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LAE 6389 Practice Teaching Literature

Class 3: Organizing the Course

    Nicole McHam, from Pearson (lunch provided)
    Guest Panel: What I Wanted to Know Before I Started Teaching Poetry (or Fiction, Drama...)
    Showalter, chapter 1-2, 4-7
    Reading from Instructor's Guide to NAEL and NALW in course docs
    Assignment: draft course description, objectives
    Post #1 Group B / Response Group A

Class Objectives:

    Learn about Pearson publications

    Discuss the experience of teaching literature with previous members of the practicum

    Discuss the ins and outs of teaching literature vis-a-vis Showalter's text

    Discuss Reading schedules, objectives

    Assignment: draft course description and theme (peer review)

Notes and Discussion Questions:

Showalter lists seven sources of anxiety in teaching: lack of training, isolation, teaching versus research, coverage, performance, grading, student evaluations. Which of these, if any, can you relate to? Why or why not?

In her chapter discussing theories of teaching, Showalter asks the question: Why do we teach literature? A big, messy and wonderful question! Perhaps any class on teaching literature should address this at the start. Why do you [want to] teach literature?

Evaluate the objectives she lists for teaching literature on page 26.

What is your teaching persona? Think of a "telling moment" in the classroom that reveals to us (and your students) your teaching persona and be willing (please) to share this in class. What kind of teacher are you? What kind of teacher do you want to be?

Does your teaching self correspond to your teaching theory? And that means ....

After reading these introductory chapters on teaching, what areas of teaching strike you as most important for our class? Methods? Theories? Classroom management? Grading? Problems? Preparation? Housekeeping? Your teaching development? Others? Brainstorm and let's discuss the emphases we can take.

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?

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?


Active learning and discussion

Peer Review of course description, theme, method of organization:

Exchange your course description with a partner and read. Write notes and comments on the text. 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?


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