The literature students at my school don’t have too many options in their coursework to focus specifically on literature pedagogy. As a result, a couple of smart students have created a summer mini-conference on this topic. This is its third year, but the first I attended, and I was happy to discover that much of what I learned was very relevant for rhetoric/composition pedagogy as well. I’m including some of the most important notes I took here. If any readers are interested in something below, let me know and I can hook you up with whoever presented on that topic.
Teaching Difficult Topics led by Chris Desantis, Julie Jung, Oren Whitesell
- When discussing oppressive institutions–we’ll use race as an example–start by talking about the historical context. Don’t open discussion until after students have this common ground established. (In this phase, be careful to create a common vocabulary and to consider how themes circulate in language.)
- Next, introduce social construction. (Note: It’s OK to “shut a student down” if she or he refuses to buy into the basic premises of the class. You can think of this less as silencing a student and more as eliminating an obstacle to other students’ learning. Hopefully it doesn’t happen often.)
- Open discussion: Possible topics in this example include the collective silence on whiteness, connections between texts and student lives, and implications of physical spaces that produce whiteness and blackness, etc.
- Making Whiteness by Grace Hale
- Passing by Nella Larsson
- Light in August by William Faulkner
- Rhetorical Listening by Krista Ratcliffe
- Space & Place by Yi-Fu Tuan
- Unspeakable Conversations by Harriet McBride-Johnson
- Refiguring Rhetorica by Jay Dolmage and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson
- I Was a Teenage Fairy by Francesca Lia Block
- anything by Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Nancy Mairs
Teaching Digital Texts led by Cheryl Ball
Remember: A 10-page paper is not nearly equivalent to a 10-minute video. A proficient producer of video typically takes 200 minutes for every minute produced. Consider a 2-3 minute video equivalent to a 10-page paper.
- Establish common key terms
- Have an individual draft due by midterm
- Have students read others’ drafts during second part of semester
- Links/revisions/additional pages due by finals
- Consider that linguists study speech communities; historical linguists must use written texts (literature)
- Take care not to apply sociolinguistic understandings from modern times to historical contexts
- Consider how linguistic usage is used to construct literary characters. This may include elements like the a- prefix (I’m a-goin’) or h-dropping (‘umble beginnings).
- Remember that ideology is shown in language
- When teaching, narrow the focus. First, select a form to focus on, then prove to students that they know a grammar (disrupt their belief that we’re in some sort of historical grammatical decline), then choose texts with appropriate linguistic variation.
- The most important different in evaluations is understanding the purpose of formative vs. summative evaluation. Summative evaluation happens at the end of the term; formative evaluation can be used to improve teaching.
- 360-degree evaluation: Collect evaluations from self, supervisors, peers, students
- For student evaluations, collect early so that you can learn during the class. Consider doing a 1-minute paper at the end of each class. This is where students quickly write the most important thing they learned and the muddiest point from the day’s work. Also consider incorporating weekly reports and/or a midterm chat to get mid-semester evaluations.
- Frequent evaluation teaches students to think and write evaluatively; it’s not just for the teacher.
- Take into account, when reading summative evaluations, the things that students are and are not really qualified to comment on
- When working through evaluations, first categorize responses into positive, negative, suggestions, and other. Then synthesize results, count and a rank them, reflect, and prioritize. Remember to work on only one or two things at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Remember to teach film conventions, often comparing them to parallel conventions in printed texts
- Incorporate historical context. For example, study the Hayes Code and teach students to know what signals meant what sort of action (to get around the censors)
- Defamiliarize students with film media by starting with (or only showing) black-and-white films
- Teach and complicate themes. (For example, in film noir, the bad guy is often a veteran. Why? What does this mean?)
- Miracle on Morgan’s Creek
- Casa Blanca
- The Best Years of Our Lives