Layering Learning

The great challenge of teaching is finding the right balance between content and process. When I redesigned the section of World Literature I currently teach, I decided to use six entire books and all of Shakespeare’s Sonnets instead of an anthology. Even though the section is only eight-weeks long, I aim for depth verses breadth and while students are initially overwhelmed, by the end, almost all agree they wouldn’t have it any other way. One student wrote:

English 231 as a whole taught me how to really dig deep into words and pull out the hidden aspects. Not just to read a book and be done with it, but to go over it and savor each word and really see why it’s there, and just how important it is. A. E.

With the Themes of Literature section I’m designing for the first summer session, I’m using Pearson’s My Literature Lab, six books and  one anthology. I believe I’ll allow teams to suggest which sections of the anthology each will use for the Collaborative Midterm Project due Week Three, and begin with Ibtisam Barakat‘s Tasting the Sky, a memoir of childhood which begins, as does the course, in June.

Now, all I have to come up with is the ‘problem’ to be resolved. Let’s see, how many problems  exist related to the realm of immigration? Even if students are free to identify their own issues, I’d like to provide a few to get the brainstorming going. In the process of interrupting the continuous loop of a weather forecast found on the menu channel in the hotel room made to feel like your personal condo I’m in, I realized another place where learning can be layered.

I believe that even though the summer session version of Immigrant Literature is scheduled to last six weeks, I don’t want to entirely forgo the course redesign activity that Academic and Life-skills (ALS 101) students currently complete as their Final Exam. Still, I didn’t see how to leave it for the final exam. Now it occurs to me that the same elements can be transferred to the Midterm Project.

While on the second leg of a journey that began at, and midway through Tasting the Sky, Jesus showed up and showed out. The entire course, themes and all, gelled. He gave me the elements of the weekly reading journals, the point values for each portion of the weekly quizzes and even how to nest assignments so that proficiency is achieved before learners can advance to the next week’s folder. This kind of spiritual download happens every time I get out of the way. I only wish my role in becoming available didn’t require complete exhaustion.


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