Wednesday, October 6, 2010


When is a hat a hat?   To be sure, I placed this cotton bag (decorated with rather stylish lobsters on the outside, spots inside) on my head in class, very briefly, to demonstrate that it was a hat - in other words, we could draw little pieces of paper out of it ...

I'm perennially scratching my head for new ways to get discussion going.   The "come to class with three questions that you really want to ask about the reading for today" exercise is as good as any - often much better than supplying reading prompts myself - but the problem is how best to get those questions out there.   Driving in today I hit on a new method - get everyone to write out their questions on separate pieces of paper, together with a quotation that related to that question.   Place pieces of paper in hat.   Get one person to draw out a question.   Discuss.   Person whose question it was gets to pluck the next piece of paper, and so on ... it worked not too badly, in that I felt that it wasn't my voice going on and on, for once ...


  1. It really depends on what kind of course you're teaching, but you might try offering the students the choice of a few short articles on whatever text you're reading at the moment (from different schools of thought to facilitate debate) and set them in groups, according to each article, to discuss the strengths/weaknesses of the approach (what it treats particularly well; what it suggested that they wouldn't have noticed...). Afterwards, when you all come back together as one group, they should have something to say in defense of the article they read and how the approaches compare etc. It should open up new areas for discussion, but is, admittedly, a bit of a run-around.

    P.S. I like the lobster "hat."

  2. Agreed! - though the text in question this time was Nicole Krauss's *Man Walks Into a Room* - not a whole lot of critical commentary there. One major problem that I have, though, is that many students (taking six courses, + working a paid job) find it hard to get through the primary reading, let alone secondary texts. However - this is certainly a useful (and not untried) suggestion ... thank you