had been an Adjunct Professor of Spanish in the U.S.for 16 years but recently took a position teaching Secondary Literature, Writing and Research (MA in Spanish, BA in both English and Spanish). I took the position because Literature is what motivated me to learn Spanish in the first place and was the end goal of pursuing a PhD in the field. Long story short--here I am teaching in the heart of Central Asia with minimal resources...until I found yours! I can't explain how helpful your ideas are and I plan to purchase many more!

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