Monday, May 23, 2011

Planning a Class - Calendar

A couple weeks ago, I posted about maybe sharing some class planning strategies. And now that I've turned in my grades, I thought I'd start working on that.

I'm hoping that I'll put some thoughts up, and you folks will share your ideas to do things better, and then maybe we'll all benefit.

I haven't taught the classes I'll be teaching in England, at least not in this sort of format or for a long time. That means I'm starting pretty much from scratch. So I start out looking up three things.

1) I look up what the school says the class should be or do.

Here's what the catalog says for the three classes I'll be teaching:

Course 201 - Masterpieces of English Literature I (3) Studies major works of English literature from Beowulf (750) to Blake (1780). Includes such authors as Chaucer, Marlowe, Donne, Milton and Swift.

Course 301 - The Renaissance (3) Studies Renaissance English literature emphasizing works by Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Bacon, Jonson, Bunyan, Marvel, Herrick and Donne.

Course 302 - 17th Century (3) Covers prose, poetry and drama of the post-Renaissance period through the Restoration with special focus on works of John Milton.

At my school, I can go into the course files and look at the original course descriptions and such as well, but this is what I have for my fall semester. I also have access to a previous syllabus for one of the courses.

2) Figure out the basic calendar for the semester. I do the calendar only for teaching days (and the occasional other day if it seems important). I do out a calendar for the whole term. Here's what mine starts out looking like for fall:

Teaching schedule:
Course 201 - MTR - 2:10-3
Course 301 - MW - 11:15-12:30
Course 301 - MTR - 4:10-5

Week 1
8/29 - Mon- Classes begin
8/30 - Tues -
8/31 - Wed -
9/1 - Thurs -

Week 2
9/5 - Mon -
9/6 - Tues -
9/7 - Wed -
9/8 - Thurs -
9/9 - Fri -

Week 3
9/12 - Mon -
9/13 - Tues -
9/14 - Wed -
9/15 - Thurs -

And so forth.

Since I'm the sort of person who needs to see things on paper to do my planning, I print out a copy of the calendar for each class. I do each calendar up for the specific days for each class by cutting out days I don't need for the class.

3) Now I have an idea about what the school wants the course to look like, and what the calendar looks like. I start with one class, and think about what text(s) I want to teach for that course.

I'm looking at two anthology groups right now, and am planning to choose the one that works best for all the courses. Happily, both anthology groups come in physically smaller texts than they used to, so you can choose the ones that will be best for a given course, and not have, say, the 18th century for a medieval course in the same anthology.

One possibility is the Norton Anthology

The other possibility is the Longman

Thoughts about which you'd choose and why?

Let's start with the 16th century "Renaissance" course!


  1. I think I plan classes backwards from you. I figure out what I want my students to know/be/do at the end of the course first, and then I plan assignments that will help them accomplish that, and only then do I look at the calendar.

    Of course, I don't teach English, and I spend a lot of time trying to find texts that will match the vision I have in my head.

  2. I love planning classes! I do something half way between your method and EmmaNadine's, I usually plan my calendar and assignments at the same time--they are really integrated for me.

    When I taught a 16th/17th century class last semester, I mostly used the Norton and really liked it, but I also supplemented a lot. I was surprised at how many of my students really enjoyed Foxe's Book of Martyrs--I used John N. King's very abridged edition as one of my textbooks, but I also used the Variorum edition online to do some teaching about book history. We spent about a week on Foxe, and some of my students wrote really great papers on it.

    I also spent a lot of time on sonnets and sonnet sequences--in addition to the usuals (Petrarch, Sidney, Spenser, Wyatt, Surrey, Shakespeare, Donne) I also added in Ann Locke's.

  3. This is something I'm thinking about a lot since I need to plan my courses for the fall at a brand new school. In the past, I've decided how many writing assignments I want/need to students to write, keeping in mind the goals of the assignments, and then the due dates are the first things that go on the calendar. (Selfishly, my hope is to space out grading as much as humanly possible.) Then, I put texts in where I think they're appropriate. I do lighter readings around the dates of papers being due, because, face it, they aren't probably going to do the reading if it's heavy AND there's a paper to do. Then, I spread out the heavier reading over the course of the rest of the calendar.

    That's what I've done whether I'm teaching Shakespeare or writing, and for me, it works. Basically, I try to make a schedule that will encourage students to feel like they CAN do the work, given a reasonable amount of time. One of the things I always hear on my evaluations is that the course was challenging but very well organized. I like that. As a student, that was exactly what I wanted from my professors, too. I like making the flow of the semester manageable for both them and me.

    Oddly, nothing else in my life is nearly as organized as my syllabi and accompanying schedules. I certainly wish it were. But having kids has made me ever more disorganized.

  4. Be sure to remember that the Brits do things very differently than we do. I'd pick their brains and see how much and what they actually 'do' in class. I know my students who go off and study in England come back astonished at the difference in approach. For instance, in my field, the students are prepping for the exam, aren't required (and many times even expected) to show up for classes, and have to do all the reading on their own. Classes are basically high level seminars and/or tutorials.

  5. What a funny chronology! I.e. Why is Milton 17th C and Bunyan Renaissance?

    Also, what Belle said about the teaching. I'd ask how these courses are taught, and what students, particularly advanced students, will expect. They may have been doing English lit in a much more focused way than your students in the US, so be more sophisticated...

  6. This is a study abroad program with US students, based on a US style course system. There MAY be the occasional non-US student, but that looks pretty rare, from what I've heard.