Classes begin tomorrow. Are you ready?
I’ve been gathering teaching activities that I’ve used over the last several years and attempting to categorize and sequence them. It’s been an illuminating project because I see the range of stuff I try to do in the classroom, but I don’t yet see how it all fits together.
For example, I have a bit of fun showing students a range of misleading images (such as optical illusions, photographs without captions, advertisements, and the like), and having them work on creating meaning from them. Because the images intentionally try to mislead, it is fun to see where students end up. The explicit teaching point is to illustrate the gap between the signifier (the photograph or the image itself) and the signified (the concepts or ideas that the image conveys). I don’t have a lot of trouble showing them how to recognize the disjunct between words and meaning, but I’m still working on showing them why that matters in terms of their writing. What concrete help is such an understanding of Saussure going to be for them? I don’t yet fully know.
I’m caught, I think, in that no man’s land between the theoretical and the practical. I don’t feel like I’ve had acceptable results from either my theoretical approach nor my practical approach to teaching FYC (first year composition). Occasional students notwithstanding, I find that my approaches tend to leave students cold and unresponsive. Of course I want to change that.