Teaching the Impossible Syllabus: “Women, Gender & U.S. Literature”

When I was assigned "Women, Gender, and U.S. Literature," a 5-week summer course that meets 4 days a week for 2 hours, I stared at my bookshelf ready to put 75% of its contents on the syllabus, then I went to Twitter and asked for suggestions, and then I went to colleagues for help who … Continue reading Teaching the Impossible Syllabus: “Women, Gender & U.S. Literature”

Education is the Practice of Freedom

"The vast majority of our professors...used the classroom to enact rituals of control that were about domination and the unjust exercise of power. In these settings I learned a lot about the kind of teacher I did not want to become." -- bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress When my observer asked me about letting my students … Continue reading Education is the Practice of Freedom

Learning Drama, Writing Drama

In my second-level composition course, students have the option of doing extra credit, due the day we finish reading Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The assignment is to write a script that answers the question: "Whatever happened to Christopher Sly?" The play-within-a-play begins with the drunkard Sly who is tricked into behaving like a lord. … Continue reading Learning Drama, Writing Drama

Introducing Students to Twitter Literacy

I use twitter in my classroom to give more introverted students opportunities to participate without having to raise their hands and speak out. It isn't something they encounter in many of their classes, so it takes some time to introduce them to Twitter, help them set up professional or discard accounts, and get them to … Continue reading Introducing Students to Twitter Literacy

Use Secondary Sources in College Composition, But Use Them Wisely

About to begin teaching my favorite second-level composition course for the sixth time, I can safely say that I know every required secondary reading has a clear purpose in the syllabus. I look forward to how each one will inform and pivot in-class discussion, deepening our understanding of the primary texts and how they've been … Continue reading Use Secondary Sources in College Composition, But Use Them Wisely

Many Students Don’t Know What Scaffolding Is

First year instructors are often told to scaffold assignments. Scaffolding, loosely defined, is the process of building cumulative assignments from "low-stakes" to "high-stakes" in a syllabus. Heck, most instructors at any pedagogy conference are told to do this, so I've been doing it for over three years. I believe scaffolding is extremely useful as a … Continue reading Many Students Don’t Know What Scaffolding Is

Reading American Romanticism with Students after the Election

"What is wanted is men, not of policy, but of probity--who recognize a higher law than the Constitution, or the decision of the majority. The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls--the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on … Continue reading Reading American Romanticism with Students after the Election

Building Community in the Classroom with Twitter

When I greeted my students on the first day of the semester with the announcement that technology would play a large role in my "American Literature: Origins to the Civil War" class, I'm pretty sure their faces looked something like this: Admittedly, it made many of them anxious when I began explaining class blog post assignments … Continue reading Building Community in the Classroom with Twitter

Using Reacting to the Past to Teach English Composition 101

When I asked if I could use Reacting to the Past (RTTP) in my new English Composition 101 class, and the answer was "yes," I could barely contain my excitement. It can be difficult to convince someone who hasn't seen game-based learning that role play enhances student performance, yes, even in formal writing. I've been trained by … Continue reading Using Reacting to the Past to Teach English Composition 101

“Leave No Trace”: When American Transcendentalism Leads to Wilderness Preservation

Having hiked over 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail this summer, dutifully carrying a copy of Thoreau's writings with me, there are certain habits I've cultivated with a now-ingrained daily routine that I'll take with me off the trail. The "Leave No Trace" policy of American hiker culture is what keeps the Appalachian Trail special for everyone … Continue reading “Leave No Trace”: When American Transcendentalism Leads to Wilderness Preservation