What I’ve been up to

16 01 2008

I’ve spent the last couple of days working on a project for my upcoming teaching assignment.

I stumbled across the idea for The Shakespeare Game last year when I was researching a project on using games in the English classroom. I decided, since I had a bit of spare time on my hands, to make my own board so that I could just whip it out when the time came to review the Shakespeare play I’ll be teaching.

I’ve made a board that can be used for any play. All of the blank squares are filled in with plot cards. I can or – better yet – the students can summarize the key plot points of a play we are reading on little cards and add + or – spaces for characters (based on what the plot summary is). If a player is Romeo, for example, and lands on the square “Romeo meets Juliet” (Romeo +2, Juliet +2), the player gets to move ahead two spaces. The F, C, T and P squares correspond to cards that have students analysis a figure of speech, identify the speaker of passage, example a key theme in a particular passage and paraphrase a passage correctly. I decided not to do it just for one play, but rather to a fairly blank board like this and just do the plot cards up as I teach a play and then keep those cards on file for the future.  I also made one adaptation and add a few spots with a picture of Shakespeare with a cartoon bubble.  If students land on these they have to quote something from the play we are studying.

I also decided (while I was at and the laminator was running) to make another game on the opposite. I used the same basic idea, but removed the empty plot cards and called it “The Literature Game.”

This board would work with any book, play or collection of short stories and that was precisely the idea.  I wanted to create something that I would be able to use over and over in many different contexts.

The Handy Papa jokingly asked if I was teaching kindergarten.  No, not quite.  But high school students should get to play a game or two every once and awhile, right?


What I’ve been reading….

16 09 2007

Any guesses?

If you guessed, essays you’d be right on the money.  And they aren’t of the creative non-fiction variety.  Instead, they are on the introductory essay writing course variety.

Yes, I’ve been marking and marking.  And when I finished that I did more marking.  It’s going to be quite a heavy term marking wise so I don’t know how much other reading I’ll get done.

But back to my essay reading since it is the only reading I can write about right now.  I’m always amazed at the range of papers.  You get in a lull where you have some weak ones all right in a row and then out of the blue there is quite a strong paper and then you start thinking about how, as an instructor, you are going to help and engage these two very different groups of students and how they even ended up in the same class.  This term in fact it seems that range is much wider than I’ve ever worked with before.  And it concerns me and I feel like I started things a bit backwards.  Not really my choice, more the way the course has been set up and I need to try and navigate that a bit better, I think.

So that’s what I’ve been reading… And it’s what will make up the bulk of my reading for at least the next few months.

Why do I have to learn this?

8 01 2007

It’s a question I encounter far too often, particularly in the Essay Writing Course I teach. It’s taught at a college and most of the students can see the merit in maybe a business writing course or a communication course, but essay writing they just can’t see the sense of.

There’s lots of answers to this question. Most often I go with the way the knowledge can be applied to other situations since they don’t seem to make those connections on there own. I try to avoid the philosophical angle. They just look at you funny.

So my answer to them will remain unchanged, but in my head I’ll be thinking this:

When asked “What do we need to learn this for?” any high-school teacher can confidently answer that, regardless of the subject, the knowledge will come in handy once the student hits middle age and starts working crossword puzzles in order to stave off the terrible loneliness. Because it’s true. Latin, geography, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome: unless you know these things, you’ll be limited to doing the puzzles in People magazine, where the clues read “Movie title, Gone ______ the Wind” and “It holds up your pants.” It’s not such a terrible place to start, but the joy of accomplishment wears off fairly quickly. ~ “21 Down” by David Sedaris

Marking, Marking and More Marking

20 04 2006

It seems the marking hasn’t stopped for the past month. And there’s still more to come.
It’s not as bad this time, which is good, but it is still somewhat brain-numbing and that keeps me from writing – any sort of writing.
I had my last night class at one of the colleges last night. It was a really odd feeling. I enjoyed my time there, but now I know I’m heading towards different and hopefully better things.
What was most odd I guess was having the final exam in the final class. It meant that there wasn’t really a way to end the class properly. They were all too stressed at the beginning and then they all left individually so it didn’t really feel like the end of anything. I suppose it will be the same on Monday with my other class – though I have more mixed feelings about that particular institution. But it just doesn’t feel like the end yet and I want that finality, that closure. I want something to be at an end, but it never seems to be. The doors remain open and that makes it harder to walk through the next one.

Marking, Marking, Marking

19 03 2006

“Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man’s papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive. ” ~ Jonas Salk

I’ve always enjoyed marking. One thing I’ve prided myself on as a teacher is providing comments and suggestions to help students improve their writing. I’ve always wanted them to improve. I’ve willed them to improve. I’ve waited for them to improve.

Now I’m just feed-up.

Granted, a lot of that probably has to do with the amount of “marking” I’ve had to do this term. All of the assignments from all my courses seem to come in at once. There are a lot of essay assignments in my own course (weekly essays and revisions) at this point in the course.

Then there is my work as an online writing instructor – basically marking without the marks. This is particularly frustrating because I rarely get the chance to see them – we don’t usually get the chance to work with the same students.

I find I’m saying the same things over and over and over again and on nearly every paper. This is what a thesis is. This is how to structure a paper and a paragraph. This is a big one: express your ideas as clearly and directly as possible.

I’ve tried to nurture them. I’ve tried to scare them. Nothing seems to make them less complacent about their inability to write even a simple sentence. But I’m not really frustrated with them; I’m frustrated with myself for not finding a new way to say what they need to hear.

How I long now for true and false questions. Simple yes and no answers.