The list of teaching/writing stories, Part 2

Okay, the continuation. I know that blog entries are supposed to be in reverse order, but it seems odd to have the continuation of a list above the beginning of that list. So while it’s the next day, I’m faking the time on this one so that the list falls in the original order that I was brainstorming in.

  • Own Criteria
    This is one of those experiences where the students amazed me. I was teaching second semester American Lit (roughly Mark Twain to present) for the second time, using the same basic assignments that I had used the previous term. I had students sign up for and present various handouts on the pieces of literature that we covered (e.g., biographies, general lit criticism, summary). I had lots of examples from that previous class, which I removed the names from and passed out to the students. I asked them to use those examples to help them define the requirements for the work that they were to do. They came up with incredibly harsh guidelines, more strict than I would have designed for them. And of course because they had ownership of the guidelines, they accepted them more than anything that I would have brought in from outside.

  • Modeling, not just models
    I remember a successful class where I worked through the process of gathering details for an analysis paper. I was asking students to compare a song’s lyrics (their choice) to any poem in their text (also their choice). To demonstrate the process, I remember doing an elaborate demonstration that compared the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Old Friends/Bookends” to some poem that I can’t recall right now. I asked students to help point out similarities and differences. The whole thing worked as if it had been choreographed, and the students “got” the process that was needed for their papers. (I also had the best success when I had models of the essays that students were to compose. The BSM book Student Writers at Work was my favorite.)

  • Student Authority
    In another assignment that focused on song lyrics, I asked students to do a simple explication of a song (their choice). The assignment resulted in great engagement, as the students focused on explaining their favorite songs (some very complex). The whole activity put them in the position of the authority—they knew the songs and the bands, and typically I didn’t. Making them authorities led to stronger work too.

And some more general listing w/o notes:

  • outside; focused circle writing
  • demoing pc use in conferences
  • “New York is a City of Things Unnoticed” activity
  • Grammar Rules writing assignments (off Math Rules)
  • computers
  • Rhetoric of War class
  • What is American Lit? class

I also need to check the Lists and the lesson plans that I’ve written. They may well bring some stories to mind.

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