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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More thinking than doing

I intended to do a good amount of work on classes today, either on the online Nature in Lit or on materials for the fall SF class. I was interrupted by a call about a rather urgent family matter, which derailed my work intentions, but for my own purposes, it's helpful if I note what I'm thinking about, and why it's important.

So: reading notes. In thinking about what I'm going to ask of my students in the fall, I realize that even having a good model for them to follow won't really do the trick. As it happens, the handout I have includes a model--and the problem is that they don't really understand what the model is doing. There are levels within levels of critical thinking here, and I realize I need to back all the way out to the most basic, simple, fundamental skin of the onion and work inward from there.

Among other things, the explanation needs to be a great deal more simplistic (and significantly less wordy: my perennial failing, using too many words). But also, I ordered the book I used with the 102s the last two semesters--an excellent (and very slender and inexpensive) book What Every Student Should Know About Writing About Literature, by Edgar V. Roberts--but right now it's recommended, not required. I realize that means that the vast majority of students will not buy it (and those who do are probably the ones who least need it). I'm still thinking about it, but it's very likely I will ask the bookstore manager to change it from recommended to required. That way, I can assign chapters out of it--and I can tell students to refer to it for information about documentation (as it includes that stuff as well).

The book is a great adjunct to what I need to present, but there are a few points I need to make sure I make clear:

1. A lot of why they need to write about what they read is to be sure they fully understand it themselves--because without in-depth understanding, they can't write about what they've read.

2. There is a difference between a book report and literary analysis, and somehow I need to help them understand the difference--and understand what they will need to gather for themselves in order to engage in the latter.

3. I need to tell them very clearly and precisely what not to do--but also help them understand when they're doing those things. What is summary? What is it useful for--and why is it not useful in the kind of notes I want them to keep? What is personal response--and again, why is it not useful for the purposes of my class?

4. There must be some way to get them to understand that not all details are created equal: some questions are unanswerable in any meaningful way (we can invent answers, but the answers would have no support), and some details don't require any real notice. Regarding that latter point, I need to make them understand that even the details that can sort of wash by are still in the text for a reason, even if the reason is "merely" to add depth and texture to the verisimilitude of the work of fiction.

I'm sure there's more that will occur to me--and more that won't, until I start getting the results of all my attempts to set up the instructions for their notes and see all the ways they still don't even seem to try to get where they need to go.

So, that will probably be something I'll work on tomorrow--though maybe not. If the weather is gorgeous again, I may spend the bulk of the day out. It is the break, after all, and I am allowed days to just enjoy the day, doing anything, or nothing.

I'm hoping for an early night tonight. I'd like to adjust my sleep schedule to be a little earlier to bed and earlier to rise (without an alarm, though, thank you very much)--but whatever the evening brings will be fine by me. And tomorrow will be ... well, what tomorrow always is: another day.

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