Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Slacking Off?

We finished The Importance of Being Earnest twenty minutes into class today. I knew we were going to finish it early, and had planned to have them write an in-class essay/response to the play.

Then I thought, "Yuck. What a way to dump cold water on their obvious enjoyment of Wilde."

We really didn't have time to get into anything new before the test (and the end of the grading period), so I had to find something if I didn't want to do the in-class essay. What could I do that was (1) related in some way to Victorian-era literature, and (2) fun enough to follow Earnest?

Hmm. I thought and thought and thought about it. Then i got an idea.

"Hey, Stu," I asked a student during my planning period before English Lit, "Have you ever read 'Jabberwocky'"?

"Have I ever read what?"

"Good. Thanks for letting me know."

Then I went to the junior-high English teacher. "Hey, Teach," I said. "Do the junior high students at our school read "Jabberwocky?"

"It's in our literature book this year, but I don't know what previous grades have done."

"Okay, thanks."

So, after we finished Earnest and talked a bit about what a great play it is, we dove into "Jabberwocky." What fun. So much the humor of Earnest depends on puns (one word/two meanings), whereas much of "Jabberwocky" is based on portmanteaus (two blended words/one meaning). So it was a fun lesson in understanding different types of wordplay. (A portmanteau, by the way, is a word like chortle (chuckle + snort) or pixel (picture + element) or pianokeysia, where words have been blended to create a single word that incorporate the meaning of both words).

When my composition class got in, I went to get their handout--the one with the in-class Classification & Division essay assignment. Halfway there, I stopped and turned to the few students who had come in early.

"Have y'all ever read 'Jabberwocky'"?

"Huh? Have we read what?"

"Oh, good!"

Nobody did any in-class essays today, but we sure had fun making up new words.

And I think the next six weeks in comp are going to be fun because we'll be doing creative writing. I'd planned to do Definition and Argumentation papers, but everyone is exhausted and burned out on writing and re-writing (and grading and re-grading). I can teach important writing concepts just as well through creative writing.

So I don't know if I'm slacking off or not, but I can say this: I'm looking forward to the last six weeks of composition class. I love creative writing more than anything (yes, even more than process analysis and compare/contrast, if you can believe that), and I think I'll love teaching it.

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