Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Courseblogging: Today's stick-art
How much do I love my colored markers? A lot.
I love teaching this poem, too. I divide students up into pairs or threesomes, hand out dictionaries, and assign them each a stanza. This time around, I started them off with two questions: 1) What would you say is the most important word in this stanza, and why? 2) What strikes you as the most startling / unusual / strange word or turn of phrase, and why?
They talked among themselves for about ten minutes (and used the dictionaries -- yay!), and had a ton of stuff to say afterwards -- so much that I wished very much that our class periods were longer. I didn't have much of a chance to sum things up afterward -- but maybe that's just as well, since this is, after all, a poem of questions, and most of those questions resist easy answers.
I think this is one of the hardest things to convey, especially in the sophomore-level lit surveys -- the fact that our whole discipline isn't about getting the right answer, yet at the same time there are some answers more clearly supported by the text than others. (Because misreading does happen, especially with the unfamiliar syntax of nineteenth-century poetry, and sometimes you do have to jump in and say "No, the poet is comparing two things here, not describing one thing" or, more amusingly, "Yes, a 'heifer' really is a cow and not a term of insult.")
But by and large, they're doing good work and I'm happy about the way today's class went, whistle-stoppishness and all.