Um… so what did I say, exactly?

(Presentation on “The Management of Grief”)

It’s hard to feel satisfied with a 20 minute presentation when you have a 5-page lesson plan. As an infrequent speech writer, I would never expect someone I write for to be able to cover that amount of information in such a short time… and yet, even though I knew going in just how much I could not cover in the timeframe, I still feel disappointed at all the things I could not cover.

Also on the subject of time. As JJ and Francois and others have mentioned, I was a little surprised at the level of interaction from the class. Although, I do want to thank all of you who did jump in and apologize for cutting off our discussion, I think this (having to cut the discussion short), actually, was the problem for those of us surprised at the lack of engagement. It takes time for a room to build up to interaction, and 20 minutes just isn’t enough to walk through a lesson plan and allow for “students” to reach a level of conversation that really digs in and feels satisfying to a “teacher.” I had not thought about that in advance, thus another disappointment with my presentation. If I were to go back and do it over, I think I would have cut the pre-read exercise in order to really try out the reader response exercise and allow us to spend a little more time on discussion that explored the actual text. That activity was also the most questionable for me, and I would like a better idea of how it works in a classroom.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have a bit of social anxiety (Thus the turtle neck, because my chest/neck tend to turn a highly fluorescent pink and I often have people asking if I’m okay, which only makes me turn an even brighter shade) and my nerves get so cranked up about speaking in front of people that I have a hard time remembering what I said when I am finished. I trust this will get better if I ever get in front of a class on a regular basis. That said, I don’t think I really explained why I wanted to tie into the Amy Tan piece. This was because Tan and Mukherjee seem to have very different perspectives on heritage and multiculturalism. While Tan’s story is about reconnecting with one’s heritage, Mukherjeee’s is about leaving (at least some of) it behind and creating one’s own path. Together, I think they could strike a balance and hopefully spark an interesting dialogue on how we develop our identities.

As promised, I will post or email my plan and writing prompts. Clearly, I chose to focus on the themes of culture and identity, but as I hope I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, I find this to be a very rich story. One thing I don’t like about my teaching plan is that it doesn’t allow students to explore some of the other issues that may be more compelling to them. This is part of the problem with such precise goals/objectives created by the teacher. If I want my students to take away a cultural lesson, I am forcing them down that path at the exclusion of others. I’m not sure that is really what I want to do. For example, I chose the piece because I really connected with the grief aspect. I lost 5 relatives while I was in college, including my father. It was a very formative experience to have at that stage in my life. But I would not want to force that theme on a classroom as some students may not have experiences to draw on and others may have experiences that are too fresh to be appropriate or fair to tap into in a classroom setting. But I would want to encourage them to explore that theme if it were the most compelling to them. As such, I may offer students a third choice for the creative writing assignment: to come up with their own assignment, as long as it in some way responds to the text.

So given that I can’t remember what I actually got out of my mouth or how things went, you’ll have to let me know (and don’t be afraid to be honest; although if it’s too harsh, maybe send me an email instead of posting it here). If I start doing this on a regular basis, I may have to record myself. =)

Any comments, suggestions, criticism, brilliant ideas I didn’t think of?

Thoughts on Presentation and advice concerning bears

It’s interesting. My rehearsal process for presentations is generally similar to my writing process. I rewrite–or in this case, re-rehearse over and over–in such a way that I’m comfortable with how things begin, but I run into problems as they progress. I had a great many ideas that I wanted to reconcile into an overall thesis, perhaps too many; it felt more scattered-brained than I’d hoped. But I believe I conveyed the general ideas well enough.And I was also charming. Humble too.I spent the presentation trying to keep in mind the inherent connection between high and low-minded fare. After all, it’s been said that the only difference between tragedy and comedy is the music. Show a scene where a young girl is stalked by a chainsaw-wielding maniac, throw in some menacing, ambient music, and you have a tense scene. Throw in calliope music and you have absurdity, a situation wherein the character fails to realize her nightmare is actually grist for the audience’s sense of humor.

This theory extends to composition as well. Consider one of the short stories presented in class, O’ Flaherty’s “The Sniper;” it ends with the chilling comment “Then the sniper turned over the dead body and looked into his brother’s face,” which, if taken for comedic effect, could almost seem like a punch line. How often has something similar happened in a soap opera (“You don’t understand, Dirk! You can’t kill Logan! He’s your long-lost brother!”)

My point, I suppose, is that this stuff is not hard to write, nor are jokes of an oral tradition hard to convey, as long as they are approached from the proper standpoint. Though the emotional impact is often marginalized, it still exists at the fringes of the text, and can be surreptitiously approached in a way that avoids the author’s initial hesitance to tackle dramatic storytelling–which any author, student or otherwise, always worries is beyond their capabilities as a writer. Indeed, they often find it beyond their capabilities as a reader of text, which is why they often consider deeper interpretation to be pointless.

“We Can Get Them for You Wholesale,” superficially, is an elaborate comic set piece, but it’s also a condemnation of the Costco-ification of American capitalism, and the marginalization of the human condition in a world where the ethics of right and wrong are replaced with fiscal responsibility (and possibility). In such a way, the final page is not just the culmination of a clever comic conceit, but also a memorable and discomfiting epiphany of sorts.

My idea was that certain texts lend themselves to being experienced almost as a performance, most specifically those that have connections with oral folklore. And, considering many of the ideas we’ve gone over in class up to this point–popcorn readings, interactive groups, reading texts as plays–it seemed like a good idea to choose a text which lent itself to those aspects.

In retrospect, I should’ve placed it within the context of those ideas: Blau’s most specifically. I also failed to place the presentation within a theoretical context overall. Although there were shades of Graff in the presentation (combating indifference and self-doubt, in writing and interpretation), it was mostly general. Even still, I suppose I was pleased.

This class has been enjoyable. I certainly hope I see those of you still enrolled around campus in the future. As for everyone else, Vaya con dios and all of that.

Also, additional advice: never hug a bear; they don’t like it.

It went so fast…

Giving my presentation was sort of fun in a way, but it was difficult as well.  I had a plan.  In my living room, the presentation went smoothly; twenty minutes, start to finish.  When I got to school, I practiced in the empty classroom.  The presentation went perfectly.  The thing that I did not account for was the nervousness.  I knew I would be a little nervous, that is why I practiced.  In the end, though, I did not account for the fact that my brain would go blank as soon as I started, that everything would become muddled in my brain for a few minutes.  It was weird, because the befuddlement lasted for only a few minutes, but it threw everything out of kilter in a way.  It took a while to recover and then I felt rushed.  In reality, there was no rush.  There was time.  It all came out in the end.  I think that in the future, this experience will pay dividends, because I will account for an initial nervousness, a winded feeling, and give myself time within the timing of the lesson to settle down.  I will expect a rough start and just relax into it and wait for it to dissipate rather than being all stressed out about it.  It was a good experience all in all. 

 I think that my plan was good, the packet came out exactly as I had hoped.  I think that because I have never had to plan a lesson or execute a lesson, the timing was the most difficult part.  Facing people in a real situation was difficult as well, but once the jitters left me, it was all good.  Thanks to everyone who joined in and contributed to the lesson.  That participation was very helpful.  The fact that the packet worked out as I had planned that it would, as it did for me when I did my own analysis, was very important to me. 

 All of the lessons that we have learned in this class seem to be effective.  I think that what they do best is to give the student confidence, as they did for me.  I know now that I can take these exercises and use them with students and on my own for my own benefit or to complete an initial analysis before creating a lesson plan.  It has been a confidence builder to struggle through this class, to acquire the teaching strategies, to apply them to my own analysis for this lesson plan and in the development of this lesson plan.  I think that in the end, the fact that I could develop a plan like this is proof that they work.

Also, I’m glad to have been a member of this group.  You guys all made it fun.   

A Difficult Play

I knew my presentation was going to be tough because I chose a fifty-page play (Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard) for the primary source.  In retrospect, choosing something a little shorter would have been more helpful for class interaction.  I had planned to elaborate on the strategies for handling some of the difficulty plot points regarding the inaction of the characters.  During the discussion of these difficulties, I was aiming for the class to develop some ideas to overcome these challenges.  There wasn’t enough time for this activity or a great deal of interaction.  I expected the time constraints, but the clock closed in fast nonetheless.

The selection of The Cherry Orchard was primarily based on my familiarity with another of Chekhov’s dramas (Three Sisters).  As an undergraduate, reading this play was difficult and confusing.  Why were characters not acting?  The professor providing a straightforward lecture, and the tests required the class to simply repeat the lecture in essay form.  As a result, I never really thought of the play as anything but dark tragedy dealing with economics.  The play I chose for the presentation has economic themes, but that doesn’t explain some of the strange noises or scenes in each Act.  In the presentation I wanted to convey how the class would tackle these strange occurrences and still create meaning.  To that extent, I think the project looks successful.

Another issue was the first half of the presentation.  Originally, I was going to split the group in two halves, one working on a pure summary and one on a character analysis.  Then the two sides would have to figure out what was really going on in the play.  There wasn’t a whole lot of time for that, and the play’s length was an obvious hurdle.

One more deficiency in the presentation was the linking of some of the theoretical elements (Elbow, Blau, Scholes) to the project.  Many of the other presenters did an excellent job connecting these theorists and teachers to their own work.  On that front, I could have done a far more explicit job pointing out how the activities related to the course readings.  In many cases, the class interaction mimicked the theory, but I didn’t point it out.  Specifically, the readings from Teaching The Elements and Pleasures of Difficulty were particularly helpful in their discussion of challenging texts.  

On the bright side, the class picked up on the feeling of inaction, or as JJ pointed out, the unsympathetic nature of the characters.  Along with the confusing cultural implications involving the names, the inactivity in the play related to my own interpretation concerning nihilism.  More importantly, the class was eager to dissect some of the problems they encountered with the drama.  In teaching undergraduates, the difficulty paper is a great way to help students develop the confidence and tools necessary for challenging literature.  When I teach the reading course this fall at the community level, I plan to incorporate both reflections and difficulty papers into the coursework. 

This had been an enjoyable and worthwhile semester.  Many of the strategies and tools we covered in this class will find their way into some of my teaching.  


I Wish I’d Ended with More Razzmatazz

My presentation in class went pretty much as I’d hoped. I was pleased that my mother’s lessons to me as a child seemed to engage the class so well at the start of my presentation. I like to start my lessons with something dramatic like that whenever I can. (I generally avoid saying, “Today we’re going to….” or “Let’s pick up with….” or “OK class….” as the first words out of my mouth.) I was also pleased to hear the advice/lessons of our classmates who shared what their parents/guardians told them as children. I think we can all relate to the messages we were taught as kids. That’s why that seemed to me to be a great way to enter the world of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl”. Even though the girl in the story receives different advice than any of us probably had, we can all relate to basic premise of the story; we were all children once and our parents had things to say to us.

Technology is not my friend, so I wasn’t surprised at all that I couldn’t get my daughter’s boom box to play the song I had selected for the class. The song I did play was OK but the other one I had chosen was better for my purposes. (My selection was in English and Antigua is an English-speaking country. Also, the song I had selected was more clearly a Caribbean piece. It is by the same artist who did Hot, Hot, Hot.) But, I’m glad I marched on. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to go on with the show when things don’t work as you’d hoped, especially when technology is concerned. Teachers always need Plan B, right?

One thing I wish I’d done differently is that I’d probably have told the class Cornell’s story as I would in an actual teaching situation (rather than just telling about the technique as I did). When teaching the lesson I would unfold Cornell’s story bit by bit with a storyteller’s flair. I’d tell my classmates that once there was a beautiful young African American boy named Cornell who grew up in a very poor neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. I’d describe the neighborhood and how dangerous it was for Cornell to grow up there. I’d tell: how Cornell worked like crazy to earn a place in the science and tech magnet school, how he had one teacher at that school who identified Cornell’s talent and helped him apply to a predominantly white prep school in rural Massachusetts (to get him away from gangs in his neighborhood), how Cornell won a scholarship to that school, went there, and graduated with honors, how he won a scholarship at Carlton college, how he spent junior year in Germany and became fluent in German, how he put himself through law school after he graduated doing all sorts of jobs – DJ, temp work, modeling, working in an improv troupe, playing the trumpet, being featured in a national Coke commercial. (The campaign was “A Coke and a Smile” and Cornell was the smile.) I’d tell how Cornell went on to become a high-level consultant with the CIA. I’d tell Cornell’s whole story like that building and building before I’d reveal that the story is true and that Cornell is my husband. That way the story would have big impact, I think. (There’s my love of the dramatic again.)

I was perhaps too mindful of my 20-minute time limit and rushed through this part of the presentation. But, at least I do think my classmates got the gist of what I would be trying to accomplish in telling my husband’s remarkable story. Rule of thumb from my days on the seminar circuit: Start and end strong. I started my presentation strong but my ending could have had a lot more razzmatazz. Next time I’ll remember that. — Laura

Reflection on Teaching Presentation

Well, I have to start off by saying that I wish I hadn’t been so careless with my time. I knew that I was going to be pushing my luck with only a 20 minute presentation to explain how I would teach what has turned into about a 2 1/2 hour lesson. However, I didn’t want to just stand up at the front of the room and lecture to everyone about what I would do I wanted to get people involved a little bit, but in doing so I didn’t really get the opportunity to really get into the meat and potatoes of the lesson and the assessment components. Basically, I chose this story for this final project because I felt like we had already covered the more interesting stories in our class readings, but also because I truly enjoy Alexie’s work and I wanted to explore the possiblility of teaching some of his short stories. Because of the timing with this project and finishing up the teaching of Ceremony I received a lot of good feedback about what my students wanted in the way of background information, and the parallels between “Indian Education” and those elements the students indicated. Additionally, “Indian Education” is great for studing inferences because with each reading you find yourself asking ‘why?’, then you read and come up with an answer, but you also find another question. Which leads to another aspect of the story, it truly encourages re-reading and demonstrates the benefits of employing this strategy.
In addition to running short on time, I was kind of surprised that the encounter story did not generate more discussion, but I guess that’s what happens when you put a bunch of English majors in the same room. Really, this does work with high school students and I’ve seen it work well with Education majors…you know the culturally insensitive ones.
I enjoyed the opportunity of preparing this lesson and found it to be very valuable because I see myself employing it next year as an introduction to Ceremony. It has been great seeing how everyone would use the strategies that we learned in class, and I have enjoyed all of your insights and comments as we have worked through the course work. Best of luck to each of you.

Slaying the Jabberwocky of Textual Difficulty

Throughout the semester, I have been interested in the pedagogy of difficult texts.  One of the reasons I chose “Jabberwocky” for my final textual analysis paper and lesson plan was because of its assumed nonsensical meaning.  I had read the poem as a child in Alice in Wonderland and had analyzed it with a group of fourth graders when I worked as a reading assistant.  The fourth graders and I translated the first stanza into sensible English via Carroll’s coinages.  The students enjoyed the exercise and found Carroll’s language play amusing, but they were probably beyond confused with Carroll’s ability to twist word meaning into a translatable text.  Could they have constructed similar gibberish on their own?  Surely.  Could they have interpreted Carroll’s meaning without the definitions he provided?  Probably not, and this fact supports why Carroll’s writing never requires interpretation.

The allure of “Jabberwocky” comes from its ability to seem nonsensical while standing up to syntactical analysis at the same time.  Young readers love Carroll because he does not explain away the magic of his writing; literary critics love Carroll because he shows meaning through his textual riddles.  Only through Carroll’s additional characters and informational texts will the reader gain access to the meaning behind his language play.   

Carroll provides a literal translation of Jabberwocky in a letter to the Girls’ Latin School in Boston: “ ‘the Anglo-Saxon word ‘wocer’ or ‘wocor’ signifies ‘offspring’ or ‘fruit.’  Taking ‘jabber’ in its ordinary acceptation of ‘excited and voluble discussion,’ this would give the meaning of ‘the result of much excited discussion’” (The Annotated Alice 195).  Carroll’s mystical creature exists to promote “excited discussion.” Any reader or critic of Carroll’s writing must agree that his “nonsensical” poetry does exactly that. 

Reflection on Presentation

I am very happy to have done this teaching presentation.  I plan to teach literature, so this project helped me visualize what a literature classroom would be.  I used to think teaching literature can’t be that difficult.  I would think that as long as you knew the text pretty well, you could teach it.  Of course our lesson on novice and expert readers did remind me that teaching a subject is different than knowing it.  But in practice, it was much more difficult than I thought.  I learned that I need to be better prepared and have back up plans and activities for when lessons don’t go as I had planned. 

In teaching Hills like White Elephants I realized that I should have reviewed the story before the group presentations.  Initially I had planned to have the groups give their presentations, and then move on to a class discussion about the story.  But after my lesson I realized that many students needed clarification about the story itself.  It would have been good to review the story before the presentations.  Perhaps have students volunteer to act out the characters.  The story was in dialogue format, so we could have had one student be the girl, another would be the man, and a third the narrator.  After the story was read, I would ask if students had any questions about the text itself.  And once that had been settled, students could begin their group work and presentations.

With the quiz, I hope I didn’t make it seem as if I was a tough teacher.  The intention was to warm up students to the day’s activities.  Taking quizzes in a literature classroom was not my favorite.  In fact I have had my share of poor quizzes in English.  However, I found those short quizzes to be very effective and motivating when combined with ways to make up for poor quizzes.  Students do not feel as stressed when they know their pop quiz will not determine their final grade, but it motivates them to read the reading assignment.  I am interested to know other opinions on that matter.     

In general, this session is an introduction to the story, and its purpose is to help students learn the story.  The follow-up sessions would focus more closely on point of view and the relation of setting to the plot. 

Thanks everyone for participating.

Wear a white shirt

As previously said by others, though comfortable teaching in front of students,  I knew I’d be nervous in front of my peers and with nervousness comes unwanted perspiration; so I put much thought into what fabric and color shirt to wear.

With regard to my presentation, I felt it went well overall.  I did trip over my tongue a few times and my word choices may not have been the best due to my nervousness.  For instance, the reason I didn’t share what I had written was because by doing so would break the theme that Leana wrote about, which I said, but not clearly. I felt her story would segue better into the next activity of memorable comments from our adolescence, which Tan’s narrator does.

I also neglected to say that because student populations can be quite diverse in this area, I would expect students to use their cultural knowledge (whether social, political, or cultural) to better relate to the story. This personal knowledge could be an invitation for discussion.  Also, it m ay not have been obvious that circumstances mentioned in the story such as the mother’s actions of abandoning her babies could lead to debate if some students viewed the act as cruelty versus necessity.

In Norton, Tan’s story is used to illustrate setting, which I didn’t mentioned either in my presentation or lesson plan. To me, though it did provide an example of setting, I chose to focus on the human and cultural connections. In a classroom, I could briefly examine the setting. Also, I know from experience that setting is discussed in depth during third and fourth grades.

Thank you to those who participated. I look forward to your comments/suggestions.


More time….

            I felt that my presentation went well. I think it was hard because I wanted so badly to take more time and discuss people’s responses. I really could have gone on a lot longer and had to cut myself off. I just feel that getting into that discussion and really sharing ideas would have made my presentation better.  I also wanted to spend some more time looking at the tone change through the characterization of the sniper. I wanted to do that by pulling certain examples of direct and indirect characterization from each page and have students (the class) look at how he (the sniper) evolved or didn’t evolve. I probably would have allotted twenty or more minutes just for that discussion.

            I wish I could have played my CD because I think listening to Bono’s voice and the urgency and tone of “Bloody Sunday” would have helped the class get into the concept of war and what it can do to societies. At times I felt nervous and hoped that people would volunteer answers. I guess the only thing that made me nervous was the potential sound of silence when I asked people for their responses. In my classes this year I have such a wonderful group of kids who often fight with each other to be called on, but I’m glad some people stepped up and shared their answers. I tried my best to treat the class as I do my students. I often circulate and even read what my students are writing to maybe ask some follow-up questions or ask for clarification. I find that I discuss a lot in my English classes. We sit in a circle each period and really discuss difficulties and concepts. I feel that this year I was spoiled with such small classes, so teaching ours was a bit daunting. I’m so used to a laid back group communication that it sort of felt weird teaching to a group of people I didn’t know as well. 

            I really enjoyed my presentation overall. I wasn’t super nervous, but rather wondering if the class would actually discuss because I don’t know the class as well as I know my own students. I have been teaching for seven years so maybe that’s why I didn’t feel as nervous as others did. I also wish I brought the students letter samples with me. They were too cute and really felt empathy for the sniper, even though he killed a woman, a solider and another sniper. I think I just wished there was more time. I guess I feel that my presentation would have been better if I had more time.

And then there was the sweating…

One thing I have really appreciated about this class is the fact that so many of you are teachers—and experienced teachers at that. In class discussions, whether we’re dissecting literary theory, analyzing a poem, or lamenting the state of the educational system, I’ve personally benefited from hearing the perspective of people who work or have worked in the classroom.

As Ginny, Jennifer, Renee, and others have pointed out, teaching kids and presenting to your peers are two very different things. Most everyone who has posted has commented on the anxiety provoked by this presentation. My experience was no different. I was so nervous, my hands were shaking…not being able to turn off the projector only heightened my anxiety…and then there was the sweating…

I am typically not a nervous person. Public speaking has never bothered me. At work and as a volunteer, I’ve led trainings in which I’ve trained other trainers. So why so nervous now?

My nervousness was caused in part by the main issues others have identified: the artificiality of the presentation (not quite teaching, not quite presenting) and presenting a lesson plan to a group of peers who could no doubt teach my lesson better than me.

In addition to these issues, however, I also experienced a lot of general anxiety about the basic nature of the assignment—not the logistics of the presentation, but the actual creation of the lesson plan. As I’ve pointed out many times in various posts and in class, I’ve never taught children. I’ve never prepared a lesson plan. I’ve never taken a single class from the education school. In fact, this class is the first class I’ve taken that even discussed pedagogy. Even with all we discussed this semester, I still felt unprepared to create my own lesson plan—unqualified even.

I suppose it sounds like I’m complaining: “Woe is me, I have no experience and this assignment isn’t FAIR!!!” To be honest, there is a part of me that feels that way. At the same time, I learned a lot from this assignment. It may not have shown during my presentation, but I put a lot of time and research into the structure of my lesson. I had a plan for how I would present, but once I was up there, I felt so out of place, that I only glossed over activities that I put a lot of thought into planning. The dissection of the fairytale, especially, fell flat during my presentation. I think this is something kids would get into, if only because it validates their pres-existing knowledge. Additionally, several activities (the prewrite, for instance) depended on people NOT having read Marquez’s story already.

Despite these snags, I actually really liked the lesson plan I wrote up. If I were to present again, I would have handed out copies of my lesson plan so that everyone could better follow my thought-process. I also would have spent more time adjusting my presentation to work in this classroom (a class full of peers, rather than students). I felt kind of silly walking through activities designed for children in front of a class full of graduate students…I think this feeling was apparent from the way I rushed through many of my planned activities.

In short, there’s a first time for everything. I consider this a learning experience.


OK, so I forgot a couple of things–at least it wasn’t my name. Here are the things:

I would have had students summarize the Parker poem before starting it to ensure they had a basic understanding of it before beginning the analysis process. I like the suggestion that a couple of people used in their presentations about identifying words in the initial reading process that students might not understand. If I were to try this lesson in a classroom, this is something I would add. I can’t find my books right now, but I think it was Scholes that was advocating for an initial reading with the sole intention of understanding the text before starting the analysis process. I think this would be particularly important in a classroom setting where students can have a wide variety of levels of vocabulary, textual knowledge, etc.

The other piece was at the end. When I was up there hemming and hawing, staring at my paper, saying that I felt like I was forgetting something, well, I was. And, yes, I had it written down, but unfortunately that signage which, when I wrote it actually came together for me as words and phrases, when standing in front of the class only appeared as letters and odd symbols that simply frustrated me as I looked at them. So…I had also built into my evaluative exercise a short paragraph for students to write and explain why they chose either the difficulty paper or the minor character response and what they felt was helpful or not about the assignment they selected. Just as we have been doing this semester, I would want my students to be cognizant of their thoughts and decisions and I think this would be a good, quick way to have them reflect on that.

So other than the beginning and the end, and the repeating myself a lot, I think, I’m OK with it. People seemed to be talking which was good. I couldn’t tell if they were really trying my assignments or just discussing whether they wanted to take Post Modernism next spring, but I would be curious to know. I don’t have the opportunity to try out my lesson anywhere else, so you all are it. I would like to know if it might work, if it would be better with modifications, if there’s no hope whatsoever—please let me know. -Jancy

Presentation Reflection: Cask of Amontillado

I want to agree with the points that say that it is quite different and difficult to get in front of your peers. 9th graders don’t intimidate me, but my peers do. Many of you have so many more years of teaching  – on all kinds of levels, too – than I do. I know 9th graders can’t do my job better than I can, but I know that many of you could.

On the whole, I think that my presentation went pretty well given the circumstances. The only thing I wish that I had done differently would be to connect the opening writing activity a little better at the end. I ran out of time before getting to really talk about the ending. I kept forgetting to incorporate the teaching explanations in there. I wasn’t worried about the presentation going into it, but I hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be to teach and explain why I was doing what I was doing at the same time. I also over-planned, so there were a lot of things that I wanted to talk about that I didn’t get to do.

I was really glad for the variety of examples from funny to serious, and the participation that was given. There was one more activity I had hoped to get to or at least be able to discuss, which tied in with the last activity. We would have a conversation about the fact that this story seems to be a confession, but we don’t know to whom. I wanted to talk about how the class would discuss that, and then how different opinions would come out of that. After we’d discussed the irony and the narration, I would have students write from another character’s point of view – perhaps from Fortunato’s, but even other characters who are mentioned but never actually show up in the story (Lady Fortunato, Luchesi, the servants, etc.). Alternately they could write from the point of view of the person who is hearing Montresor’s confession – is it a person, a diary, a child, a spouse, a random person that he is telling? And WHY is he telling it? Is he guilty, dying, proud, etc.? There is so much to discuss with this story that it’s impossible to cram it all (with explanations) into 20 minutes. But overall, aside from the aforementioned nerves and the speed-talking I seem to make a habit of when giving presentations, I felt like it went pretty okay.

Thoughts on Teaching Presentations

Thank you all so much for the continuing thoughts, reflections, and comments on the first round of teaching presentations.  We’ve generated a tremendous amount of productive conversation on this blog over the course of the semester, and this week was no exception. There was a shared anxiety about the teaching presentations that I had wanted to address here, but Edith already did it very nicely:

There seems to be a recurring theme here: I should have done this, It wasn’t the lesson I wanted to teach. Because there is this repetition, I don’t feel so bad saying the same thing again. THIS WAS NOT A REAL CLASS AND THIS WAS VERY HARD TO DO.
We were actually asked to do two things at once: both teach a class and explain why we did what we are doing.

Edith is exactly right here. I am asking you to do two things at once: to teach a lesson and to explain at the same time why you’re doing it.

I recognize that this is extraordinarily difficult. As if teaching weren’t hard enough already, I’m asking you to “go meta” in the actual process of it. What we need is some sort of VH1-style pop-up bubbles to annotate yourself. This is why I’m fascinated with Karen’s idea to film her lesson. If we had enough time and resources, we’d have everyone film themselves teaching, and then annotate the footage with the explanations and rationales that I’m asking you to give during the presentation. It’d be a refinement of the “think aloud” videos from early in the semester. Except instead of a think aloud, it’d be a “teach aloud.”

The value of this very blog space is that it lets us come close to this annotated presentation. We can use the blog reflections to say what didn’t work or what we had wanted to do in an ideal world, but it’s also important to think through what did work, given the strange nature of the teaching presentation, the 20 minute time limit, and the other artificial constraints. And in general — and I think you’ve all recognized this in your reflections — there was a lot that did work, or at the very least, a lot that gestured to what would work in a real classroom. (Not that ours isn’t a real classroom, but you know what I mean.)

Keep up the good work.

Being Better

I second Ginny’s apprehension when teaching her peers and her comfort when teaching children. Though I battle anxiety when presenting in front of my colleagues, I feel I have learned how to mask my fear fairly well. However, when I speak, I still feel that I lack the fluidity of thought that I have in my writing. I have always felt that I can better express myself in writing than in any other form.

My main criticism of my presentation was that I wanted to communicate the “sense” behind what critics and readers of Lewis Carroll refer to as “nonsense” poetry, but I’m not sure if I did. Though the time restrictions inhibited me from an in-depth analysis of “Jabberwocky,” I tried to show, instead of tell, how “nonsense” could make sense. I do not feel that the text required background knowledge of Carroll’s coinages, and I tried to make this evident through the first exercise (writing a stanza with the eleven coined words in the first stanza of “Jabberwocky”). The stanzas that the class created seemed to follow the form that Carroll had anticipated—with the “nonsense” parts of speech fitting into their correct syntactical places. I wondered whether Carroll’s theory would prove true. It seems, for some classmates at least, that it did.

Also, if I would have thought my presentation out a bit more thoroughly—impossible being the procrastinator that I am—I would not have supplied the class with a copy of “Jabberwocky” the week before my presentation. I think that my activities would have worked better had I provided only the first stanza of “Jabberwocky” for the first two exercises, or better yet, perhaps I should have provided only the eleven “nonsense” coinages.

As a sixth-year teacher, I have found reflecting on my lessons helps tremendously when planning for future lessons or improving upon old lessons. I suggest that anyone (myself included) who feels that they could have taught better should remember the purpose of self-reflection—to better oneself for future endeavors.


It was nice to watch the presentations because I got a lot of ideas from people. I really liked Jennifer’s presentation. I think it works great with a secondary school audience. I don’t teach elementary school, but it would probably go over well there too. I was completely into the activity and I learned a lot. I never read it before and to me, knowing the background of Lewis Carrol and his notes about the meaning of the words helped me understand where he was coming from. We have had the debate of background knowledge vs. non-background and I think knowing this knowledge helped me understand the work better. It was a very fun activity and I think that’s important when teaching kids. It’s all about keeping them engaged. Nicely done!

Reflection on “Barbie Doll” Presentation

Like Naomi, I also felt a little bit out of my element presenting a lesson as I had taught it, and probably would teach it in the future, without actually teaching it. I wasn’t sure how much emphasis to place on the why behind my choices as opposed to the methods/activities themselves. Looking back, it seems that I spent most of my twenty minutes explaining the activities and just a few minutes explaining my rationale. My goal was to share what I think is an effective way of teaching “Barbie Doll” with my classmates, but I don’t think that my presentation really met that goal.

My original idea had been to video tape my “run-through” of the lesson with my colleagues AP literature class. I wanted to then edit the film into a ten or fifteen minute showcase of the strategies I used in the classroom, and use the rest of my presentation time to explain why I chose certain activities and share some reflections with our class. Because I was unable to recruit my film student/cameraman early enough, I was unable to follow through with this plan. If I were asked to do a similar presentation again, I would make sure to plan the filming ahead of time. I think the film would have much more clearly and quickly demonstrated the results I wanted to share about my lesson.

Though creating the lesson and writing the plan itself was a very useful activity for me, I don’t feel like the presentation was as much of a success. I don’t feel like I clearly expressed my intentions or gave a clear idea of how much time and effort I had spent developing and revising my plans. I think it would have been more successful if I had made copies of the plans and handouts to give to all of my classmates, so that they could look back over the entire lesson after class. For those students who did do that, I feel like that was very helpful; it helped me fill in the blanks for those items we didn’t have time to cover during the presentation.

Drawing Conclusions…

I don’t know what it is with me. Like I mentioned at the start of my presentation, give me a room full of kids and I’m fine – dynamic, charismatic, dramatic, passionate about my subject matter. But give me a room full of my peers and I clam up. My (psychologist) husband says I sabotage myself with feelings of inadequacy. In some respects he is right, as I have always feared the judgment of others – that I won’t measure up to the rest of the group or even to my own expectations. Regardless of the reason, though, my nervousness always seems to get the better of me. Why reveal all of this personal analysis in my reflection? Simple – my trepidation hampered my ability to express myself as well as I would have liked. This is not to say I am completely unhappy with the way my presentation went, but there are several things I wish I had done differently, and probably would have done differently, if I were not so nervous about giving the presentation:

  1. I used too much time giving the pedagogical theory behind the lesson. I could have stated it in a few sentences, but my Writing Project training coupled with an intense desire to express the purpose of the lesson drove me to overly rely on theory. The result? Less time on hands-on activities.
  2. I stood behind the desk too much, creating a wall between me and the rest of the class.
  3. I relied on my notes a lot, even though I would have been fine without them. I feared I would misspeak and not explain things well enough. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened because I was so focused on my notes.
  4. We didn’t get to discuss “A Rose for Emily” because I ran out of time (see number 1). I would have liked to see and hear how my classmates communicated Emily’s destruction at the hands of the very ideology to which she clung.
  5. We didn’t get to discuss the merits of using alternative learning strategies in a literature classroom, nor did I get to hear from the class their thoughts on the lesson’s ability to help a student connect real life to classroom study (again, see number 1).

The presentation wasn’t a total loss, though:

  1. I was able to try out a lesson I had never done in a classroom setting, and it was good to see that, though my explanation of what we were doing was a little convoluted, people got the general idea.
  2. My classmates highlighted elements of the illustrations in Olivia which I had never noticed before (such as the contrast between Olivia as a pig and the dancer on her wall as a human).
  3. I was able to share a children’s story I enjoy and I believe I read it in an entertaining manner.
  4. I had a good handout which I am confident explained the course of the lesson much better than I did during my presentation.
  5. I was able to remind myself that, when faced with a 20 minute time limit, I should get to the heart of the matter and not focus so much on theory.

Overall, the teaching presentation was as much a learning experience for me as I hope it was for everyone else. I’ll know better what to do next time and be able to face the situation with less anxiety and more conviction.


Reflecting on Teaching Presentation

The experience of teaching “To the Ladies” felt artificial to me due to the “walk-through” nature of the task coupled with the time restriction. If I were teaching a poem in a real class, I would not articulate the reasons behind the activities and discussion questions, yet these elements seemed more important to the presentation than the discussion of the poem itself. Also, I was presenting to a group of graduate school students who know a whole lot more about poetry, literary analysis, and pedagogy than I will ever know, so projecting myself into teaching mode in that situation was impossible.

I was pleasantly surprised that the class discussion included some disagreement on interpretation. Other than those moments, the presentation was flat. The simple structure and language of the poem made me think that every one would interpret it the same way. And for the most part, they did, but at least some differing perspective lent an element of interest to the discussion. Honestly, I got the feeling that the class found the poem and its discussion mundane, but at least they were cooperative participants; in a real class, I believe the students would have mentally checked out. I feel strongly that Chudleigh makes a valid point, and that if we catch her bold spirit, we can be inspired to take a stand against injustice or dare to speak out to inspire change. Even if change starts only on an individual basis, societal changes eventually can occur as more and more join a grass roots movement. I was completely unsuccessful in generating that kind of inspiration. Perhaps more time and more realistic conditions would have helped, but I do not know. Naomi

Wikis and Hypertexts, Oh My!

I’m really not sure what to say here. I recognize the value of reflection. It forces us (hopefully) to look closely at what we have done in an effort to improve or understand. The problem with this reflection is that I really like the wiki/hypertext assignment. I tried to explain, more in the paper than in class, the pedagogy that I think supports the assignment, so I guess I’ll start there.
Students learn better when they are actively involved.
Students are actively involved in the annotation, small
group discussions, and the web creation.
Collaboration encourages learning.
Collaboration is necessary to format the web page.
The discussion involved in negotiating ideas leads to deeper
Negotiation takes place when the differing ideas are
Students are more attentive when the learning is fun.
Most students view web pages and wikis as fun
Learning should be student centered
The students are responsible for their own knowledge
with only guidance from me.
Diverse opinions are valued.

I believe the assignment is pedagogically sound and helps students meet the stated objective.

Now to turn to the actual presentation. I felt very short of time. This is obviously an assignment that takes more than one class period to complete. However, I knew that when I decided on this lesson. But… I didn’t expect the time to pass as quickly as it did. I should have planned that a little better.

This is not the way that I actually teach this assignment. Though I do tell students what the goals are for an assignment, they are not usually voiced in the way that I did last night. I would not tell my students that I want them to negotiate and articulate. I would tell then to discuss and come to a workable solution, to agree to disagree.

I would have prepared the students ahead to use the technologies. These would be practiced in class. The wiki work and class discussions would take place well in advance of the due date for the assignment so that students have the time to become familiar with the web authoring. I did not make this clear last night.

I wish I had a copy of a student web page that I could have shown as an example. I used to have an absolutely beautiful one but cannot find it. (Must be that absent minded professor thing.)

Overall, I am pleased with the presentation. I made a couple of mistakes, but I think that I did explain and demonstrate the assignment.

Now I have a question for you. Should I offer an option for students who don’t want to/feel they can’t create a web page?

Please make lots of comments/suggestions!