No, not It: The Terror From Beyond Space! or some reference to Cousin It, but Clara Bow’s 1927 romantic comedy that helped popularize the phrase, “the ‘it’ girl.” Today, students will turn in their first assignment, the scene description from One Week, and do a little reflective writing on the project, before moving on to what I hope will be a good discussion of a clip from the Bow film. I’ve created a series of screening questions that I’ll give to and discuss with students before hand, connecting some of them to key passages in The Modern Temper, from which they’ll continue to read. Then, we’ll watch the first part of the film, while students take notes, and we’ll begin to discuss questions of relevance and choice in making analytical observations with the goal of an argumentative essay in mind.
Composition 102 students today will be introduced to the first major assignment of the term, the scene description; I really like this project as an introduction to the class because it is not argument based but it does require close, precise description, concision, and a few other key elements designed to introduce students to writing analytically about literature and film. This term, I’m adding a new component to the assignment–students can use no instances of the verb “to be.” We’ll see how this works; if it does, I think students will be in an excellent position to recognize new and better ways to improve their writing later in the term.
What’s on the agenda for EN102 and EN200 today? Well, I’d like to start thinking about the coursework right off the bat–it’s always best, in my book, to begin challenging the class so as to set a productive tone. Especially in composition 2, where students generally need practice with managing time and approaching tasks effectively. But we’re also going to be watching a lot of films in that class, and I’ve learned from previous terms that requiring outside meetings can prove difficult–I’ve set aside time in class to watch our four films this term, or at least excerpts of them.
Today, in 102, I want to begin learning names and transforming the classroom into a comfortable space for discussion–but also into a challenging workspace. I want to start by having students introduce themselves and say a few words about their knowledge of the 1920s. Then, I’ll ask each student to write a similar introduction, so we can begin discussing some of the differences between spoken and written language (but also addressing some of the misconceptions about writing!). I also want to introduce the first assignment generally, paying special attention to the “no verb to be” clause; finally, I think it would be fun to challenge the students, in groups, to rewrite someone’s introduction without any verbs to be. For homework, reading the syllabus, visiting facebook and our wiki, the first project sheet, and the “Introduction” from The Modern Temper.
In Elements of Literary Study, I’m really excited to see what my students can do with a single poem, in a sort of diagnostic activity. We’ll be working with Stanley Kunitz’s “Among the Gods,” so as to begin introducing a few key themes of the course and techniques of close reading. After introducing ourselves, giving a basic overview of the course materials, and reading the poem aloud, I’d like them to begin discussing the poem in pairs, taking notes on the poem to look forward to the first part of the explication project. Then, individually each student will write for 10-15 minutes on the poem, trying to observe as many details as possible while beginning to suggest effects of those choices. I also need to show them the Literature Resource Center Online, to set up for the first homework assignment.
Don’t forget to go over the course technologies, either!
Classes resume on the 11th of January for us here at Marymount, and I have to admit, last term was a bit of a supersonic blur–and the holiday “break” was anything but, given our trip to Philadelphia for a serious several days of interviews. Syllabi are due on the 4th (er, that would be today!), and I’ve been working on my class wiki for the upcoming term. This term, I’m also going to be experimenting with facebook as a teaching and communication tool, though I’m a bit worried that not every student will be using the platform already. Ideally, I would be able to find a simple widget that would allow simultaneous cross-posts on Blackboard, PBworks, and facebook. But that doesn’t really look like it’s going to happen…. Thank goodness for graduate student assistants!
So, in the Spring I’m returning to Composition 102, a writing course that engages the 1920s through film, as well as Elements of Literary Study, a writing/research/introduction to the discipline course that I’ve designed around classical Ovidian myths, folktales, and their adaptations in a variety of genres. My new class for the term is Studies in the Novel, a 400-level majors and honors student course subtitled “Selling Stories of Sex and Gender in the 18th Century Novel.” We’ll be reading novels by Defoe, Richardson, Cleland, Lennox, and Dacre, supplemented by shorter pieces by Haywood and Fielding, in addition, if possible, to a few other primary source contextual materials. The course will be organized around the web, in a very loose sense, as students will contribute their materials for presentations and discussion leadership projects to the class wiki; in addition, I’m going to replace the last, long essay with a “research web” students will create around a topic they’re interested in. A little along the lines of David Porter’s Eighteenth-Century England, but with less emphasis on a coherent project and more on discovering a topic, presenting relevant research materials, and organizing the site. In Elements of Literary Study, I’ll also be returning to the wiki as a classroom tool, for the explication project and the collaborative research project–however, I’ll definitely need to tweak the assignment for the collaborative work, as students last year found it difficult to keep the kinds of annotations they were to do straight. I’d also like to emphasize the use of hyperlinks to create a coherent whole for the collaborative project–though the pages are rapidly multiplying, and I’ll probably also need to have a GA organize it into folders and prepare a document for students on navigating them. In the future, it might be useful to have a priced site, but for now, the free PBworks seems to do what’s needed.
New year’s resolution? To use this blog the way it should be used!
Thursday, I took my composition students to the library for a refresher on using Aladin for research, and I was left with some confusions about their comprehension, level of comfort, and intuitive/creative/logical ability to use the catalog to browse effectively. At the end of the class, instead of looking at the books we’d pulled and beginning to evaluate them as sources, I was astonished to find that so many simply left!! Why would this happen? Granted, we weren’t in our usual class, and granted, I wasn’t talking at them but roaming around the room addressing individual questions in between directing the larger class, but why would you simply assume the class had ended? Aaah! I suppose I need to require another brief writing assignment–browse through these books, and choose one to evaluate briefly as I’m asking you to do for project 3….
One of the things we went over specifically in the session was how to browse effectively using the catalog. After asking students to find two of the secondary sources from which our coursepack readings were drawn, we went into more interesting waters–students were to browse the catalog for sources relevant to the next projects, finding two books that appealed to you and that may be potential sources for the final essay on film in the 1920s. We specifically addressed the LOC subject headings, and the fact that computers are not smart–if you mis-type something, or if you don’t use the right terms or search options, then the computer will not “know what you mean” and find it. I hope the session resulted in some useful skills, but I don’t know. We’ll see next class, when I’m going to reprise the last portion of the project–looking over a selection of (relevant!) books on the subject and evaluating them for nature, audience, research, utility, and so on.