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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Well, that was great. Now what?

The work I had planned for the 102s today went very well. I provided them with three quotations about literature: its value, how to read it, why students sometimes struggle with reading it, that sort of thing. I put them in groups and had them read each quotation, discuss it, take some notes so they'd have something to refer to in the whole-class discussion, know who would do the preliminary talking for the group. It sailed. They not only got the point of the readings, they got thinking about their own struggle to bridge the gap between the way they were taught to read in high school and what will be required of them now. They did a fine job talking in their groups, and they did a fine job sharing ideas with the class as a whole--both sections.

That seemed to make a good segue into talking about reading notes. I'll have to go over the point of notes and what they should contain many times, I know, but I feel like this was a good set-up for them. I also was able to clarify the assignment for Tuesday--mostly by having them read the actual words in the syllabus. (One of the quotations included the following: "Years of their so-called ‘reading’ is spent ‘making connections’ between themselves and text or the world and the text, but the foundational step of actually reading the words on the page is neglected often to the point that actually reading the assignment isn't necessary." [Karen Swallow Prior, “Why I Support the Common Core Reading Standards,” The Atlantic]. Never mind reading the work of literature in question; it's hard to get them to read what the assignment sheet says. I'm just saying.)

I'm sure some of them will still be confused, but ah well.

The larger problem is, the only things they have due for Tuesday are a self-evaluation and a review of the information in assigned pages in one of their handbooks. We can't do much group discussion of self-evaluations--and they were already doing a lot of that kind of reflection on their own experiences in their groups today--and going over the information in the assigned handbook pages won't take very long at all. So, what do we do with the remaining 57 minutes of the class?

I briefly considered bringing in a very short short story to read aloud in class so they could sort of practice annotating and turning their annotations into notes--but the addition of another story, unconnected to anything else we're reading seemed like it might be confusing. So I briefly considered starting to read the story they have to have read for Thursday's class--but that sounded boring as hell.

So I'm going to bore them a different way. Unlike my usual practice, I'm going to do a little preliminary lecturing, primarily about terminologies--but also about little things like referring to authors by last name, making sure the titles and characters' names are spelled correctly, other little pet peeves along those lines. And I'll review the instructions for reading notes with them, pointing out the examples I provided. It may be yet another class meeting when I let them go early--but that's OK. There will be plenty of times when I keep them until the last second, so it will all come out in the end.

I'm actually going to do more than the usual "chalk and talk" in Nature in Lit on Monday, pretty much for the same reasons--but also because, in reading the selection from Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation that I used this semester, I realized there will be a lot that they won't understand at first, so some preparatory glossing won't go amiss.

Assuming they stay awake.

Returning to today: I did, in fact, make good use of the time between classes--and even some of the time before my first class. I met with my distance ed mentor and got great answers to some of my questions as well as a seal of approval on most of what I've done. I do have a bit more yet to do, in order to have enough to show the VP for distance ed (the next step in the approvals process), but I am definitely making progress. I will need to print out a lot of stuff and go over it carefully to make sure I haven't made any howling blunders--and of course I don't need to have everything in place completely. I'm finally enjoying the process: thinking through the pedagogic rationale for what I'm doing, trying to think like an overwhelmed student who has never taken an online course before.

(Wow: totally got distracted there. Writing that made me think, "Oh, before I forget, I need to..." which led to another, "While I'm at it, I should..." and a couple of "I'd better do this now..." thoughts--and now I don't even remember what set off domino chain. Not that it matters, but this is why I am the absent minded professor: the domino chains are nearly endless.)

So, I'm chipping away at the online course, still finding my way with this semester's courses (the evening class thing creates a really weird rhythm, which will take some time to settle down: it's like Dave Brubeck's "Unsquare Dance," in 7/8 time...). But for now, I think I'm good. I don't feel any other niggling little things threatening to drop through the floorboards, so I'm going to draw a metaphoric line through today on the calendar and call it a wrap for this week.

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