Scott Garbacz's blog

A Canvas Tutorial, or, How Not To Enforce the Digital Divide

In my E314 course, I need to teach a wide array of skills, ranging from academic research to close reading, from composition to the Oxford English Dictionary. Balancing these priorities against each other, and all of the skills against the need to provide students with a basic background for some demanding books, makes for an interesting challenge. Yet after a few semesters of teaching similar courses, which provided me with plenty of opportunities for fine-tuning my organization, I was surprised to hear one student make a rather basic observation to another:

Graphing Empathy

Two survey questions asking students to rate their sense of empathy with Huckleberry Finn and Jim.

This semester, I taught a Banned Books class focusing on the ways that authors deploy empathy. One cornerstone of the class was a series of daily surveys. Each discussion was preceded by a survey (pictured above) in which students gave an informal ranking of their empathetic response to the main character(s) featured in the day’s readings. My goal was to help students theorize their own responses to stories, but I also ended up generating some unexpected revelations.

The Convenience of Teaching Difficult Texts

close-up photo of a doll with blue eyes

My classroom tends to feature a lot of group and class discussion. This semester's first novel was Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, a 576-page tome full of complex allusions to recent Indian politics, the foundation of Islam, and the Western literary canon. The second book is Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, a slim 216-page novel dealing with Jim Crow era America. Unexpectly, I'm finding that Rushdie, not Morrison, most encourages classroom discussion.


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