As a new semester is about to begin, here are some of my most popular and effective tools for teaching the early-semester topic in most Introduction to Sociology courses, the sociological imagination.

This first one compares marriage in other cultures in order to help students practice using their sociological imagination. Marriage is a topic that many students may fall into the “trap” of thinking there is something “natural” about it or that the form it takes is a highly individualized one.

The second one examines higher education and the act of deciding to come to college through a sociological lens. Many students in intro courses are first-year students, so this one resonates particularly well with them.

During the spring semester, I help students understand the sociological imagination by analyzing the Super Bowl through this lens. While certainly not all students are interested in professional concussions football, the pop culture and social event of the Super Bowl at least grabs their attention.

The last tool that I use to get their attention and teach them about the sociological imagination is the nipple. Yes, the nipple… and the social construction of the body. Nothing like talking about this topic on the very first day of class to get their attention.

Finally, here are two other tools that you may find helpful. The first is a series of questions to get students thinking critically about any topic. I make it available to my students as a tool to refer back to throughout the semester.

The second explains the system I have developed to grade student participation.

Teach well, it matters

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For tools beyond the intro classroom or for topics other than the sociological imagination, see here.