Monday, December 07, 2009

Thinking Back about the Drama Course

I teach three courses a semester, in general--a writing course, a lower division course, and an upper division course. It can be hard to figure out the workloads for a given course, especially since I don't often teach the same course from one term to the next, or one year to the next, even (except for the writing course).

I'm trying to figure out a better way to balance the lower division course. I think I've assigned a tad more work than I should have (and thus given myself more grading), though I think each of the assignments has been valuable in itself.

Here's what they've had to do:

A short performance project
A short response to the performance project (writing)
A short response to seeing each of two plays (writing)
A short analytic essay (writing)

I think the four writing assignments could easily have been two, but which two should I have dropped?

I think having them see plays is really important for those who haven't been involved in theater; that's about half the class at least. But my sense is that students think a lot more about their experiences if they write about them. I think writing an analytic essay is important in developing analytic and critical thinking skills. Finally, the performance project is usually really wonderful to get students thinking about what they're doing, and again, they think more about it if they write something.

How much writing do you require in a lower level (freshman, sophomore) lit course?

In addition to the grading excess, I hurt myself this semester by teaching three plays I've never taught before: an American mid-century play, a play by an African writer, and the Ionesco. The American play was the least stretchy for me, but the others were really good experiences. I think I learned a lot and did some good teaching. Still, it's a lot of extra work. Were I to teach this course every year, I'd build a stronger repertoire within a few years; but I've taught it three times in 10 years, and not really regularly. Using plays the theater folks have chosen to perform is important, but it will always be likely to challenge my teaching repertoire for the class (since they seem to teach things other than Shakespeare for some reason!).

I'm feeling like I'm digging out of the grading burial (until I get three sets on Friday), so I'm starting to think about how to do better another time.


  1. Could you make the play responses in-class assignments that they discuss & you check off, but don't really grade?

    OMG: my captcha is "mopho." Lissen, mopho, 2 much grading.

  2. Dr.GunPowderPlot8:52 AM

    Our departmental guidelines require about 10 pages of writing for a soph-level class. I was just saying to my spouse last night how relieved I am that I only have (easy) finals to grade. Can you reorganize a bit so that the last paper is due earlier, and at the end you only focus on the final?

    And, to build on DEH's comment, maybe you could change the response to the performance project into a free-write that then turns into a discussion?

    Thanks for the topic, btw, as I'm avoiding those finals by working on next semester's class!