1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Friday, February 12, 2016

If I Teach English

The Sum of All Fears

You assign it, you read it
Reading literature requires writing about it on the part of students. That is fitting and just. Striking the right balance between helping students write intelligently and keeping a manageable workload is essential. I've bumped into teachers (or their stacks of essays, see above) who assign enormous writing projects. I think to myself, "Will this teacher ever find the time to attentively read all of that?"

Understanding literature requires conversation about its meaning. Both for assessment but more importantly for the good of the students. This is where Shared Inquiry/Socratic Seminars come into play. Based on what I've seen of class sizes and my prior experience with classes of 30 (and middle school students at that), I think it is possible to divide classes into two or three groups and have productive and meaningful discussions. Not easy but not as ridiculous as trying to read reams upon reams of tired old themes!

I need to understand the correct approach to literature-as-form and literature-as-content. I'm un-apologetically a content guy. To me, what makes literature interesting is the story and ideas discovered therein. I see a lot of charts and graphic organizers in the English classes I've been in and that makes me a little uncomfortable. That is, I would not be comfortable with assigning too much about theme, genre, mood, tone, etc. Must take a look again at those content standards to see what's required versus what is commonly practiced.

The Goal 

The shape of Socratic circle
Yes, there's too much "teacher" in the photo, but this is the idea: sharing a common text together and working at understanding the meaning. 40-45 students in a classroom - is it possible to teach this way? Yes it is. 

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