Celebration of Teaching

Welcome to the new year! We wanted to ring in the new semester with a brief post on how the Teaching Forum rang out the fall semester.

We really enjoyed the great conversations we had during our end-of-semester Celebration of Teaching! We shared some best practices, looked forward to our spring teaching assignments, and met one of the newest members of the English Department. Tiny Cormac shared teaching experiences from his first month of life, including “eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and give a cathartic wail when you’re unhappy.” We even had a brief visit from a bald eagle who soared past the windows of Helen C. White.

Thanks to those of you who shared stories and teaching ideas both in person and on our collaborative bulletin. We’ve appended some of the highlights below. Feel free to continue to share your best practices in the comments section below! 

  • Taking the 4-week style workshop at the Writing Center provided helpful frameworks  for instructing undergrads  
  • This activity is one I made up to teach David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly. I call it “Clothes Make the Character.” Materials: Sheets of paper with an outline/silhouette of a human body (gender-neutral), colored pencils, Scotch tape, index cards with the names of characters in the novel/play, list of adjectives. Step 1: Tape list of adjectives to the board. I chose around 50 adjectives that Hwang’s characters use in describing themselves or each other (i.e. masculine, shy, sexy, sensitive, glib…). Step 2: Hand out colored pencils and human body papers to groups of 3-4 students. Step 3: Have students pick 3 colors. Make sure they are contrasting (i.e. blue/green/red, purple/green/brown) and establish a code for each color. One color should represent the character’s private perception of him/herself, the second color should represent the character’s projection of themselves in public, the third color should represent how the outside world views them. Step 4: Hand out cards with character names, and tell groups to keep them a secret, and fill the figure’s body with words from the list in corresponding colors. Encourage them to write in different styles (all caps, cursive), and vary the size to emphasize bigger/smaller values. Step 5: Once completed, tape each figure to the board to make an “art gallery,” and have students walk around the room and analyze the artwork. Step 6: Once back at their seats, read off the figures and have the class guess which character that drawing represents. – Jacob Hellman, ENG/THEATER 120
  • My E100 students said they liked having soft jazz on at the beginning of class and during independent, in-class writing activities.
  • Awkward silence was my best friend this semester. Letting it settle in the room when posing a discussion question after some freewriting or small group work took time from the discussion, but when it got started my students were more likely to talk to each other than to me, and pose questions of their own that otherwise I may not have heard.



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