Note that the following information applies to the traditional “multipart problem” style of recitations, which are the recitations for 2212. The 2211 recitations were converted into “context-rich problem” recitations in 2017. Detailed information about that style of recitation is not written here yet, but will be soon (sometime after Fall 2019). New GTAs do still get all the relevant information about the two different styles of recitation during the CETL 8000 PH1 course.
Every week, Jarrio/Murray will email you a copy of next week’s recitation worksheet along with a solution key. You’re expected to work through the worksheet problems yourself and confirm that the answers in the solution key are correct. Note that you’re being relied upon to verify the validity of the solutions – if you find an error, you need to email Jarrio/Murray (and all the other recitation TAs) ASAP to let them know.
Another thing that will be emailed to you is the attendance sign-in sheet for the recitations. You’ll be responsible for printing these and bringing them with you when you teach.
At some point before you go teach your first recitation of the week, you need to stop by the TA Office in Clough (CULC 365) and pick up the printed copies of the worksheets for your sections. If there are any graded exams to return to students, this is also where you pick them up.
The worksheet consists of one long multi-step problem that the students will work on during the recitation. Recitation worksheets tend to be long and many students will not be able to finish the entire problem. The first time you meet with your students, please reassure them that they won’t be graded on completing the work but rather on doing the best they can on the work they actually complete.
When the recitation begins, the first thing you need to do is pass around the sign-in sheet for the students to sign. When you collect the sign-in sheet, look through it to make sure that everyone is accounted for. You also need to pass around the worksheets for the students to work on. You should do this while the sign-in sheet is being passed around, to use time more efficiently.
At each recitation meeting, you will start the solution process at the board (this usually covers the front and back of the first page, about 4-5 steps of work), and afterwards the students will work in groups on the rest of the solution to that week’s problem.
When you start the solution at the board, try to avoid lecturing. Let the students know what this week’s problem is about and ask them probing questions to get them to start thinking about the problem and how to solve it (for example, “what is the fundamental physical principle we need to use here?”). Draw any necessary diagrams and involve the students in listing the knowns and unknowns in the problem. Try not to talk AT the board the whole time; turn around, look at your students, make eye contact.
Speak loud and clear enough so the students in the back of the room can hear you. If you’re naturally soft-spoken this will be a bit of a challenge at first, but as you gain experience you’ll get used to it and you’ll start developing a “teaching voice”. And please note that it’s completely ok to have an accent! Just speak clearly and try not to mumble.
Your handwriting on the board should be clear, and it should be large enough to be read by all students in the room. Don’t worry if your handwriting is a bit messy – it should be ok as long as it’s legible. Make sure diagrams and notation are clear (e.g., axes have labels, vector quantities in an equation have arrows, etc). And be organized! Don’t write everything so close together that it looks like a big jumble, and keep some kind of order in how you use the boards (e.g., start at the left and move continuously to the right). This is another reason why working the problem in advance is important – this way you’ll know what to say at each step of the solution!
While you’re teaching, the students shouldn’t be simply sitting there staring at you (or worse, texting or on Facebook or catching pokemon!). They should be taking notes, answering any questions you ask them, and hopefully asking questions of their own as well.
Once your teaching part is done, split the students into groups for them to work on the rest of the problem. There should be 3 or 4 students per group. At this point, you should go around the room handing back the graded worksheets from the previous recitation meeting and also any graded exams, if applicable.
While the students work on their solutions, you should not just sit there and wait for them to call you if they need help. Walk around the room and make sure that every student is working. Briefly look over their work as you walk past to see if they’re going in the right direction. Help them if they raise their hand or call you over.
Usually at the end of the first page of the students’ work (meaning, the second page of the worksheet) there will be a checkpoint. When students reach this point, you should check over the entire work they’ve done so far and make sure they’re not going completely off the rails, but are solving the problem correctly. For some of the harder problems, students may not even reach the checkpoint. This is ok as long as they’re actually working and not wasting time.
Since you’ll be teaching several recitation sections every week, in your early sections you’ll learn what points are tricky for the students and where they are more likely to experience difficulties. You can use this knowledge when you teach your later sections, spending more time explaining the more difficult stuff.
At the end of the recitation period, collect all the worksheets for grading. Again, it doesn’t matter if the students didn’t finish solving the whole problem. You’ll hand them back the graded worksheets the following week.
Attendance and Participation
Recitations count for a total of 5% of a student’s final course grade. Each recitation meeting is worth 10 points, and participation counts for 5 of those points. To get full participation points, a student should arrive on time, take notes while you teach, and work diligently on the rest of the problem. It’s ok if the students don’t finish the whole problem (this may indeed happen with some of the harder problems), but they should be putting a good effort into solving them.
At the end of the semester, the lowest recitation grade gets dropped. This means that students get a freebie — they can miss ONE recitation without penalty. If a student has a documented absence (e.g., a doctor’s note, evidence of participation in a GT-sponsored event, etc), they need to send it to Jarrio/Murray (depending on whether the student is in 2211 or 2212). After documentation has been provided, the student may be able to make up the missed recitation according to the make-up policies in the recitations policies webpage. Unexcused/undocumented absences (beyond the one freebie they get) will earn the student a score of zero for the missed recitation.
Grading Recitation Worksheets
As mentioned earlier, each recitation meeting is worth 10 points, and 5 of them are for participation. The other 5 points are given for the work the students do in their worksheets, which you will be grading each week.
Recitation worksheets are graded in a qualitative manner. We’re not looking for a correct solution, instead we’re looking for evidence that the student knows the procedure they need to use to solve the problem. You will assign worksheet grades on a 5-point scale:
- Poor (1 point) — needs major improvement
- Fair (2 points) — minimally acceptable work, but needs significant improvement
- Good (3 points) – generally good work, needing some improvement
- Very Good (4 points) — good work, needing only minor improvement
- Excellent (5 points) — well-organized and detailed work, showing all relevant ideas and calculations
A good rule of thumb for assigning Excellent is: would you post this as an official solution to the problem? If you would, then yeah, the student gets an Excellent.
The strategy you should follow for assigning grades is as follows:
- Take all the worksheets for one recitation section. Look over the worksheets, making any necessary marks on them (e.g., circling the major errors, or something along those lines), and separate them into three physical piles: Worst, Medium, Best. Make sure to leave some good space between each pile.
- Now take the Worst pile and look through those worksheets. The ones that are really bad stay in the Worst pile. The ones that are a little bit better you then move into a new pile in the space between the Worst and the Medium pile.
- Now go to the Medium pile and look through those worksheets. The ones in there that are rather bad get moved to the pile between Worst and Medium. The ones that are about average you can leave right there in the Medium pile. The ones that are a little bit better you then move to a new pile between the Medium and Best piles.
- Now go to the Best pile and look through those worksheets. The ones in there that are the very best stay in that very same pile. The ones that are not the absolute best you move to the pile between Medium and Best.
- Once you’re done with that, you’ll have five piles. The Worst pile is Poor (1 point). The next pile over, between Worst and Medium becomes Fair (2 points). The middle pile becomes Good (3 points). The pile between Medium and Best becomes Very Good (4 points) and the Best pile becomes Excellent (5 points).
- Repeat the procedure for each recitation section you teach.
Don’t agonize over fractional points! There’s only 5 categories, with integer scores between 1 and 5, and that’s it. If you find yourself trying to decide between, for example, a 3.5 and a 4, let it go and just pick whichever category (3 or 4) best fits.
Remember that we’re not looking for perfectly correct solutions. A worksheet that shows the correct procedure and is well-organized and detailed but has the wrong answer because the student did the math wrong can still earn an Excellent. Similarly, a worksheet that has the correct final answer but shows no work at all towards achieving that solution should be labeled Poor.
In addition to writing down the score (1 to 5 points) on the worksheet (remember that you’ll give these back to the students the following week), you’ll need to write down each student’s recitation score next to their name in the sign-in sheet. Remember that each recitation meeting is worth 10 points, with 5 points for participation and 5 points for the written work. After you write down all the students’ scores on the sign-in sheet, you’ll need to copy those scores into an electronic spreadsheet that Jarrio/Murray will send you at the start of the semester.
Every week you need to send the grades spreadsheet to Jarrio/Murray (who you contact depends on whether you’re TA’ing 2211 or 2212), and also stop by his office to give him the completed sign-in sheet (with student signatures and recitation scores).