Adding humor to the syllabus conversation


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from MSTA member, Cheryl Ellison, on how she added humor to get her high school students to pay better attention when she reviewed the syllabus on the first day of school. 

I started my eighth year of teaching last Thursday, and I had a great day. In fact, it was the best first day of school that I’ve ever had. I was organized, mentally prepared, and ready to go, having remembered to come in on my own time a week early to send my syllabus to the print shop so I didn’t have to make copies on the school copier. Go me! 

I did something different this year, too. Every other year, I’ve printed out my syllabus, handed it out to the students and made a presentation out of it to show them. Then, on the first day of school, I went through the bullet points of my syllabus one by one, most often to a room full of completely disinterested, lethargic, overwhelmed students.

Well, not this year. This year, I made a presentation, but it was completely different. Instead of the usual (boring) words-only slides I’ve always shown, I used popular memes to illustrate the points I needed to get across. I got the idea from something I saw on Pinterest by Mrs. Orman (here’s a link). I found some great ones that worked perfectly for what I needed, but there were some points that needed something different, so I searched and discovered a “create-a-meme” site that fit the bill. (I used this meme generator.) Below are some of my favorites. 

The vast majority of my students were engaged the entire time I was going over the syllabus and they stayed in great humor throughout, not indicating the boredom or annoyance I’m used to seeing from them on the first day of class. It was so much fun! I’ll definitely do this again. Have a great back-to-school, everyone!

bring supplies comprehensive final 

dog ate hw don't be tardy 

math in ink name on  paper

 pay attention  study review 

turn in hw yes you missed something 

(This one’s my favorite, because my usual response to this question is, “No, we missed you so much, we just couldn’t carry on without you. We just sat here and mourned your absence.”)