Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Notes On Teaching Literature

Once upon a time, I taught a literature/writing class once a week through a homeschool co-op. I loved it, discovered my love of teaching there, and got very positive feedback (from both parents and students)(although now that I think about it,  parents stressed me out then, too!). I taught for two years (or was it three?) and only stopped when the co-op shut down. It was invaluable in terms of the experience ggained and the lessons learned, far from least of which was the concept of breaking big skills into smaller "bites." I look back at my lesson plans, the teaching materials I designed (I was on a shoestring budget so everything - handouts, tests and quizzes, assignments, etc - I created myself), and I'm still pleased with it.

But that was over five years ago,  and I'd forgotten certain things.  For instance,  how much work is involved. ;)

I've been teaching Ruth and Dari writing and literature this whole semester, and it's been challenging in ways I didn't expect. It's been a little harder to motivate them than I thought it would be. But we are finally,  blessedly down to our last two weeks of class before Christmas break,  and we're finishing up with one of my favorite pieces of lit: A Christmas Carol.

Some brief notes on what we're doing (since we've strayed very far from the syllabus at this point and I want to remember what we did):

- I typed up a short, 2 - page handout on the life of Dickens and the reception of ACC and surprisingly,  this was one of the parts of the lesson the girls liked the best! They liked that Dickens tried to affect change through his writing, and that his works were focused on working people. They LOVE reading descriptions of him reading ACC out loud, which segued nicely into our first "exploration" of the text, which was. ..

- ...Reading the first chapter (well, most of it anyway!) out loud. I expected this to be met with groans of misery, but it was met with enthusiasm, and they got more into it the more we read. We started off alternating paragraphs, then when we reached dialogue we assigned characters and a narrator. Inspired by the aforementioned descriptions of Dickens readings, we all read with as much feeling and acting as possible. We read very informally, stopping to discuss unfamiliar words or phrases as they came up, or act out parts they didn't understand.

- The writing journal assignment for this segment is pretty simple: I generated a lot of blank cluster diagrams and the girls are required to "analyze" each character using specific examples from the text to back up their claims (for instance, one of their characterizations of Scrooge could be "miserly," and the evidence for this would be that he saw Marley's death as "a bargain," only let Bob Cratchett have a single coal, and liked the dark because it was cheap). They have to re-analyze Scrooge every chapter, plus two other characters in the book.

- We'll spend two weeks discussing ACC, culminating in a trip to a nearby theater to see it performed on stage, and our final assignment will be their choice: either an essay tracing Scrooge's transformation (using their journal entries) or a reflection essay exploring the differences between the book and the staged performance. Then we're done for the semester!  :)

On the agenda for next semester: I know we're doing Animal Farm, and beyond that my plans are fluid (meaning,  I need to figure them out! ;)).

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