Sometimes you get the class where everyone is on the same page.
Sometimes you get the sensitive class that ripples with tension and grade anxiety.
Sometimes you get the zombie class that enjoys staring and only comes to consciousness for an occasional freak-out.
More often, you get a mix.
Therefore, giving an assignment, especially a major assignment, requires a lot of patience and skill from the teacher. It’s like conducting a symphony (I gather from cartoons), where each section of the teacher’s audience needs to be led in turn.
She approaches the podium.
She warms up the room by reminding everyone of today’s proceedings:
“Going Over the Final Project.”
The class stirs as they ready themselves for their parts.
The teacher brings the assignment sheet up on screen.
Cue the grade anxiety section:
“Worth HOW MUCH of our grade?!”
The teacher sends soothing hand motions and a reminder of the Writing Center’s existence towards the sweaty section, before poising her hand to scroll to the next part of the assignment.
It pops on screen and is apparently the trigger which causes the zombie portion of the class to awaken and start a rare crescendo.
“Research papers? Problem-solution argument?”
“Did we go over that?”
“We never went over that!”
The portion of the class that has paid attention and maintained their blood pressure chimes in with a low, reassuring murmur-
“Yeah, we’ve been talking about it for two weeks.”
“Don’t worry- I’ve got the notes.”
“I’ll tell you about it at lunch.”
The general hubbub dies down, and the teacher moves on to the grand finale.
“How many pages?”
“Is that double-spaced?”
“’Will you read it, if we finish early?”
“HOW MANY PAGES?!”
Teacher responds with more soothing hand motions and a quick point back up at the screen where every answer is (and has been for several moments) already up.
Students who get it pipe up with:
“Is there any chance for extra credit?”
The teacher shakes her head, but smiles at the much-needed humor in the middle of the otherwise dark tones.
Zombie awakening students:
“…What’s a problem-solution argument?”
The teacher simply bows and reminds everyone that she has office hours later that afternoon.
The class respectfully withholds their applause.