Friday, November 16, 2007

Reading with the class

A question for the blogosphere: Do you always (re)read the material along with your class? Or do you just plan the class based on what you know and go from that, if you've taught the work before? Since you've already read the work at least once, do you feel at all dishonest if you're not putting in the time reading along with the students?

Bardiac said something a while back about preparing a class for the next week. Although I can do some of that (getting handouts ready), if I prepared a class the week before, I'd essentially have to do the whole thing over again right before class. I'd have the general outlines and some questions, all right, but if I don't read the stuff or at least skim it just before class (either the night before or the same day), I'm apt to forget something, and it's usually the exact same something that students have a question about. It's as if the book and notes are a flashdrive with the information I need to upload to my brain right before class.

I've read that some actors could turn on their characters in mid-sentence, shifting instantly into character, while others need time to get into or to remain "in character." Since teaching is a kind of performance, it makes sense that this would apply to teaching, too. If so, I'm the second kind of actor.

This week has been really busy (as it has for everyone, judging from the blogposts I've read), but even though I've taught these works a lot before, I still couldn't bring myself to go into class without doing the rereading or at least reskimming, if that's a word.


Sisyphus said...

It depends if it's comp. I can prep that further out (and, to be honest, I often give it a lick and a prayer rather than a good solid prep if I'm behind things).

I also do a lot of "re-skimming" esp. if it's something I have had the good fortune to teach before.

But I also have this weird facility with names and plots that helped me in my exams and definitely helps with the prepping. I think, though, it makes a difference whether I want the discussion to "go somewhere" or just happen. Or just lecture. I can do a lot of talking on the fly; for me it's harder to create questions and group work that gets students toward my points without giving everything away.

Whew, long comment!

Fretful Porpentine said...

Like Sisyphus said, it depends on what the class is. If it's a lit class, I nearly always re-read -- the only real exception would be texts that I've taught several times and know backward and forward. In that case, I tend to skim the reading and rely pretty heavily on my notes from last time for talking points.

Comp, not so much. I mean, I know pretty much what the chapter on thesis statements or paragraph development in any first-year writing handbook is going to say, and it's not like we're going to engage in any close-reading or analysis of the handbook.

Bardiac said...

I'm with the others in it depending on what class. I was doing presentations at the local library recently, and I could do most of the prep a week ahead, because a lot of the prep involved making sure I had a good handout and could cue DVDs up quickly.

I often prep as much of a week's work as possible over the weekend because with decent notes, I can keep things in my head for a week. A lot of my prep is making sure that I have really good notes and have reread certain sorts of things (especially critical essays) REALLY carefully. I just don't have time to do that well during most weeks.

Anonymous said...

For history, I re-read. I've started taking pretty extensive notes on the textbook, but even so I prefer to re-read it unless very rushed. I always re-read documents. I type my class plans, including notes, discussion questions, and relevant page numbers and quotations. I start prepping a class by copying in last year's plan under "Last Year" and then cut and paste what's relevant under "Today's Plan".

Once I forgot to read a document --I had assigned a chapter plus 3 random pages later in the book, and I forgot the 3 random pages. I was okay, but I didn't like it. Details aren't fresh in my mind--even though I had taught it at least three times before.

Dr. Bad Ass said...

I re-read, to get the details unfuzzy in my head before class, and to see if there is a different take I would like to emphasize in class. These often occur to me with materials I have used previously.

Anonymous said...

Rereading is far and away the best, for reasons already given here. I prefer this although at present I am often reduced to re-skimming. I've had days where I've had to rely on having read before and one can get through them but it is awful and one gets nothing out of it.

undine said...

Sisyphus and fretful porpentine, I know what you mean about teaching comp. I haven't taught it for a couple of years, but when I did, I felt somehow as though I were a pianist with pieces in a repertoire; I'd taught the various things so much that I knew I could do thesis statements, say, without going back over everything in the handbook.

Memory is what I worry about, Dance, even though I usually (like sisyphus) have a decent memory. It's the questions like this that throw me: "Was it Minor Character's sister's boyfriend or his brother that brought the message?" Those are the ones I forget if I don't reread.

Bardiac, you're right: having the good handout and DVD (or good lecture stuff) done really can be handled ahead of time. Once in a while when they've scheduled a meeting right before class I've only had time to grab the lecture overheads or PowerPoint (which I don't use a lot, except for showing pictures) and have been able to lecture from that.

Dr. Badass, that's a good point about finding a different take, although sometimes I grab a pen to make a note and discover, in the margins, exactly the words I was just going to write.

Cero, as Dance said, it just feels uncomfortable if you haven't done the reading or at least "re-skimming" too. They don't know I haven't done it, but I do, and there's some spark that's missing if I haven't read it, at least if it's a discussion on the reading rather than a lecture. A lecture is a more stand-alone thing, somehow.

Horace said...

I usually re-read, but the likelihood that I haven't increases when I've a) taught it often, b) taught it recently c) written down detailed notes for a previous lesson plan that worked.

All of that being said, I am slow reader, and so the impulse to re-read pretty much brings my new reading (particularly whatever might be called pleasure reading) to a dead halt. I haven't read anything for pure pleasure in probably six months.

So at once I lament the need to re-read for the number of new books I could be reading. On the other hand, my sole remedy is to often teach completely new texts to me, or ones I haven't read in years, so I'm often reading for the first time with my students. As long as I've done it a little in advance, (and read up on some criticism) I find that this invigorates my teaching, because I'm still feeling fresh and excited about the text.

undine said...

Horace, the only pure pleasure reading I really get is either listening on the iPod when I drive or reading magazines. It's good to know that teaching a book you haven't read before can invigorate teaching; I'm now thinking of doing that for a class this spring.