So, the main thing on my mind recently has been reading and research and how students aren’t really doing it. Like I said, I gave reading quizzes in 1101, which increased the amount of reading students were doing (I asked.) But it also increased the amount of resentment the students felt toward that reading (I asked that question too.)
I asked them what they like to read. They said, “things that are interesting.” I said, “what’s interesting?” They said, “things that aren’t boring.” I said, “what’s not boring?” They said, “things that are interesting.” I told them that studies have been done and only two things are universally interesting: murder and sex. But other than that, “interest” is in the eye of the beholder. But, when pressed, they finally told me that almost down the line they were ALL interested, not by topic, but by writers they felt were talking TO them. Writers who, we might say, are writing in the vernacular.
What in the hell does this have to do with units two and three? Well, I think the key to how to teach these units and how to answer the reading question (and how to answer the problem of surface research) are perhaps all linked, but I haven’t been able to fully flesh it out yet. That is this:
Unit One would be a literacy narrative as I taught it in 1121 this semester. That is, they write their education narratives, but they follow them up with group projects in which they research some issue that affects everyone in their group (how do family problems affect school learning? how does education differ for second language learners? how does high stakes testing impact learning?) This way, research is seen as personal and social. And reading is not a chore so much as a way of finding things out.
Unit Two (and here I flounder) is a unit in which students find a topic about which they are curious. Something they’re dying to know. How do I get them to that question? (That’s my question. And my brain isn’t quite there yet. I’m sorry.) But I see the culminating project of unit two as sort of a lit review, but more than that– that is, an evaluation and accumulation of sources. Perhaps it includes: an interview, an evaluation of a scholarly source, an evaluation of a popular source (formal– like the NYT) and a popular source (informal– like youtube). I’m not sure if this is enough though. I want them to TRAVEL DOWN A RESEARCH WORMHOLE.
Honestly, maybe this is a project that begins with Wikipedia and travels down a wormhole. Like, start with Wikipedia, link to another article, do an interview, find a comic, find a scholarly article. The final product for this unit is an informational booklet or a website– just evaluating these sources. The Wikipedia Wormhole Project.
Unit Three: Still noodling on this, and honestly I probably will not be able to think it through by tomorrow because I have a big meeting with my chair and these ideas about research and literacy are THE BIGGEST THINGS ON MY MIND but the plan is that they take all those sources and that information and they make something with it. But what? But how?
Thank you for your time and attention.