02 March 2012

Teaching Notes: Ideas Needed

I am about to go back to work, and I must admit I am woefully unprepared. Maternity leave is not an opportunity to create new and innovative lesson plans like I thought it would be. :) And so I am appealing to you, my lovely friends and readers. I am teaching the following books in my Intro to Lit class:
If you have suggestions for elements to focus on, activities to complete in class, projects to assign, or discussions to have, I am all ears! Lack of sleep has severely decreased my ability to think creatively, so any help is much, much appreciated. What are some projects you found effective and enjoyable from college?

I am also teaching Intro to Film, and I believe I will be using the following films:
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Dr. Strangelove
I need at least three more films, and if you have suggestions, let me know. I could use some good short films that are available on YouTube as well if you know of any. I also, obviously, am looking for teaching ideas for these films as well, so bring on the awesomeness!!!!

And one more time for the begging...HELP!!!! :) Love you guys.


  1. I wish I could help but I've never read any of those books, and I've only seen PART of Dr. Strangelove. We watched it in school over three classes and I missed the second class, which meant I missed a big chunk of the middle - made it completely incomprehensable, haha, though I do want to go back and watch the whole thing sometime.

    I'm not sure any of the films I could offer would be great ones either. I love some doozies, but I doubt they would be good in a class (The Hours, Metropolis, Les Enfants du Paradis...).

  2. Open Culture has the best free movies anywhere, in my opinion, and they are listed by genre so you can pick them out that way. I particularly recommend two in the animation category: Sita Sings the Blues, and The Old Man and The Sea. http://www.openculture.com/freemoviesonline

  3. On thing I really enjoyed in college lit class was when we had to create a storyboard for one of the scenes in a book we were reading. That may not work for you though, because not everyone is creative like that, but perhaps you could have them do a collage that focuses on some of the things that the book made them feel or impressions that it left on them. I am not sure if this is helpful or not, but hopefully you can do something with it!

  4. I took several different film courses as an undergrad and grad student. The grad courses were film and fiction courses, and we watched Mystic River, Chinatown, and a bunch of Westerns.

    I'd say it depends on if you have an overall theme or not, but Chinatown is a great flick and would pair well with any noir or detective novels.

    I can't help with the books, as I haven't read those, though I need to read Logicomix. However, I always begin any graphic novel by teaching bits of McCloud's Understanding Comics. To me, it's a seminal work in teaching them, especially when many students have little or no prior experience with the format.

  5. I started writing a comment but then my tab went blippity gone. I read Logicomix and loved it. Who knew that a mathematician could have such a fascinating life. What if for that book the students create a "chapter" of their own life in comic format? They can use a wide variety of mediums: hand illustrations, cutouts from magazines if they're not into drawing, web programs. *shrug* It would be something I'd like to do as a college student.

    Also, love me some Pan's Labyrinth.

    1. That is amazing, and I will probably steal it for my next lit class.

  6. Are there particular aspects/elements of film that you're going to be focusing on? I am no expert, but if I were going to explore cinematography, I might choose something by Terrence Malick, perhaps Days of Heaven. And Malick being a philosopher adds an interesting dimension. I was quite taken by that movie -- virtually every frame struck me as being a work of art. The Coen brothers are awesome, especially the way they play around with various genres. O Brother, Where Art Thou is one of my favorites, though others would disagree. Stanley Kubrick is a good one. My daughter and I did a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants study of Full Metal Jacket -- we got into Jungian psychology, the zeitgeist of the Vietnam War era (which I'm old enough to remember) and other stuff I've forgotten. Hugo has spectacular CGI stuff, plus it explores the history of the art of film in an interesting way. Just a few thoughts off the top of my head, FWIW. So many possibilities!

  7. I haven't read any of those titles, so I'm no help there. I've been looking at trying to create some new things to do with my new classes and students, but my brain is a big pile of mush after this week. I'm no help.

    One of my favorite short films is called "More." We watched it in a college class and did a reaction essay to the meaning of it and how it was created. You can watch it online here: http://store.happyproduct.com/more.html

    I've used it a couple of times as a way to start discussion because students seem to react to it in some way. Maybe it'll work for you?

  8. What about that Hitler propaganda film? I know it's icky, but a lot of the techniques are still used today. I can't remember the name of it, however. Oh, and I don't know how long it is, but I know it's on YouTube.

  9. I wish I could help, but I'm illiterate when it comes to movies (with the exception of Napoleon Dynamite...probably the only movie that I can quote. How embarrassing.). And I haven't read any of the books, either, so I'll just go back to my hole now.

  10. Wishing you the absolute best with the transition back to work. I wish I had more ideas but my brain has already started shifting out of education mode and into social media mode. Oy!

  11. For intro to film, may I suggest Frankenstein (The old Universal version)? The lighting, the sound --all gorgeous. Don't clue them in that there's no music soundtrack. Point it out later. It's a shocker how atmospheric some of the scenes are without it, especially when it's so frequently taught that music is essential for creating mood. Some people even swear after seeing it that it must have had music.

  12. I wish I could help you but I have no ideas. I'm sure it is a big transition to go back to work. It will take some adjustment for both of you!

  13. You're going back to work already?! Time flies by so fast.

    When I read Logicomix, I was amazed at how so many of the philosophers featured didn't have a healthy personal life. There was an imbalanced between their mental and personal lives. What about comparing Logicomix with another graphic non-fiction book like Radioactive Marie by Lauren Redniss? Redniss focus on both Curies and how their discovery changed the world. It also intertwines the personal too.

    For your Intro to Film class, why not show a movie that's been adopted from a novel or play? There's Margaret Edson's Wit which is a movie and a play. There's Angels in America by Tony Kushner, Rent, and even Steel Magnolias. There's so much that's left out even a piece of fiction is adapted into the format of film. Why do directors make the decisions they make and how? You can even add Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. There's also a ton of comics that have been adapted to film.

    You can even ask the class which book they think should be turned into a movie and why. They can write an essay about that book, who they would cast as certain characters.. .

    Good luck.

  14. I may never forget that scene with Slim Pickens riding the bomb in Dr Strangelove. What a wild movie that is.

    Sorry, I am no help. I haven't read any of those books and I never took any lit classes in college :(

    I could suggest you rely on the ol' advice, "Remember, you always know more than your students no matter if just a little bit more." True or not, it usually relaxes me enough to at least ACT like I know more and then they assume I do." :)


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