Sun Tzu ‘The Art of War’: How to apply 5 simple lessons into your classroom.

The art of war cartoon for blog1. If the words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame.

When you create a project or assignment, you need to make sure the instructions are clearly outlined. Either include a rubric, a sample, written instructions, or re-visit the assignment to recap in class.


2. If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak.

If you have a class that seems hard to control, then somewhere along the line your authority has become weak. Sometimes you need to put your foot down so students don’t mistake your kindness for weakness.

Tip: After about 20-25 minutes of lecturing, give students a 3-minute ‘brain break’. It will allow students to have a brief conversation with each other during this time, instead of when you’re doing the talking. After the 3 minutes is up, resume again until the longer ‘coffee break’ that should be given about 20-25 minutes after the 3 minute brain break. [Read more…]

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Easy 4-step grading system for your students assignments and projects.

So, how do you arrive at a grade for a project or assignment that isn’t a cut and dry quantitative calculation? If you follow these 4 steps, it will speed up your grading process and give you overall consistency in how you arrive at a final grade.

Step One: ‘Set Standards’

Determine if you are going to base the marks on your level of experience or on your students level of experience. Remember, they don’t have your experience, know-how, and wisdom yet; that’s why they’re in your class.

Step Two: ‘Define’

Determine the ‘meaning’ of each letter grade (What you should be ‘thinking’ is in brackets):

A’s = Outstanding (“Great!”)

B’s = Consistently thorough (“Very good.”)

C’s = Satisfactory (“Good/Pretty good.”)

D’s = Minimal effort (“This is a desperate attempt!”)

F= below minimal expectations (“Really…you’ve got to be kidding?”)

Step Three: ‘Skim and Scan’

Scan all the assignments or projects, and based on your professional judgment, initially place them in 5 separate piles based on the letter grade categories above. I actually will print out individual 8.5” by 11” sheets of paper with each letter to create the piles where they will go. [Read more…]

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College Professor cuts brain in half with chainsaw

This is an example of how to use props to get your point across. “Tastes like chicken!”.

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The pros and cons of student team projects.

Team project cartoon

Cartoon created by Phil Jones and Visual Artist/Illustrator, Ron Martin (

As the saying goes, “There’s no, ‘I’,  in the word team”. No there isn’t, but there can be an ‘F’, ‘D’, ‘C’, ‘B’ or an ‘A’.

One of the biggest complaints from students regarding team projects, is that there always seems to be a ‘slacker’ within their midst; a student that ‘rides the coat tails’ of other team members efforts, and ends up with the same mark as everyone else for contributing little or nothing. If this is happening in any of your courses, then you need to change how you set up the team project so there’s a way to identify who did or didn’t do the work. If you don’t, then frankly, you deserve the flack [Read more…]

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Tips for inviting a guest speaker to your class.

Internationally renowned professional speaker and author, Bob Urichuck (, seen here motivating my 1’st year business students.

Each semester I like to have a ‘Guest Speaker Week’, where I invite grads or someone from my professional network to come in and talk to my students. It switches things up during the semester from the normal routine, and gives students an opportunity to learn something new or reaffirm what they have already learned during the semester. If you decide to invite a guest speaker, it’s important to make sure that everyone is prepared; yourself, the [Read more…]

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10 tips for writing on the board

Can't read the board

Be a ‘Director of the Board’, not a ‘Director of the Bored’!

It’s was a horrendous site, but I had to stop and look. As I walked past the classroom, I looked into the narrow window beside the closed door and saw students texting, playing games on their laptops, and checking out their Facebook page. Then I looked at what was happening at the front of the class and saw what was causing this classroom ‘crash and burn’. There was the professor, frantically scribbling illegible ‘chicken scratch’ on the [Read more…]

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The First Day of Class: 20 ‘Quick and Dirty’ Tips for Professors

It’s easy for a student to find tips on how they can prepare for their first class in college, but what about tips for Professors? So, here are some ‘quick-and-dirty’ tips that will help make that first class a great experience, not only for yourself, but for your students as well.

© 2012 ‘Chalk Stick Cartoon’, by Phil Jones

  • Have patience if students arrive late on the first day. It can be pretty nerve-racking for them on that first day. They’re trying to find their classes, look for a [Read more…]

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Ways to remember students’ names.

ways to remember students' names

Can a Cappuccino help your memory? No.

So, here’s what can happen when you don’t remember students’ names. I recently stopped by a local Starbucks and was greeted with a friendlier than normal ‘Starbucks welcome’ as I walked up to the counter. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Starbucks where the staff didn’t have a big smile when you approached the counter, so I just thought the girl must be the ‘Employee of the Month’ or something. But, as I stood there looking at her, there was a familiarity to her face, but I just couldn’t place it.

She looked at me and said, “You don’t remember me do you?” Uh oh. I said, “Uhh, yea…umm…” in which she quickly replied, “What’s my name then?” Busted. “I was in your class!” she said. Of course, that’s why she looked so familiar, and the neighbourly [Read more…]

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The lecture is NOT dead.

Jim Morrison gravesite, Paris, France

The lecture is not dead. Jim Morrison, well…is? Standing at Jim Morrison’s gravesite in Paris, France.

With the surge of online education businesses popping up, I keep reading articles that students don’t learn anymore from listening to classroom lectures and sitting there taking notes; that the classroom lecture is ‘dead’. Well, of course students’ don’t learn from lectures if they take poor notes, are constantly distracted by texting, tweeting, and Facebooking, and even more importantly, never repeatedly reviewing their notes after the class has finished. I don’t know about you, [Read more…]

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Screencast: ‘Problem Solving’ class activity to try out.

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