This year I’m assigned to teach three sections of British Literature Survey, a one-semester class for seniors. I’ve taught this class before, but it’s been at least a dozen years since it appeared in my schedule. Brit Lit hasn’t changed much in those years, but my teaching has evolved quite a bit during that time. So, I have these classes where the content is familiar to me, but the way I teach it will be different from how I did it before.
So, a quick note—mostly to myself—about how to approach Brit Lit with new eyes:
1. Keep the emphasis on the Lit part, not the Brit part. I want my students to be confident, competent, maybe even joyful readers. Let’s look for ways to embed choice reading in this class. My intent is to experiment with spending the first ten minutes of each class reading books that students choose. This worked extremely well with sophomores. Will it work with seniors? At 7:30 a.m.? (I love challenges.)
2. Where’s the writing? Students need writing choices and opportunities, even in this class with a more literary focus. No specific assignments are in the curriculum, so I’m looking for ways to use the class to help students discover things about themselves and their writing. Most of these seniors will take a one-semester Expository Composition class during second semester taught by a different teacher. I want them primed and ready to go for that experience, their final writing class before graduation.
3. Make it relevant. A valid question every day is “Why does this matter?” It’s easy to get caught up in symbolism, Shakespearean idiom, and Anglo-Saxon historical context. That’s all fine, as long as we connect it to our real-world concerns. If it doesn’t connect, we’ll dump it, but I’m pretty sure we can connect it.
I’m eager to work with seniors during such an exciting time in their lives, and I can’t wait to delve into those great Brit Lit stories. I’ve dusted off my old gray Brit Lit binder, but I’m grateful for any tips or thoughts from Brit Lit teachers!