Feb 15th Class Reflection

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a class reflection, and that’s bad. I’m supposed to do this after every Composition & Rhetoric 203 class I teach. Without these reflections I will certainly forget any corrections or changes I want to make to my curriculum.

Today’s class consisted of: an experiment with writing responses to the homework readings and group cohesion using the Journal tool on Black Board. I’m still a little confused about how journals work on BB, and the best way to create and assign a journal. But I’m a little closer to developing a standard than I was before today’s class. I just hope my students will understand that they can create new entries in the same Journal.

I do believe I gave the students too much time to complete the response. I gave them about 25 minutes to write a personal response to the reading from Emerging: Contemporary Readings for Writers, and a reflection on the Group Project so far. 20 minutes would have been preferable. Of course, in the future these weekly responses will be homework for the Wednesday class, so I won’t have to use any more class time for responses. Hopefully, this will also encourage students to do the readings before class in anticipation of Wednesday discussions.

After the responses I played Lilly Allen’s song “The Fear” and asked students to discuss and analyze the lyrics in groups of three or four. I’m planning to use analysis activities on popular culture pieces to lead my students into a solid understanding of how to analyze a text. Afterwards, I will bridge to articles and academic texts and teach my students that they can use the same skills to read between the lines in any text.

Four of the six groups managed to start a discussion on their own, which is promising. In class discussions I find that this batch of students are on the quiet side, I believe they are self-conscious about expressing themselves in front of their peers. I walked around and checked on the groups, asking what their opinions on the meaning of the song were. Most seemed to catch on to the sarcastic tone and contradictory lines, but they weren’t always familiar with the cultural and historical allusions. I’m not surprised by such things anymore, it’s the kind of information they will probably start paying closer attention to several years from now.

I wanted to save time for the group discussion, so I had to cut the song analysis a little short, but it is definitely a project I want to repeat. Most students responded well to the song, even if they weren’t familiar with it or the artist. Next time I would like to introduce the concept and the topic in more depth, to help them understand exactly why this activity is useful for them and how they can analyze a song.

The group discussion on Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” could have been better, but it certainly wasn’t the quietest one we’ve had. I tried to use the three question technique from Reading in the Dark, but my students actually got stuck on level one: a question of fact. I asked “Was there a twitter revolution in Iraq?” I even gave them the exact location in the book where they could find the information. Only two or three students seemed to look at their books and attempt to find the answer. I tried to work it out with them, probing for any information they might have on the topic, but eventually I had to ask if anyone had read the text. Only four students raised their hand. I’m looking forward to requiring the responses as homework before discussion day. I hope the students take the readings seriously now that I have put that policy into effect.

The rest of the discussion revolved around what the phrase “the West” means, and whether or not real activism is coordinated through social media like Facebook and Twitter. One student did argue that she keeps track of activist movements through those sources and has attended events that she otherwise would not have known about. Many students seemed to think that physical flyers were an ineffective way to encourage students to participate in activism. Overall an interesting exchange by the end, even if it was marred by a lack of reading in the first place.

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