Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lookin' for Lit in all the New Places

This summer, I’ll be teaching a literature survey course. I expect my students to be ready for the course to be over the day it begins. I’m sure they’ll also be pleasant about it, but I can imagine their palms facing me, thought bubbles above their heads saying, “Nothing personal here, lady. I just want this course to be over.”

Dragging students through literature that I love makes me nutty, so I’m already ruminating about how to approach the course. I construct all my teaching around student ownership, but I’m more successful fostering student ownership of writing than of reading and close analysis of text. Often, my students approach literary analysis wearily, like it’s an endless shell game: “Ms. K, just tell me where the answer is!” Our department also requires a final exam, a multiple choice affair that confirms knowledge of literary terms and basic cultural literacy. Preparing students for this test often elicits lots of “When will I ever need this stuff?”

Traditionally, I use literary circles, and I plan to do that again in this course. I’m also playing with the idea of opening the course by asking students to write on the pink elephant in the room: Why is it required for students to take a literature course? Why would the powers that be think such a course would be important for students?

I want to find a meaningful way to use Wordle, and I’ve got six months of Poetry magazine I want to work in, too. On the Poetry website, they have this fantastic Poetry Tool that searches poems numerous ways, like by occasion! I’ve got to find a way to work that in…When poet Terri Witek spoke at a conference I attended this past fall, she recommended teaching contemporary poetry along with our personal favorites. She reminded us that poetry changes with the times, so we should be sure to include the voices of our students’ times amongst the pieces we feature in lessons. As a student, I know the poets of the eighties and nineties touched me more viscerally than the historical giants, so her point made sense to me. I’m also thinking about how to craft an assignment that asks students to prove whether or not poetry is still relevant, to see what modern incarnations they discover to support their points.

Right now, the ideas are still swirling around in my head, waiting for a specific lesson plan in which to land. The course starts off at the end of June, so I’ve got a little time to play with my plans. Part of me believes lessons planned with excitement and anticipation are bound to work better than any other kind…

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To the question "What good is literature to my life"? I would posit the response that if you are going to school to get a job you are wasting your time. You are supposed to be in school to get a education.Acquisation of self knowledge,wisdom or tolerance rarely comes with financial rewards. Problem is most Americans measure gain in dollars and cents.First you must learn how to think.