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LAE 6389 Practice Teaching Literature


Class 3: Organizing your course


Reading Assignment:

Showalter, chapter 4-7
Instructor's Guide to NAEL and NALW in course docs
"How to prepare a text for teaching" in course docs
Assignment: draft course description-theme and objectives
Post #2

Class Objectives:

    Form teaching groups- sign up for teaching dates on WIKI
    Peer Review Assignment: draft course description, theme, objectives

    Post #2


Notes and Discussion Questions:

Showalter divides the practical sections of her book by genre. How useful is this organization? What alternatives might you envision? What are the pros and cons of this presentation of teaching literature?

Why is beginning with poetry a good idea?

Showalter surveys several methods of organizing a course on poetry: poetics, metaphors, genres, background, as well as methods such as reading aloud, lecturing, memorizing, recitation, the commonplace book, writing poetry, writing about poetry (portfolio), comparison and contrast, and working from what students already know.

What methods or strategies strike you as interesting, compelling and worth trying? Obversely, which do not?

Regarding metaphors, she tells about the example of flowers as a controlling metaphor for a poetry course. What metaphors might you like to try? What poems would be included?

What are some of the ways a student can learn to "possess" a poem? How will you evaluate this?

How useful is performance theory in teaching? Should we do a session on dramatic training in this class? Who will volunteer?

What might you take from performance/drama to the teaching of other types of literature? How would you envision this pedagogy?

In teaching fiction, is accessibility a greater boon or bust?

What is the problem with close reading in fiction? What are the benefits? (Evaluate Showalter's instructions on close reading, p. 98-99.)

Obviously the length of fiction needs to be managed by the teacher. What are some ways of managing the length of reading assignments in teaching the novel? What are the pros and cons of these strategies?

Think of a favorite work of fiction and how you could dramatize or make concrete the experience of the novel for students (see pp. 93-4 for examples).

How might you use film in teaching fiction? Can you anticipate some of the problems this would raise?

Showalter quotes Dianna Fuss's questions regarding the changes theory has made to the teaching of literature on page. 106. Consider these questions: "what contributions has theory made to pedagogy? How has the teaching of theory changed our theories of teaching? Is the theoretical classroom different, in any philosophical or structural way, from other (supposedly non-theoretical) classrooms" (106).

If you were to organize a theory class around issues (as described on p. 108), what issues do you think would be effective or interesting?

As we continue to think about the ideas generated by Showalter's chapters on teaching the genres, let's begin to think about how we will organize the material into specific learning objectives. To do this, take some time to review the learning objectives listed on the sample syllabi for the general education courses (see course documents). Also review the General Education guidelines on the website. You will also find resources for teaching and planning courses here.

In the NAEL Instructor's Manual and the NALW Instructor's Manual, the opening chapters provide some broad guidelines for setting up a course. These are meant to suggest some of the important elements you have to consider in planning your course.

What are your strengths in teaching? How can you organize your course to play to those strengths?

How much will you expect your students to cover in a course? In a class?

How will you accommodate the different learning styles of your students?

How will you word your course objectives so that they correspond to the evaluative measures you require?

Examine the sample syllabi in the course guide. How useful are these objectives as models for your course?

Examine the sample syllabi in the course documents. How useful are these objectives as models for your course?

The four dimensions of learning we will need to cover in our gen ed courses are: critical thinking, inquiry, creative and interpretive process and ethics. In some cases we will also cover historical dimensions. Please review the description of these objectives on the General Education Website.

What activities or evaluative measures might you include in your course to achieve critical thinking? How will you word your objectives to describe this?

Can you think of ways to adopt the suggested approaches for a literature class? What activities or evaluative measures might you include in your course to achieve inquiry? How will you word your objectives to describe this?

We don't ordinarily think of literature as a "problem solving" or "problem" based discipline. Can you think of ways to adopt the suggested approaches for a literature class?

For creative and interpretative process, the guidelines suggest:

Courses qualifying for Creative and Interpretive Processes and Experiences will include study of the historical and cultural contexts of works drawn from the visual, performing, and literary arts. These courses will include analysis of different aesthetic processes for creating or performing in the arts as well as forms of critical inquiry related to artistic endeavors. Courses may also include group and individual approaches for conveying meaning through artistic works and students' experiences in developing artistic works.

What activities or evaluative measures might you include in your course to meet this set of objectives (see the list of corresponding objectives for this discipline)?

For Ethical Perspectives the guidelines suggest:

Courses in this area will enable students to explore how values inform the behavior of individuals and societies and govern the way humans relate to each other on a daily basis. The study of values and ethics enable us to understand the implications of our thoughts and actions and to take responsibility for them. As members of specific societies, we are not only shaped by cultural values but also, through critical and responsible reflection, we transform these cultural values. Studying these values in both their unity and diversity can provide insight into the way our personal and social worlds are shaped in various historical and social contexts. The study of values and ethics also advances respect for knowledge and its problems. In each phase of the process of knowledge construction, the values of the inquirers inform the ideas, methods, and practices that generate knowledge.

Exploration of ethical perspectives will enable students to:

Recognize the value-laden character of knowledge, including knowledge about the world, the environment, race and ethnicity, language and gender.

Advance their understanding of the values that underlie the criteria used by scholars in identifying and formulating problems, in constructing methods and models, and in articulating and choosing theories.

What activities of evaluative measure might you include in your course to meet this set of objectives (see the list of corresponding objectives)?

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Active learning and discussion

Peer Review of course description, theme, method of organization, objectives. Draft a course description that incorporates theme and method of organization. Prepare a list of course objectives you might reasonably use in one of the gen ed courses. Feel free to adopt the objectives listed to suit your own interests and vocabulary. Be prepared to explain and defend your choices.

Exchange your course description and objectives with a partner and read. Write notes and comments on the text. Offer comments and constructive ideas about your peers' texts. Consider some of the following questions:

  • What is the appeal of the theme or organization?
  • How does it help to achieve the goals of the class?
  • What texts work with the theme or organization?
  • What background material or research might be necessary to teach the theme of organization?
  • What problems might the instructor meet with this theme or organization?
  • Any suggestions, comments, ideas?
  • How clear are these objectives?
  • What can students taking this course expect to take away from it?
  • What will the instructor need to do to achieve these objectives?
  • Is there anything missing?
  • Is this a reasonable set of course objectives? (Too much, too little, too hard, too easy?)
  • Will these satisfy the requirements of the Gen Ed curriculum?

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