The truth is that the publishers are catching up with me and passing me by as they do. I know this should be good news; this means I don’t have to revitalize the stuff I’ve made. Instead, I can really focus on the holes still left in my curriculum which need more interactive, inventive lessons and activities to get the concepts across.
So what’s my problem?
Oy—what’s left is the really hard stuff! If I spent a chunk of time this summer upgrading the parts of my lesson I know are working, I could get a cheap sense of satisfaction of having worked hard. But it turns out the publisher has done that for me…It’s like coming home feeling put upon because I have to make dinner and finding a family member smiling in an apron saying, “Guess what? I made dinner so you have time to organize the garage like you always say you want to do!” The garage? Tonight? Really?
In truth, I’m writing this piece instead of confronting this curriculum challenge. Here are the two major questions it seems I cannot pretend I don’t have time to think about:
How can I allow students a degree of choice in choosing their research topics while still monitoring that they actually read the articles they find? How do I monitor that they read the articles accurately?
I don’t want to narrow the pool of topics too dramatically, but if I allow 125 students to all write a topic of their choosing with 5 to 7 sources each, how do I monitor the reading comprehension? Currently, they fill out a reading guide sheet for each source, but I’m discovering that these sheets aren’t done with as much care as I’d like or as accurately as I’d like to believe. With a variety of topics, I cannot find and read everyone’s articles to ensure they truly summarize the intent of the source accurately, yet I’m reluctant to have students choose from a list of only five topics just so I can police the reading.
How can I work more on logical argument without creating more and more written assignments to grade?
I know how to use portfolios to get students to write at a higher volume, but I’m not really concerned about their landscape descriptions or personal narratives. One of the biggest problems with my students’ writing is their logic. I get a lot of “If A = B and B = C, then A = popcorn.” Seriously. I know that by reading more articles and drafting more arguments we can work on this, but I don’t think I can handle too much more grading (because this kind of writing requires REAL grading, not the marking grammar while I listen to Law and Order kind of grading). I need to take other things out to put more logical argument writing in, and nothing clearly jumps to mind as unnecessary.
Those are the two big concerns it seems I’m going to have to chip away at this summer because some dang publisher has done a delightful job revitalizing all the grammar, identify the audience, and MLA practice materials. Please send ideas and chocolate.co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher