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How do I get the entire class involved... with Shakespeare?

GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED WITH SHAKESPEARE! Last semester I was explaining to a colleague that I teach Great Speeches at the beginn...

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How do I get the entire class involved... with Shakespeare?

GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED WITH SHAKESPEARE!

Last semester I was explaining to a colleague that I teach Great Speeches at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Higher Order Thinking, Close Reading, and Textual Analysis.  You will find my blog post about this idea here: ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE!

I explained to Anne that my students were marking up the text and answering questions but they still seemed to be somewhat disengaged.  Anne suggested that I break up the speech into small parts and have groups of two or three students focus on only a few words.  Each group defines any unknown words and gets ready to explain their section to the class.  She then suggested we read the speech together with each group reading, and explaining, their section to the class.

So simple yet so effective!   They knew the speech better than any previous class and seemed to enjoy working on it.  Some read their section with bravado, but others read it in their normal voices.  


In this case we were reading the Saint Crispin's Day Speech, so once we were done I played Kenneth Branagh's version - they understood it, all of it, right away. 


I did pass out a copy of the speech the week before the class and asked them to read it through.  I didn’t say what we were going to do with the assignment and reminded them not to use any outside sources - simply to read it and mark it up if they wish.


I think this read through can be done as a segue into any play as a reminder that they can understand Shakespeare - pretty easily - if they break it down.

I have created cards for the speech by Henry V, and you can find them for free at my TpT store here:


Thanks Anne!!!

Classroom Doodles



















I wanted to share a website I stumbled upon called 
Classroom Doodles. 


I have printed some of their free doodles and have put them in my waiting area at school - along with crayons - it's a great way to help students unwind.

You can find over 1,000 free coloring pages at this wonderful site: Doodle Art Alley 

Here's what they say about Doodling:
We all get stressed, nervous and bored for one reason or another. And we all have ways to deal with these states of mind. I like to call them nervous habits. Biting nails, popping knuckles, scratching at my scalp-I do them all. Now not only do these habits annoy my husband, (not that his constant drumming or leg shaking is any better) but they effect me physically and can even bring me harm. Hangnails, scabs, big knuckles, not to mention the bruises I get when I dare to pop my knuckles in the middle of the night in the ear of my husband.  Let's take the classroom environment. The professor is going on and on about something. You've repositioned yourself several times trying to keep your eyes open. You start tapping your pencil only to find your neighbor giving you the look. And you've already been threatened once for shaking your leg on the desk in front of you. You don't dare pop your knuckles. What else can you do? This scenario is all too familiar, and just not with students. Staff meeting, board meetings, conference calls, endless church meetings; they all bring out those nervous habits. Not only does doodling take your mind off of things, it keeps you from harming yourself and annoying others with those habits we have. Think of all the broken finger nails you would be sparing and the dirty stares you'd be avoiding. And on top of it all, you can produce your own wonderful artwork.

ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE!


ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE!
HOW I TEACH GREAT SPEECHES
I teach Great Speeches, or small segments of the Great Books, at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Higher Order Thinking, Close Reading, and Textual Analysis.  I have taught Elie Wiesel, Hamlet, Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), Tocqueville, Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Genesis, and more.  I usually keep the selection under 10 pages so that it may be read in a few days - this allows me to engage my students immediately.  When assigning a novel or longer text on day one of the semester it is impossible to expect them to read it by the next class, whereas a small selection is easily done.  I use Google Classroom and post a copy of the speech on the first day along with my Interpretive Note-Taking Guide.  See my schedule of the first four classes below.
 


Schedule:
Class One:
  • I post the course outline on Classroom and review the outline with the students.

  • I post the speech and Interpretive Note-Taking Guide.

  • I Explain how to annotate a text using my own guide and ask students to read the speech and begin to mark it up for the next class.  I inform them that the marked up speech is to be turned in at the beginning of the third class.

Class Two:
  • I go over Interpretive Note-Taking again.

  • I show them examples of student mark ups.

  • I then give them an overview of the context of the speech or text.  For instance, if the text excerpt is from Nietzsche, I explain some key aspects of his philosophy, when he lived, and why he is famous.  If the excerpt is from Hamlet, I show them Part One of John Green’s Crash Course on Hamlet.  If the excerpt is from Henry V (Saint Crispin’s Day Speech), I show them Kenneth Branagh’s version.  

Class Three:
  • The students work in groups answering the questions in Google Slides.  
  • They use their speeches that are marked up to help them answer the questions.  I tell them that the class is not for completing this assignment but to use the text to answer the questions in Google Slides.  I walk around the classroom to see what students have done - rarely do they add much to the mark ups.  They submit their answers and hand in their mark up at the end of class.

Class Four:

  • I give a short reading test on the speech.
  • I review the answers in Google Slides.

Why are women professors viewed differently than their male counterparts?




Is this how some of your students see you?  Alas, sometimes students misunderstand their female professors/teachers and misconstrue their professionalism as anger or rage.  

Gender stereotypes continue to permeate academia - i.e. woman are less rational and more emotional than men.  Although things have definitely changed for the better, it is naive to think that gender biases do not appear in our students' expectations and hence our evaluations (in the link below there is a list of articles supporting my position).

When I attended University my professors were treated with awe, respect, and reverence.  

While those days are long gone - in my experience anyway - it is frustrating how gender bias still exists.  FYI: I teach mainly first and second year undergrads, so perhaps upper level students understand that their professors are human - that we get frustrated, irritated, exasperated but we are teachers/professors because we overwhelmingly care about students and education.  We are not uncontrollably and irrationally angry with our students.  Sure we have our good days and bad days just like anyone else, but unfortunately those bad days seem to linger in our students' minds until they purge their resentment while writing their SEIs.  

So why am I conflating anger and gender bias?  I honestly don't think that students see their male professors/teachers as out of control, irrational, and full of wrath.  I constantly hear in my SEIs how I am disorganized and have no clear purpose (irrational), I’m angry, and I should be "nicer"....

There are several studies that confirm my own personal experience regarding student evaluations and how woman are judged by a different set of criteria than their male counterparts.

In one seminar I attended many of my female colleagues argued that their SEIs contained similar statements: hard marker, tough on students, doesn't like students, rude to students, disorganized, unclear, angry, cold, distant, doesn't care, should be nicer, etc.  One science lecturer complained that her boss told her that she should perhaps be more "motherly" to help curb her students' anxieties.  She was justifiably outraged but our facilitator argued that we should understand that our students - rightly or wrongly - did view us in this light and that ignoring this reality - however unfair - could lead some students to feeling let down or hurt by us.  The professor asked if it was part of her job to care about their feelings - after all wasn't her job teaching biology to underprepared undergrads challenging enough?  

I have to admit cognitive dissonance here.  I get it - it's not fair but it is what it is, and if I want higher evaluations I have to remember my students' preconceived biases will influence their perceptions of me.  I can play the SEI game - many do - curbing my teaching towards achieving higher SEI results, but I refuse to do this.  I have definitely tried to remember that this generation - called snowflakes - are fragile, but I won't become slavish to their own irrational demands.  I have hit a middle road.  My SEIs are still very frustrating but I have tried to combine the right amount of compassion with an unwavering professionalism.  I try to stay true to my principles while showing empathy to the stress and confusion my undergrads seem to feel. 

Anyway, I'm writing this to help any lecturers out there who may be struggling to understand why their SEIs may be consistently lower than their male (and particularly older and male) colleagues.  Sometimes wisdom is power - maybe this will help.  Maybe it is obvious to you, but, to be honest, it did not occur to me that gender bias could impact a career in academia.  Furthermore, I continue to be disheartened when I read these reports.  Love to hear your thoughts!

Gender and Student Evaluations:An Annotated BibliographyDeveloped at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan

Visual Notetaking


WHY VISUAL NOTETAKING?


Students learn in a myriad of ways.  VISUAL  NOTETAKING engages the students' minds by using the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy: Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create.  It allows students to process ideas in a fun and creative way and keeps the brain actively engaged.  Visual identifiers may help boost memory as an added bonus.


WHAT I DO:

In all of my first year undergraduate classes I employ Visual Notetaking.  This year I lectured on Thucydides in one class and the Apology in the other.  I asked my students to work on their Notetaking for a week after the lecture and their assignments were to be turned in just before their mid-term exam.  I do think that it helped prepare them for their exam.

I AM JUST THRILLED WITH THIS SEMESTER'S RESULTS!!


The students did such an amazing job - see some of the images below.  The image above is way beyond what I expected!

If you are interested in the section of the Apology that I teach, and if you would like to see more examples of student Notetaking, you will find my Apology unit here: Perfect Pairing #1: SOCRATES AND THE INSANITY DEFENSE.


REGARDING MARKING:

The marking of Visual Notetaking is fairly easy to do compared to marking an essay, for instance.  I grade my students on their creativity, on their ability to make connections between ideas, on understanding the lecture, on editing down the lecture to crucial information, and on aesthetics.  You will find my guide to Visual Notetaking here: Visual Notetaking 


STUDENT FEEDBACK:

The results speak for themselves.   Most of my students threw themselves into the assignment and my exam grades were higher overall.

Here are two more examples from my lecture on Thucydides:








Daily Dilemma



DAILY DILEMMA


As a new adjunct lecturer, I found myself completely overwhelmed with the amount of prep and marking.  I still do but have figured out a few ways to help lessen the constant inflow of essays.

Tip #3: DAILY DILEMMAS

I have several Daily Dilemmas available for sale but you could also create your own. You take a famous trial and distill the information into an easily accessible form. I do this by creating a One Sheet.

Traditionally one sheets are single page documents that summarize a person’s accomplishments, a product, or a film. They are sometimes used to introduce new artists and/or films. They usually contain an image or two, biographical information, and taglines.  I have created these Daily Dilemma One Sheets to help students engage in critical reasoning and to introduce them to philosophy, ethics, law, and justice.  They may be used as homework or class work,  individual or group work, and even as seminar or debate preparation.

REGARDING MARKING:

I use these court cases in several ways. With the Daily Dilemmas that I have created the students work alone or in groups. They read the One Sheet and then answer eight questions on the court case. I choose cases that raise interesting moral and ethical dilemmas.

I also have my students create their own Daily Dilemmas. I have found the marking of these to be less time consuming than grading an essay. You will immediately have a sense of the overall grade at first glance. I have them include an image of the case, summarize the key details of the events leading up to the case, use quotations and key phrases from the actual case, explain the outcome, ask eight questions regarding the case, and finally they answer four of the eight questions.

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

The students enjoy working together and debating the merits of their arguments. The cases usually force them to think about questions that are bound to cause healthy debate. Here are two examples of these questions:

Having worked at both the High School and College levels, I am sure this idea will work extremely well with your students too.

Best,


Interpretive Note-taking



INTERPRETIVE NOTE-TAKING


As a new adjunct lecturer, I found myself completely overwhelmed with the amount of prep and marking.  I still do but have figured out a few ways to help lessen the constant inflow of essays.

Tip #2: Interpretive Note-taking

Interpretive Note-taking is my reworking of traditional annotation.


WHAT I DO:

I ask my students to annotate the text as they usually do using highlighters and various symbols to underline words they don't understand, to acknowledge figures of speech, to take note of repetition, etc.  But they go way beyond this.  I created a rubric for them to offer suggestions and help guide their work.

After the individual mark up is done I get them to work in groups to explain and explore their findings.


REGARDING MARKING:

The marking of their annotation is fairly easy to do compared to marking an essay, for instance.  I read several of the comments to get a sense of what their approach to the assignment is.  I review their questions and sometimes answer some of them and guide them towards other ideas. 

This semester I am having a tougher time concentrating (I seem to still be suffering from a concussion from a few months ago). This type of assignment is perfect because I can stop and go back to where I left off and do not need to start all over.  

STUDENT FEEDBACK:

The students work hard on this assignment - I think perhaps some of the appeal is that they too can stop and start over several days. Furthermore, I say they are being marked entirely on effort not whether they have figured out the answers to their own questions or the text itself.  The images above are from my class when the students work in groups - this works very well and allows students to review their findings with their peers and gives them an opportunity to discuss the issues in-depth.

Here is one example - there are more in my unit on TpT: INTERPRETIVE NOTE-TAKING



Having worked at both the High School and College levels, I am sure this idea will work extremely well with your students too.
Best,