Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Search of Meaning

So the yearbooks are in and I've glanced through one... I don't know. I don't really want to look at it. Sword of Damocles, y'know? I had so many problems with the book that handing it out brings to mind not squeals of joy and students gushing about it and laughing and signing but gasps of shock, sniggers, and angry phone calls from parents. Sigh.

Beyond that, I seem to be unaccountably blue, and I'm not sure why. However, it's making planning difficult and taking quite a bit of the fun out of it, and that's très uncool.

See, I have a unit-size chunk of time that I haven't done much with. I've already blocked out time for Julius Caesar, the King Arthur unit, research, some time dedicated to short works (which will also be included in the other units), and a literature circle unit in which the students choose from a selection of dystopian novels.

I think I'm just... not certain about what I should teach. The other units connect with all of the standards, so I'm not really worried about skills. And we've explored the genres the standards require as well.

So how do you decide what should be taught when it's really up to you?

I'm thinking about just moving that block to the end of the term and then seeing what skills need to be revisited. Is that being flexible or just wussing out? ;)

But it's really tough. I mean, I have a few works in mind. But it just got me thinking about why I'm leaning toward those instead of something else. Why do I see those as particularly meaningful? When I choose to teach something, I am also choosing not to teach something else.

Just what is it that gives a work meaning in more than a personal sense? And - just out of nosiness! - what literature has been personally meaningful to you?


cupcake said...

It is very difficult to select which works of literature to teach when the field is wide open. I'm going through that now. There are so many I want to teach, but then I have to factor in which books, stories, poems and plays will generate the most interest and participation from the kids I teach. Then there are works to which I think they need to be exposed. Not many of my students will embrace The Scarlet Letter or The Crucible, but I think they need to read them and understand their themes. Still, it's difficult, as you point out.

Of course, I say all this, and I've only been teaching a year. So what do I know.

The one work I taught last year that meant the most to me, and which also made the biggest impact on my students, was Elie Wiesel's Night. Studying that book was emotionally challenging, but also extremely rewarding.

Lightly Seasoned said...

I get to choose from a mix of required and optional. Generally, I choose stuff I like to teach and that fits into the arch of what I'm trying to accomplish. My Question for World Lit is basically what is the meaning of life. We start with ideas about God(s) (JC, Oedipus Rex, Inferno) and then move into different versions of existentialism, etc. I can slap the skills part of the program into any single work, but in reality I pretty much know what they need when and have that stuff all prepped with the books at this point. My grammar strand runs all year as a bellringer.

For my AP seniors, I can choose anything my heart desires (oooh!), and I go for a mix of Brit classics and more contemporary American stuff. In that class, the trajectory is more literary periods, tracing how each period influences the next until we get to Ceremony, where we can look at all kinds of things going on. Some of my choice is made simply by what books the department has available, but I've added/swapped titles every year.

I fight the "blues" by planning something completely different and experimental for the beginning of the year. Right now, I'm doing a mystery unit for my remedial class and figuring out how to get my seniors to create Google Lit Trips for their summer reading books. These are really time consuming projects to plan, so I wouldn't do them during the school year -- and they're keeping me interested.

Clix said...

Night is the one I was thinking of, cupcake. What did you learn from it? Why was it meaningful to you and your students?

LS - Which 'JC' is that - Christ or Caesar? And I'm wondering English II is the group that gets Christie... And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express are the ones that are on our novel list, I think, but I would just loooove to throw The Murder of Roger Ackroyd at them! BWAHAHAHA!

Lightly Seasoned said...

Sorry... Julius Caesar.

FWIW, Night is one of my optional books and I never do it. Other teachers in my department get wonderful results with it -- the kids really get into it, but it just puts me into a depression.

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