New Ideas for a New Year

As I almost always do, I’m going to try a few new ideas this semester and see how they work.  They mainly center around hearing more student voices, especially in my literature classes, where students have still been able to hide.

First, in my U.S. Literature survey, I’m going to have students do a bit of the teaching.  I’ve been wanting to add this component to classes for some time, but I’ve struggled to do so because of the size of the classes.  I have 17 for the spring (as of now), so having each student teach would take way too much time.  Instead, I’m going to have them teach in groups of 2 or 3.  Given that they’ll be leading the class for 20-30 minutes, each student should still do a good deal of teaching.

I’m going to let the groups choose a story or poem to teach, and they’re going to be in charge of the class for that time period.  Since it’s not an education class, I’m not grading them on their pedagogy; instead, I’ll focus much more on their preparation.  I want to see what kind of research they’ve done, so they go beyond just reading the story and asking some questions.  I will have a number of education majors in the class, though, so it will also give them good experience.

In my core literature class, I’m going to do more small group discussions that lead into the larger group discussion.  I haven’t ever felt the need to do that in this class, as I always have classes that contribute.  However, as I’ve paid more attention, I realize that there are students who go the entire semester without contributing anything to the discussion.  I want to make sure that doesn’t happen this semester.  I want to hear every student’s voice, so I’m going to make sure that happens.

I’m not doing anything dramatic in my composition course.  I’ve rearranged the structure of the class to have one day per week focused on our theme (identity) and one day focused on writing itself instead of the combination of the two I tried last semester.  If I have the time and motivation, I’m thinking of making short videos focused on grammar and writing for them to watch, but I’m not sure if that will happen or not.  I don’t know that the students will use them, and they’ll be a bit of a time investment.  Of course, once I do them for the first time, they’ll be good for years, so I might see if I can at least do a few to see how they go.

I’ll comment on how some of these ideas are going throughout the year, I’m sure.  I’m looking forward to hearing what students have to say this semester.  They always surprise me with some great comments, so finding ways for them to talk more should only make that happen more often.

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