MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18-19, 2014: Crowd-sourced Spring Previews

[As my spring semester gets underway, this week’s series has focused on courses and other events to which I’m looking forward. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and spring plans of fellow AmericanStudiers—add yours in comments, please!]

In response to Monday’s Sci Fi and Fantasy post, my colleague Kisha Tracy notes that she too is teaching some excerpts from Lord of the Rings this semester. And then she went ahead and created this awesome Storify for her class and plans!
In response to Wednesday’s post on my Am Lit II syllabus shift, Rob Velella writes, “In my opinion as a non-professor [Ben adds: not yet!], I think that's a good swap. I've come to love tales and find novels a bit more frustrating as far as time commitment. I'm sure your students think similarly, even if they don't express it. Hypothetically, I've thought I'd teach by reading aloud sections that are crucial, hoping that the drama of the scene would inspire them to go back and read the rest.”
Following up the same post, Irene Martyniuk agrees, noting that in a Victorian Lit course “the only big book I assigned was The Moonstone because it's silly and important. Dickens, Stevenson, Conan Doyle, etc—all short stuff. And yet, only 2 or 3 out of 18 read all of The Moonstone. I get their reasons. I really do. But by skipping so many big novels, they really miss a big part of Vic Lit. I feel guilty about that for the few who are thinking of grad school. No three deckers, no Trollope, few women. I don't have a solution, just more sighs.”
A high school English teacher adds, “Engaging readership is tricky, practically impossible at the high school level as Sparknotes pretty much beats me to the punch daily. I will ask the students to find a section they find interesting and write about it, we call it ‘commonplace book’ entries. They have to read a section, analyze it and write about it looking at text, structure of sentences and paragraphs, but most importantly how it reflects the book as a whole. Granted, they can randomly choose from the book using the inny-minny-miney-moe method (and probably do) but at least I know they had to look at a section and read deliberately. Another trick up my rapidly diminishing sleeve is to make them responsible for teaching a specific motif to the others. They have to track it through the book like in Lahiri they track names and trains. Then they have to examine the use, the lead in and exit from the use of it, and what she's trying to communicate through its use. But my fav is asking them to redesign the book into a new form of media. So Frankenstein becomes a child's story, Dracula is a folktale. They have to go beyond plot to retell the story in a new form of media.”
In response to Thursday’s post on my new Writing II syllabus and its unit on advertising, Ian Wilkins writes, “In my prepracticum classroom last semester, the teacher did a lengthy unit on this very thing with his AP class. It was focused mainly on a book by Neil Postman called Amusing Ourselves to Death, then supplementing that with a bunch of smaller pieces. My recollection is that there were some very though-provoking ideas put forth in that book, which relate directly to those questions you are talking about. One area of this that I think is especially interesting is the very contemporary concept of individually targeted online advertisement (web analytics, email account-based ads, sponsored Google search links, etc.). These are the most subversive forms of advertising and consumerism to date, and they raise all kinds of important, open-ended questions for me. Sounds like this focus will be highly generative in terms of thought for your students.”
Nancy Caronia also follows up that post, writing “Have you seen the documentary Miss Representation? Deals with gender, advertising, etc. Might be a good jump start in that first section.
Special MLK-inspired series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. So what’s on your spring calendar?

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