Every class has its own personality, and the time of day when that class meets has a not insignificant influence on student behavior, attitude, and performance. (Yes, here’s another for the obvious-things-they-don’t-tell-you-in-college file.)
My end-of-the-day classes have always been my most difficult to manage (though that’s sometimes a pretty close contest!). I’m tired, the kids are tired, and we’ve both picked up a day’s worth of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. We are currently working on a semester-long project that is much more self-directed than the work we did third quarter, which is a bit of a chancy gamble at the time of the year when student (and, admittedly, teacher) self-direction is rapidly waning. Last week I realized that sometimes the work was not enough to fully occupy a group of four, so this week I planned some more teacher-directed activities in addition to their group work time.
With my morning class, it had the desired effect of lighting a fire under their butts when they realized that time was limited. With the afternoon class, however, the carbon cycle activity was about all they could handle in terms of attention span, so when I set them loose to work they pretty much just vegetated. And in all honesty, I hardly blame them, because 6 hours is an awfully long time to be “on” (and yes, I realize I am being generous with that term!). So I am going to try giving the afternoon class work time first and hope they build enough momentum to get them through the end of the day. If not, we’ll stop halfway through and move back to the more structured work.