Much like the rise and fall of the plot in a novel, semester courses unfold in an arc of development. After the flush of excitement during the first week of class, students and instructors begin to settle in to more of a routine. When you think of your own undergraduate courses, you’ll recall a definite rhythm to the semester— a brief “honeymoon” period at the beginning when everything seems fresh and exciting; a longer span when students and instructors get to know each other and start establishing patterns of interaction; a stretch about three-quarters of the way into the semester when everyone seems concerned about deadlines, stressed, and, perhaps, ready for a break; and a few weeks before the semester ends, the final push accompanied, we hope, by a sense of accomplishment.

If you recognize these rhythms, you can design lecture materials, readings, and assignments to fit well with student learning needs at particular points along the continuum. Scheduling all the “fun” learning activities during the first few weeks of the course probably isn’t a good idea. On the other hand, waiting until the end of the semester to incorporate “fun” learning might send the message that you’ve “given up” on helping students work through the final, challenging push of the semester.