Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Teaching Early Shakespeare Step by Step: Week 16 End of the Semester

The last few weeks of my early Shakespeare class have been (mostly) quiet.
By design.
We spend eight weeks building up to the close reading paper, then a few leading up to the thematic paper. But by the time we hit Titus Andronicus, with three weeks to go, the heavy pedagogical work has been done.
The students know how class works, (most) get the big ideas of the course. So Titus is the cherry on the cake, the wrestling with multiple ideas we spent the whole semester building up to. Then they have a week of extra credit discussion boards that talk about modern day Shakespeare connections, then a week just working on their final paper/projects. So we just give feedback on ideas, and read drafts.

And that week just ended.

A lot of my students are education majors, so a lot decided to do lesson plan modules. I gave them the templates for Understanding by Design, my week by week planning, and a lesson plan template with the suggestion they do that to give the big picture, and then a fully fleshed out lesson plan with resources. So far their ideas are super cool. Some other students are doing production designs, some projects related to their major like economics. And some are doing final papers, on historicism or expansions of ideas they've been working on.

My high school students also submitted their Julius Caesar projects this week. And I was struck by the difference, but not in the ways you think. I gave my students a couple of lines of explanation for projects and they ran with it, happy with the lack of guidelines. My college students had a two page set of assignment guidelines. I asked my high school students to write what grade they thought they should have and why and every single one was on the money. When I ask my college students to do this there's a disconnect.
I bring it up because I'd love to give back my college students the freedom to do well my high students showed. I think this final project does this in a lot of ways, but I will simmer on how to better.

I also asked my students this week to submit their letter to future students end of semester reflections. Many say it's been a great class. Many say it's the best online class they've ever taken. These are all good things. I had one very scary situation this semester with a student threatening me, and a couple of instances of students challenging me. Plus it was my first time teaching a 75 cap online Shakespeare class for UNM. So there was a lot. And that's not including finishing the dissertation, and having to take a full time high school job.

So. A lot.

But pedagogically, the class did well. The choices I made worked out. A lot of my students struggle at first in my classes, f2f and online, because I use the flipped classroom model, have for years, before it was trendy! And I do it for many of the ways that Kevin Gannon points out in his recent post. But I have found that students struggle at first with this. They mostly all end up buying in, but there is a learning curve- with HOW it works, but also that the mess ups are on them, the consequences of not preparing. With an online class, there's all this AND the learning curve of how an online course works. But ultimately successful.

The first couple of weeks and making them not overwhelming is actually the only real note I have to improve the course for next time.

My TA and I will grade this week, I'll attend Kalamazoo, finish final edits on #DevilDiss2, then I have two more weeks of my high school job, then done. During this time, once #DevilDiss2 edits are done, I'll go back to spending weekends finishing building my online Shakespeare and Film Adaptation summer class. It's about half way done, and I'm fast at builds, so I'm not worried about it. And I'm excited about this class- we've raised the cap twice, and I'm currently at 40 students, so I'm excited.

So all in all I'm happy with how this semester went. But I also think given how difficult some things were, I may take a bit of a break before reading the university end of semester evaluations. I also reflect on these, make a plan to improve, take notes, but because this semester was hard, I think I need a bit of a break first.

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