Jay Voss's blog

On the Virtues of Student Presentations

A teacher points to a chalkboard with chalk while reaching toward the viewer with other hand

I currently teach Banned Books and Novel Ideas here at the University of Texas, a required course that is intended for undergraduates just commencing work in the major. The reading on my syllabus tends toward Slavic texts, namely various selections from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Kafka, and Nabokov. Such texts are challenging for students – both in terms of my students’ ability to decode the layers of irony spouted off by such characters as Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, and also in terms of the way these works often spotlight regional pride and arrogance.

Engaging Different Types of Students

Drawing of a sheep surrounded by the words Call Me Normal and I'll Call You Often

At this point in the semester we’re all sizing up our latest batch of students. Not every student is the student who quietly does all her reading and eagerly contributes to class discussion. In fact, I’ve found that students like the one I just described can sometimes be the least stimulating. What’s fun or interesting about a student who hangs on our every word, and who repeats for us exactly what we want them to say? For those of us who teach reading and writing courses, one goal of our pedagogy will inevitably be imploring our students to think critically about their place in the world.

Class Discussion and Writing Due Dates

New Yorker cover featuring a blurry drawing overlaid with a graphic indicating the image is loading

This semester I’m teaching a composition class centered around The New Yorker magazine. The impetus for this course was that I wanted my students, who grew up with the immediate culture of the internet, to spend hours musing over longer arguments, and then try and rearticulate those arguments in a critical manner. This is a difficult task when one’s being bombarded with tweets and texts all the time from friends, as I know most twenty-first century students are.

The End-of-Semester Talk

Sign reading Obama Isn't Working hangs in front of American flag in empty factory

Towards the end of the semester, I always like asking students to reflect upon what they have learned and to assess the value of it. This is probably a fairly standard practice – I remember teachers doing it to myself since second grade – but it seems more necessary in these days of budget cuts and attitudes fostered by entitled entertainment. Big pictures are good, especially when you’re teaching rhetoric to a room full of science and business majors.


Creative Commons License
All materials posted to this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. We invite you to use and remix these materials, but please give credit where credit is due. In addition, we encourage you to comment on your experiments with and adaptations of these plans so that others may benefit from your experiences.


User login