Saturday, April 26, 2014

End of Semester Activities, April 26, 2014

The last day or week of a college success course can the most rewarding week for students as well as faculty.  It is a way to reflect on the course and apply what has been learned in the future.   Here are some suggestions for activities to end your course on a positive note.  Since you probably won’t have time to do all these activities, choose the ones that match your teaching style and are appropriate for the students in your course.

1.     Intentions for the future
Have students look over the table of contents of their textbook and think about what they have learned and how they will put the information into practice.  Have them write ten intention statements about what they have learned in this course and how they will use the material to be successful.  Have students share their intention statements with groups or the entire class.  I intend to . . .

2.      Visualize your success
To be successful, students need a clear mental picture of what success means to them.  On one sheet of paper, challenge students to make a picture of what success means to them.  Ask students to include education, career, family life, lifestyle, finances, and anything else important to them.  Students can use a drawing, mind map, list, outline or sentences to describe their picture of success.  This can be done as a homework assignment or an in class activity.  Have students share their pictures with the class.    

3.       Happiness is . . . .
On one sheet of paper, have students list or draw the small or big things that make them happy.  Challenge students to finish this activity in 5 minutes.  Share the pictures with the class.

Share this quote from Joseph Addison:
Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. 

4.       Three wishes
Ask students to pretend that they are on the beach and find a bottle.  A genie pops out and says that they can have three wishes.  Here are the requirements for the wishes:
You cannot wish for more wishes.
The wishes are for yourself.
The wishes should be realistic ones that actually can be accomplished. 

Ask students to write down their three wishes.  Then ask students to volunteer to share their wishes.  Then tell students you would like them to change the wishes into affirmations. 

Review the guidelines for writing an affirmation:
The statement should be positive.
The statement should be written in the present tense.
The statement should begin with “I.”
An affirmation can be made stronger by adding an emotion (how you feel when it is accomplished.)

As an example, mention some of your wishes and how you have changed them into affirmations. 

Example:  I wish for good health.
Affirmation:  I enjoy having good health. 

You can take the exercise one step further by asking students to list a beginning step to accomplishing their affirmation.

Example: I make exercise a priority each day. 

5.       Traits that lead to success
Have students brainstorm 8-10 traits that they believe would make a person successful.  This can be done individually or in groups.  Follow up the activity with the 3 minute video by Richard St. John, “Eight Traits that Lead to Success” which is based on over 500 interviews in which he gathered words of wisdom from successful people.  This is a TED talk available at

6.       Write a letter
As part of the final exam, have students write a letter to students who will enroll in this course next semester.  The topic is “How to Be Successful in This Course.”  Use these letters for group discussion during the first week of your class next semester. 

Another variation is to have students write a letter to themselves on the last day of class.  The letter should be about how they will use the information learned in this class to be successful in the future.  You can include their exercises on visualizing success, happiness, affirmations or intentions for the future.  Remember to bring envelopes to class and have students address the envelopes and include their letters and exercises.  Then all you have to do is drop these letters in the campus mail at the beginning of next semester. 

7.      Diversity Potluck
On the last day, ask students to bring food that represents their ethnicity or other individual differences.  Do a sign up list in advance.  For students who don’t know what to bring, assign them to bring water or utensils.  (At our college we have many Middle Eastern and Mexican students, so the food is always interesting and students enjoy the activity.)

See my list of videos on the above topics at my website:
Click on Thinking Positively about the Future

Additional Activities
You can find additional activities and handouts at my website:
Click on Thinking Positively about the Future

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If you have additional end of semester activities you would like to share, add them to the comments at the end of this blog or send them to me at

Have a great ending to your semester!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: Generation on a Tightrope, April 2, 2014

Generation on a Tightrope by Arthur Levine and Diane Dean (Jossey-Bass, 2012) describes our current generation of college students and their struggle to achieve their dreams and aspirations in the difficult economic times that students are facing upon graduation.  It is based on research completed from 2006-2009 on about 5,000 undergraduates and describes college students born in the 1990's.  This new generation has been given many labels including Generation Z, the Internet Generation and the iGeneration, to name a few.

Today's college students remain hopeful about their futures, but are facing difficulties upon graduation.  Students are graduating with an average of $31,500 in student loan debt for a bachelor's degree and 9.1% of current graduates are unemployed.  Many of them (25% of 18-29 year olds) deal with the situation by moving back home with their parents.

This is the first generation of digital natives and the use of technology is the most important characteristic of this new generation.  The authors present some interesting statistics: (p. 23)

For adults 18-35 years old:
  • 95% have cell phones 
  • 74% have iPods or other MP3 players
  • 70% have laptop computers
  • 63% have game consoles
  • Only 1% have none of the above devices
  • 57% of four-year college students and 38% of community college students check their Facebook pages daily
  • 35% are more likely to join a Facebook group than join a similar on campus group.
When students were asked how education could be improved, they replied as follows: (p. 47)    
  • 78% reported that education could be improved if their professors made greater use of technology (and knew how to use it)
  • 52% want more blended education.
  • 33% want more totally online courses.
Here are some other characteristics of this new generation:

They are:
  • the most diverse group in the history of higher education.
  • more connected through digital media, but lack interpersonal skills.
  • described as a digital tribe that consists of friends and family connected through digital media such as Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn.
  • reported to be more immature, dependent, and feel more entitled than previous generations.
  • pragmatic and career oriented.
  • lacking in basic skills (66% of community college students and 29% of four-year students are enrolled in remedial courses. (p.46)
  • dealing with rapid change in society.
Their main reasons for going to college are jobs and money.  Most students (67%) say that "the chief benefit of a college education is that it increases one's earning power." (p. 38)

Their preferred learning mode is practical and interactive while professors prefer abstract and theoretical (reading and lecture).

To prepare students for the future, the authors make these suggestions:
  • Prepare students to deal with change by teaching critical thinking, creativity, and continual learning.  
  • Prepare students for life in a digital society.  "The Internet needs to replace the blackboard." (p. 185)
  • Move from an emphasis on teaching to an emphasis on learning.  Seat time does not guarantee learning.
  • Prepare students for life in a diverse, global society.  
  • Prepare students for an economy in recession.  The authors state that career counseling is "too little, too late." (p. 180)  Career development should begin during the first college orientation and continue throughout college.  It should be part of a required college success course.
  • Students need to have basic skills in language, mathematics, and communication to be successful in college and careers.  
Share your thoughts on the current generation of college students and how we can help them to be successful.