Monthly Archives: May 2012

Creating New Syllabi

It’s almost two weeks late, but finally complete: the syllabus for the summer course I teach.  This is no small feat: I can crank out a book review, but a syllabus is a careful consideration.  Is it too boring? Will it fit my students? Is there too much reading? Is there too little reading?  Does it match curriculum standards? Is it challenging? A slew of questions attack the moment construction begins.  A good syllabus understands exactly who it is for and what the expected outcomes should be.  But I wonder- how many of my own professors’ syllabi fit this description?  Upon reflection, I think my undergraduate instructors were much more concerned or attuned to how the syllabus was interpreted by students whereas my graduate instructors catered their courses to emphasize their own strengths.  This makes a bit of sense:  graduate instructors understand their audiences are seeking specification (and perhaps even more so, are captive) while the undergraduate is a general study. My own audience for the summer is a fairly more complicated.  How do you teach Debate and Persuasive Rhetoric to the nation’s top 1% of preteens? (I know, a less rhetorical answer involves Bloom’s taxonomy.)

So far, I think I have a great start.  Good thing, class begins in 14 days.

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Cornell Note-Taking

On note-taking:

I encourage my students to use the cornell note-taking method because it gives them an interactive guide to lectures, readings, and supplementary material.  Surprisingly, most college students do not have a defined method of note-taking and the majority were never really “taught” how to take notes.  In an ideal teaching environment, I’d love all my students to come knowing some kind of method; however, I spend the first day of class going over different methods.  The one I advocate the most is Cornell.  I find my students enjoy it more and stay with it the most.   Providing a template and an example help tremendously.  The example is found below; it uses Frye’s theory of symbol making as a reference.

Example of Cornell Note Taking: Heishman_Amy_Sample CornellNOtes

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Teaching at Duke TIP

I’m excited to announce my return to Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP) this summer.  Last summer, I was asked to teach creative writing; this time I will be teaching Debate and Rhetoric (“That’s Debateable!”) to some very bright rising 8th and 9th graders.  I was in Davidson, NC last session, which was very convenient to my town of residence.  However, this session finds me flying to Sarasota, FL!  I should be worrying about how to pack two months into two suitcases, but I’m more worried about the course creation.  Creative writing is a bit more lenient in the course material; debate and rhetoric has very specific rules and guidelines.  I am a bit more schooled in rhetoric, but it will be the first time I’ve taught debate.  The textbook decisions were easy: I decided to use the current ones:

How to Write and Give a Speech by Joan Detz

Competitive Debate by Richard Edward

Ripples of Hope by Josh Gottheimer

Robert’s Rules in Plain English by Doris Zimmerman

…but the syllabus and course schedule remain a work in progress. Looks like I’ll at least have some reading to do.

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An Active Practioner

I am constantly telling my students that writing is not just an art, it’s a practice. However, I don’t spend time to talk about how active that philosophy is in my own life.  While this is mostly because time simply isn’t forgiving and there is a lot of material to cover, I’ve been thinking about adding my CV/work to Blackboard.  I’m not sure if this will give validity to my teaching, but it will at least be evidence that I “practice what I preach.”  But then, do I?  It’s been a little over a year since I’ve been actively working on a literary analysis or literary based research.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing; I do regularly-ish contribute to Tropics of Meta (mainly as a review of books; the link takes you to the latest one) and I have created many, many teaching resources for my courses.  I am an active blogger on a personal site.  But what does that mean?  In a growing digital age, can active blogger substitute for active writing?  What does it mean that the institution where I am employed requires students to interact via Blackboard, a digital learning environment, but also demands formal papers?  What would be the most effective way to marry an informal, vastly unorganized digital forum with the old standards of the word document paper?  For my part, I think it comes down to effectively teaching students about audience.

But I digress.

I do have an idea for an info-graphic.  I’ll either have to redefine “active practitioner” or start working on some literary research.

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