each class meeting with my students and leading a workshop with
colleagues means that I need to know the material so well that
we can tackle it in an orderand from a perspectivethat
makes sense to them. Thus, in preparing, I draft activities appropriate
to the students and the material but am ready to adapt them at
any moment. For example, although I once planned to begin a discussion
of Flaubert's "Un Coeur simple" by focusing on the protagonist's
childhood, the students questions about characters
relationships led the discussion in an equally valid direction.
I consider myself responsible for keeping discussions on track
and for providing necessary information. Students appreciate my
organizational skills and my ability to motivate them in their
evaluations. So persuaded am I of the value of promoting students
responsibility that I developed and regularly offer the workshop
Course Is It? and summarized my approach in a similarly-titled
give briefly some sense of how I teach a course or a workshop,
I categorize below some of my techniques according to the aspect
of the course to which they most closely relate:
students responsibility and engaging them
students' expectations and goals. At the beginning of the
semester, students offer their expectations
of the course, and we explicitly compare them to my objectives;
when necessary, I make adjustments and explain why we will not
do something they expected when registering for the course.
I also wrote a Teaching Concerns article detailing this activity:
the Same Wave Length?". Alternatively, I write students
a letter before the course begins, requesting a response offering
their course goals and concerns (see "Personalizing
students accountable. For most class meetings, students are
required to bring some tangible piece of work. Many of my French
332 students have noted that one thing that most helps them learn
is, "Each class we are accountable for something." (TAP,
spring 1996). Often, students contribute at least two questions
that they truly want to have answered. As I explain in Reflections
on my Teaching, discussions grow from their questions, and
I provide logical links among comments (for an outline of this
activity, see the Student-Initiated
Discussion handout from my workshop). Thus the interactivity
in my courses comes from a true exchange of ideas.
students' personal interests. FREN
332 students choose the poems they would most like to read
and analyze, They receive detailed directions about how both to
present their interpretation (French
version / English version)
and how to react to others presentations (French
version / English version).
Students comment positively on these activities in final
evaluations and in one-minute
papers. I begin the Hugo course with an overview of his life,
work, and historical context in order to enable students to choose
a personally compelling research
project. My professional development workshops often begin
with a brainstorming to elicit the issues that concern the participants.
students' suggestions. My students and I regularly consult
about how the course is going, using a variety of techniques,
Analysis Polls, mid-semester comments
forms, variations on the one-minute
paper. I benefit by learning how they perceive what I am doing
and how they think to improve it; they benefit by thinking about
what they can do to learn
to students' reactions. I continuously look for and evaluate
student response, not just verbal questions and answers, but also
body language, facial expressions, tone of voice (as explained
in my article "Replacing Teacher Talk with Gestures"
(1983), listed on CV).
I can then alter my teaching depending on who is lost, who is
grudging, who is perhaps a little too much carried away.
students. To establish an environment in which the students
and I respect each others ideas and each other as people,
I focus on students ideas, challenge students to do their
best, and expect them to be adults. Students often note on evaluations
that they feel comfortable asking questions. People who realize
that their ideas are valued are more likely to work on developing
critical reading, thinking, and discussing
tasks. Because my assignments often ask for thinking rather
than simply for memorizing and recalling, they strike many students
as difficult. For instance, really understanding rhetorical figures
of speech means being able to identify them in a text and analyze
their power, rather than simply defining them (sample
exercise). To teach these skills of perception and analysis,
I first model them in class and then offer students examples
of competent work (English version)
done by their colleagues. After they think and work on their own,
we discuss answers and techniques in class, and I provoke individual
learning. I use a variety of cooperative and active learning
techniques in class to give students opportunities to develop
their abilities to take cogent notes, defend their thoughts, analyze
conclusions, synthesize ideas, and lead discussions.
learning. To persuade students to think before coming to class,
I offer a variety of assignments (see Hugo
and FREN 332 syllabus),
occasionally require comments written via
e-mail outside of class, and am available to them in person
or by phone and e-mail every day.
critical thinking through essay writing
help students develop the skill to focus on, develop, and support
their interpretation of a text, I offer them good
models of thesis statements, valid supporting arguments, and
effective essays written by students in previous courses, with
my comments (distributed anonymously).
tell students how to create a decent first draft and train them
to edit each others papers,
believing that editing someone else's work is often easier than
improving ones own but that those skills are transferable
into one's own papers.
reading and commenting on final drafts in FREN
332, I create "Bêtes noires" grammar correction
sheets focused on the most egregious errors that students then
avoid in future papers.
give students frequent individual
help (via in-person meetings, telephone, e-mail) with all
aspects of the course, but especially with their struggles to
clarify their thinking and communicate their ideas to a reader.
intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning
is primarily intended to provoke students' intellectual curiosity
by giving them the chance, and support, to explore a subject of
their own choosing. I offer students a step-by-step
process through which they choose a research topic, define
it carefully, do relevant research, organize/outline their ideas,
present their summary in class, receive feedback from colleagues,
and write the final paper.
poetry presentations (English
version) aim to engage students in figuring out how they interpret
a poem they have chosen.
ultimate goal of the Hugo course is to develop people who will
continue to read and enjoy Hugo on their own, armed with he language
and interpretative skills necessary to learn what may be necessary
to read and enjoy. The great majority of students attest to their
continued interest in Hugo at the end of the course (see evaluations).
pertinent post-course e-mail (5/11/96) from a French 332 student
with reading comprehension difficulties who worked hard, developing
her skills from three "C" essays to write a convincing
"A-" final essay and earn a final grade of "B":
je voudrais dire «Merci» pour un semestre très
amusant et très informatif. Ca, cest le premier cours
de français qui ma poussé à faire des
exercices provocateurs et amusants à la fois!"
[Translation: "First, I'd like to say, Thank you,
for a very entertaining and informative semester. This is the first
French course that pushed me to do provocative and fun exercises
at the same time."]