“I don’t view Shakespeare’s work as intimidating anymore.” — midterm reflection from college freshman

“It has made me more confident in myself, and I don’t view Shakespeare’s work as intimidating anymore.” –freshman student reflecting on the first half of my “Shakespeare in Context” course. In lieu of reading comprehension quizzes, I have students post informal responses. They respond to an orientation lecture and each act of the play as they read, and finally they write a brief synthesis paper. That cycle usually takes about…

The difficulty is the point (teaching critical thinking skills differs from teaching facts to memorize)

In the past few years I have seen more students who are very bright, hard-working, and grade-conscious, who are very comfortable when they have a list facts to memorize, or a formula to follow. Rather than thinking of a revision as an opportunity to develop, these students think more transactionally than organically about their learning, and prefer to see revision as a punishment for not getting it right the first time. I see it instead as an integral part of the critical thinking process.

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In October, 1999 I was blogging about college application essays, Willie Crowther, and Elizabethan English for RenFest workers

Jessica found herself wishing that somebody — anybody — in her family had died: ”Because then I could write about it.” — College application essays. >As a young man I needed someone to look up to, someone to emulate. I was something of a nerd: I needed someone who’d integrated highly technical talents with the basic social graces. —Tribute to Willie Crowther, by Martin Heller Proper Elizabethan is more akin…

Studying STEM Isn’t The Career Boost We Think

Turns out, getting a STEM education may help you get a good job early but if you want a good career, you’re better off in liberal arts lane.  In other words, even if you’re only measuring money, a liberal arts education is probably worth a ton more than most people may think. […] [B]y the time STEM degree holders reach 40 years of age, more than half of them aren’t in…

You, Too, Can Have a Viral Tweet Like Mine: Demystifying Poetic Meter

Saving for the next time I teach “Intro to English Study.” It’s all well and good to sing “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” to the tune of “Hallelujah,” but why can’t you do it the other way around? For that matter, why does it work only when you limit yourself to the first two lines of the song? Why can’t you make the whole tune fit? Generally speaking, the answer…