Friday, July 3, 2015

Preparing for Iteration 2 of Literature Curriculum (From Lit Research to CLS)

The original concept for Literature Research was to teach two distinct things--both Literature and Research, as the name implies. It was to teach Literature, as public perception says an English teacher should do, while concurrently incorporating research skills. The thought was that 21st century students need strong research skills, and thus I planned to have students using them frequently.

The first problem with this last year was that I didn't demonstrate how to research as well as I should have. I often had students printing off or copy/pasting Sparknotes and calling it good. So that's my bad. I didn't actually teach research skills. Noted. Lesson learned. Next year will be better now that I've recognized this.

The second issue I'm faced with now as I develop my curriculum for next year is that my parents and principal want more gathered material to present during lessons. That's fine. I can understand and work with that. It's just that the more material I gather for students, the less they need to find. That's not a bad thing, it's just less "research" they are required to do.

It's when considering this fact that I realized that Literature and Research don't actually go together as well as I previously thought. Trying to put both together, one always sacrifices the other. I can either have a good literature program, full of all the gathered material to distribute during lessons, or I can have a good research program where students need to find the material on their own. I can't have both together in this instance. And I need to teach both literature and research, so it's time to uncouple the two.

Thus ended the concept of Literature Research.

But that's not to say that the whole thing is dead. It's only time for an evolution.

The second pillar of the Lit. Research program was that students need to understand the concepts of classic literature. They need to be able recognize titles and authors and connect them to plot points, characters, and quotes, and that pillar still stands. Without the other, in fact, it becomes the focal point of the program. That point will be what my new literature curriculum is based on.

I referred previously to the "collective consciousness" that Americans (or English speakers?) have surrounding literature--that knowledge that we all have about certain classic texts. It's part of our culture, and it's present everywhere. You can find references to literature in movies, TV, popular music, video games, and everyday conversation. Classic literature is the birthplace of cliches. They hold stories and characters that everyone knows, and if a reference or satire is made of them, it is under the impression that any member of the English-speaking audience will understand it.

This is what I intend to impart to my students. This is the foundation of my literature program. It has less to do with reading classics just for the sake of reading them or because of tradition and more to do with seeing literature as a part of our culture.

I'm not mourning the end of Lit. Research. I'm happy that I attempted something new, learned from it, and can now try a second iteration. And in fact, it's rather liberating recognizing that I needed to uncouple the two in order to make them better. Onwards and upwards! (I wish there was a cool new name I could think of for it. I like those sort of things. It's too bad "Cultural Literacy" is already a thing and that "Literature Literacy" sounds weird. Meh. I'll keep thinking!)

Edit: Okay, I decided on a name--Classic Literature Studies, CLS!