Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Challenge

One of my ENGL 112 students sat in my office yesterday for a conference about her last paper and plans for the next one.  Since we changed the curriculum to a literature focus, I have had fun with sharing poetry, short stories, and drama with students who might not otherwise read the selections. 

This student had discussed one of Whitman's poems "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" for her first literary analysis.  Some of the terms she used in her paper were not included on my 'terms sheet' that I share with non-literature students, and I was curious as to how they were familiar to her.  Her use of vocabulary and her writing style were more sophisticated than I am used to seeing from my ENGL 112 students also. In fact, thoughts of plagiarism had flitted through my mind, and I had "googled' passages of her paper, plus My Daughter the Librarian had searched for something that may have been directly copied and not cited.  We came up dry.

As we chatted, I found that she had a more extensive background in lit in high school than most of my students.  She was well-versed in terminology, and it was impressive to just talk with her. 

But here is the problem.  When we talked about ideas for her literary argument paper, and, as often happens, one idea leads to another, then changes, then builds....and I suggested that she read a short novel as another literary source to use for her paper, she bristled.  Her response?  "But I don't like to read.  I would HATE to read an entire book." 

I was stunned.  For a student to have the extensive vocabulary, the knowledge of terms, the extraordinary writing style.....and then not like to read.  It is always said that the more one reads, the more one's vocabulary grows, the better he/she will write, and the more varied the writing styles will be.  Eveidently not in this case.

What is my challenge?  To encourage, to nudge, to tempt.

When she left my office, I asked if she would like for me to order the book for her through inter-library loan, and she said yes.  But only because I thought it would be a good thing to do for her to write a good paper. Otherwise,  she just didn't like to read.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lovin' Some Amy Tan Short Stories

Prof. McCauley and I changed the ENGL 112 curriculum for our region this year, so there is more of a literature focus to the writing assignments.  This is actually the fifth semester I have used a lit focus for my classes, and I really like it. In fact the reason why some of the students in THIS class are here is because their love of literature was born, maybe re-born, in ENGL 112.  How about that?

Today I met with two students about their first papers, and we made a plan for the second one.  "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan is the selected story for Katy.  She loved that story as much as most of the students who have read it, especially the women.  No surprise there. Amy Tan has a way of drawing her readers into her stories, making them care about her life, and showing a slice of life that is foreign to many of us, not only because of the ethnic qualities of the story, but also because of the time period in which she wrote.

No matter the nationality or the time period, mothers and daughters conflict.  That is true.  I was in a ongoing conflicted relationship with my mother throughout middle school, into high school, continuing through college even though I was 2 1/2 hours away from home, and on into my adult life. 

As Katy and I were talking, I shared the impressions from the lecture that My Daughter the Librarian and I attended at Purdue several years ago. Amy Tan was the featured speaker.  She was petite, very attractive, quite personal, and very entertaining.  She discussed her life in detail.  She shared experiences as she was growing up in the western part of the United States. She talked about the inspirations for her stories and her novels.

Even though so many of her stories are more interesting to female readers, there are messages for male readers as well.  My juniors read "The Rules of the Game" which we could relate to football, basketball, NASCAR, and just life.  As a follow-up activity we spent a few class periods playing board games.  Why?  Not just an easy lesson plan for a couple of days!  One of the requirements was 'reading the directions' and following them.  Reading the directions.  How many times do we NOT read the directions, and more often how many times do we NOT follow the directions we have read?  What was interesting was that not too many had actually read the instructions for The Game of Life or Monopoly, but many played by their own family set of rules. I often heard "That is NOT the way my family plays it!"  or "My dad says we can't do that...we have to do this!"  Very rarely did anyone play by the rules.

Lesson?  Is that the way life is?  Do we know the rules?  Do we play by them, or do we create our own set?

Yes, Amy Tan shares many of her experiences as she was growing up in a blended culture family on the West Coast, but more than likely she is confirming many of the experiences that we have right here in midwestern America.  Slice of life at its best---from Amy Tan.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Raisin in the Sun

We are watching this play as the drama selection in ENGL 112.  The first half was viewed last week, and we will finish this week.  Usually I am distracted by other things during the viewing of a film in class, but this time I watched closely, hoping to catch the finer details.

I also noticed some of the effects that I taught in film lit class (during my high school teaching experience).  Placement of items, camera angles, characters' positions, dialogue, diction, gestures, non-verbal communication - all of those came to mind as I watched the movie.

Sidney Poitier is a superb actor, bringing the character of Walter Lee to life.  When I researched his life a bit, I found that he is now 86.  Wow.  Even though he is not best known for his portrayal of the Younger son in this play, he does give a significant performance.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Getting started!

I have to admit that I am not too tech savvy. I have several blogs, and I have been blogging for quite a while. However, putting together this blog for the class was a trial and error process, plus it was very frustrating. I hope that my students are more adept at creating a blog and will eventually enjoy the midterm and final project---blogging!

As you can see by the title, this is the fifth blog of this type--Pods of Thought #5. One semester we tried the blog feature on Blackboard, but it was less than desirable format for the type of project I wanted for the class. The reason we tried that medium was for a student who was not permitted by law to post in a blog type format; otherwise, he would be arrested. I think we could have limited the viewers of the blogs to just those in our class, but he didn't want to take that chance; therefore, neither did I.

Blogging can be fun. Blogging can be tedious. My hope is that all of the students enjoy the process and find this type of activity conducive to sharing thoughts and ideas about the literature we are reading, as well as creating some of their own pieces (don't panic--not required to share original work!). With that---start to blog! Follow the instructions given. Play with the Blog creation process. Share ideas. Check the blogs of other students.

Have fun!

  Blog on!