10/19/2015 CP

Mission
  1. Review verb tenses
  2. Explore Walt Whitman’s O Captain, My Captain
Agenda

Do now, please:

Read the below excerpt from this weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review. It’s a defense of the lecture style format. (Disclaimer: Although I have never met the author, Molly Worthen, we have a number of mutual friends.)

Absorbing a long, complex argument is hard work, requiring students to synthesize, organize and react as they listen. In our time, when any reading assignment longer than a Facebook post seems ponderous, students have little experience doing this. Some research suggests that minority and low-income students struggle even more. But if we abandon the lecture format because students may find it difficult, we do them a disservice. Moreover,we capitulate to the worst features of the customer-service mentality that has seeped into the university from the business world. The solution,instead, is to teach those students how to gain all a great lecture course has to give them.

When Kjirsten Severson first began teaching philosophy at Clackamas Community College in Oregon, she realized that she needed to teach her students how to listen. “Where I needed to start was by teaching them howto create space in their inner world, so they could take on this argument ona clean canvas,” she told me. She assigns an excerpt from Rebecca Shafir’s“The Zen of Listening” to help students learn to clear their minds and focus.This ability to concentrate is not just a study skill. As Dr. Cummins put it,“Can they listen to a political candidate with an analytical ear? Can they go and listen to their minister with an analytical ear? Can they listen to one another? One of the things a lecture does is build that habit.”

Listening continuously and taking notes for an hour is an unusual cognitive experience for most young people. Professors should embrace — and even advertise — lecture courses as an exercise in mindfulness and attention building, a mental workout that counteracts the junk food of nonstop social media. More and more of my colleagues are banning the use of laptops in their classrooms. They say that despite initial grumbling, students usually praise the policy by the end of the semester. “I think the students value a break from their multitasking lives,” Andrew Delbanco, a professor of American Studies at Columbia University and an award-winning teacher,told me. “The classroom is an unusual space for them to be in: Here’s a person talking about complicated ideas and challenging books and trying not to dumb them down, not playing for laughs, requiring 60 minutes of focused attention.” …

“Note-taking should be just as eloquent as speaking,” said Medora Ahern, arecent graduate of New Saint Andrews College in Idaho. I tracked her down after a visit there persuaded me that this tiny Christian college has preserved some of the best features of a traditional liberal arts education. She told me how learning to take attentive, analytical notes helped her succeed in debates with her classmates. “Debate is really all about note-taking,dissecting your opponent’s idea, reducing it into a single sentence. There’s something about the brevity of notes, putting an idea into a smaller space,that allows you psychologically to overcome that idea.”

Technology can be a saboteur. Studies suggest that taking notes by hand helps students master material better than typing notes on a laptop,probably because most find it impossible to take verbatim notes with pen and paper. Verbatim transcription is never the goal: Students should synthesize as they listen.

This is not a “passive” learning experience, and it cannot be replicated by asking students to watch videotaped lectures online: the temptations of the Internet, the safeguard of the rewind button and the comforts of the dorm-room sofa are deadly to the attention span. But note-taking is not a skill professors can take for granted. We must teach it. Dr. Cummins assigns one student in each day’s class the task of not only taking notes, but also presenting a critique of her argument at the next class meeting.

This kind of work prepares students to succeed in the class format that so many educators, parents and students fetishize: the small seminar discussion. A lecture course teaches students that listening is not the same thing as thinking about what you plan to say next — and that critical thinking depends on mastery of facts, not knee-jerk opinions. “We don’t want to pretend that all we have to do is prod the student and the truth will come out,” Dr. Delbanco told me.

If you have finished before your classmates, begin the day’s agenda below.

  1. Individual: Review notes on the following verb tenses: simple (past, present, future), perfect (past, present, future), and progressive (past, present, future).
  2. Group-Pod: Following Mr. S’s instructions, create example sentences in pods. Review tense uses as a class.
  3. Individual-PodWrite down thoughts, words, experiences, etc. you associate with loss. Share within your pod.
  4. Group: Introduce Walt Whitman and his most famous poem, O Captain, My Captain
  5. Individual: Read O Captain, My Captain
  6. Pods-Group: Discuss meaning of O Captain, My Captain
  7. Individual: Begin your work assignment of mastering 100 college words beginning with A.
    • NB: If you have not changed your password to “student” yet, you must do so. Otherwise you won’t get credit for your work.
    • NB: If you haven’t shared your email address with me yet, you must do so through this form. Otherwise you won’t get credit for your work.
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