Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prufrocking Out, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just Re-Arrange My Reading Seminar

The amount that I'm proud of my juniors right now is a very large amount. We have been reading "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", which is a very difficult read, even on a good day. More to the point, we started it last Tuesday, and have been plowing through it since then (with a break on Monday for writing).

Certainly nothing revolutionary, but I think they get it. I really do. We've dug through, line by line, stanza by stanza. We've done research. We've read articles (psychology stuff, tangentially related).

But the moment came today, when we debated. And my juniors got it. They really got it.

Tomorrow, we are reading "TS Eliot's Lost Hip-Hop Poem" (Audio Here), and finishing up "Prufrock"... two weeks, spent on 123 lines (if you do not count the indented lines as being their own lines). It was beastly. I told my juniors that. And they believe me.

The biggest victory, though, isn't in the understanding of Prufrock. That's just a poem. The big victory is how they're digging into the process of making meaning, the process of Figuring Stuff Out. That's the important part. They're trying to explain, they're looking for confouding variables, and they're trying as hard as they can to account for everything.

So we conquered a much larger beast than just a poem. We figured out how hard we need to work to figure out every single thing we'll ever read this year, and how deep we need to think just to start approaching a text.

I'm pumped.

Speaking of beasts to tackle, I've been struggling all month with trying to figure out what to do with my reading seminar. They're such a varied group of kids (ranging from really struggling with reading to needing just a little bit of confidence), and so I can't design a whole-class instructional thing that catches all of them in a way that is helpful to everyone.

So I am re-structuring this baby into a workshop. Kids will come in, grab their folders, sit down, write, work, read, whatever, on a couple of discrete and mostly self-defined projects, which will all come together to make their 1st Quarter Portfolio. I'll introduce this baby tomorrow, and we'll see what happens. I think it will work well, and this will be a good lab experiment, as it were, to see if all of this actually works.

That's right. I'm going Nancie Atwell on their arses.

I think it'll work. I really do. If it turns out well, I'm going to have my freshmen follow suit, if only for a month.

If it does not work, then I've only wasted a month.