Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side

Adapted from Mazenglish, 2012

While I am not generally a fan of "education-ese," I've reached the point in the year when I feel the need to step aside from the direct instruction and encourage my students to begin owning their own educational process. As we head into second semester, the classroom needs to be less a place where "kids come to watch adults work." To often the students are willing to be the "happy little troopers" and do exactly what they are told to get the grade they need. However, that's not always the best way to cultivate skill and knowledge - in fact, we've all been in classes where we simply want to be told what we need to know. For now in AP English Lang, I am feeling a more "workshop-like approach" will be the best avenue for them to cultivate writing skills.

When I was teaching freshman English, I always took this approach with one of the last literary works of the year. In my Honors English 9 class, I would tell them it is time they leave the nest.  After being the "Sage on the Stage" through numerous novels and units during the year in which I taught them "how to read literature" at the high school level, I turned the study of the last novel over to them. They were pretty much "on their own" (but actually encouraged to collaborate in pairs and small groups) to work their way through Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea. After teaching them all year about heroes - tragic, epic, and existential code - as well as allusions, allegory, symbolism, motifs, and all the other components of a general survey lit course, I expected them to apply their knowledge to a scholarly analysis of the novel.  They worked in groups, they lead the discussion, they interpreted the text.  And, hopefully, I told them, all the information they gleaned from their study would coincidentally be all the information that I "put on the test."

It's always an exciting time - as they head off on this quest.  And it is always fruitful.  They never fail to disappoint me.  And by the end of the unit they are quite proud to be experts on this work of literature.  They are on their way to becoming "people on whom nothing is lost."

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