As my students complete the first half of our class reading assignment I am feeling a bit battered and bruised and I detect a note of frenzy from my students. I suspect that my carefully crafted assignment – the result of much deliberation – is too blame.
I am on the third or fourth iteration (I’m afraid to check my records, sometimes it is just better not to know) of this assignment and I think each iteration has improved. I’ve worked out many of the problems and I suspect it will always be a bit messy and challenging, but I also know it could be better. Sigh. As a teacher I am a work in progress and it appears that as generally happy I am with the current version of my writing class it is also a work in progress – especially when it comes to the reading assignment.
Due to course requirements (and I admit my own philosophy), reading is an important part of my writing class. I have thought for some time that beginning the semester with the collaborative construction of an annotated bibliography is a useful way to introduce working with sources. I believe the process and the product of this work creates a solid foundation to build our class discussions of this reading and the writing that results. But…it is so time consuming and messy and I find myself spending so much time overseeing the process that I lose sight of the forest for the trees. I need to find a better way.
One major change that I made this semester was helping students sort themselves into groups. I think this worked rather well and I think creating smaller communities within the larger classroom community can be helpful to foster the sense of classroom community I want. I also hope these reading groups will provide another level of support as my students begin writing. Right now I expect I will follow that same policy next semester, but I have to change how the reading is assigned, and even more important for my sanity, how the work is done. I will definitely have to think about how to accomplish my goals more effectively. Meanwhile, I try to take comfort in the fact that I’ve planned and executed much more disastrous assignments and probably will again.