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On the Role of Reading Groups

Twice each semester, you and several other members of your section will be required to set the agenda for the Friday class meeting by examining the questions asked in reading responses on the listserv and on the Monday and Wednesday classes for that week, considering which are the most interesting and/or important, comparing notes with the other members of your group, deciding together what questions you want to add or revise, and finally posting a set of questions or agenda for class discussion by 3 pm on Thursday.

When considering the range of questions asked in reading responses for the week, some of the things your group might look for are: 1) questions of exceptional quality or interest that you feel haven't been adequately discussed thus far in class; 2) questions that appear repeatedly; 3) gaps in the questions that people have been asking; 4) significant assumptions implicit in people's questions that you feel are worth discussing openly. Remember, though, that your task isn't simply to choose from among already-existing questions or to provide a list of unrelated questions for discussion. Instead, you should be trying to look back over the entire week's readings, note patterns in the stories we've read, and ask questions that apply specifically to the reading for Friday but that draw on our earlier discussions.

There are several reasons why I'm making this a course requirement: 1) it ensures that at least twice in the semester you will read everyone's reading responses carefully and evaluate their questions (although of course you should be doing this every week!); 2) it ensures that you will engage in some serious out-of-class discussion of issues coming out of this course at least twice in the semester (although of course I hope this happens all the time!); 3) it involves each of you in the planning and pedagogy of the course to some degree, so it's not always my own perspective/plans that dominate in the classroom; 4) it gets you thinking like a teacher, which is important even if that's not your chosen career path because a) you always learn more when you have to teach something (even if it's as apparently simple as choosing questions for class discussion), and b) many of you will be taking three or more years of classes in college and you should have some sense of what being "on the other side of the classroom" feels like.

Finally, just as members of a given reading group have responsibilities in a given week, non-members of that group also have responsibilities. If you are not in the reading group responsible for setting the agenda for a Friday class, you must be sure to check your email Thursday afternoon, read the questions carefully, come up with several answers for each question, and think of questions of your own that relate to or follow from the questions they have asked. I recommend that you print off the questions they've asked and bring that print-out to class, so that we are all "on the same page," so to speak. Reading groups will be graded in part on what kind of class discussion their questions spark, so be prepared to support each group, so that others will support your group when the time comes.

Here's a list of who's in what reading group for each section. If your name does not appear here, or is misspelled, please contact me directly at simon@fredonia.edu.

Section 5 (11 am MWF)


Section 6 (12 noon MWF)


See the schedule of assignments for the weeks that your group is responsible for setting the agenda for the Friday class. Please note that during the week of mid-terms Group 6 in each section will have special duties.


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EN 209: Novels and Tales, Spring 1999
Created: 1/26/99, 5:32 pm
Last modified: 2/16/99, 10:08 am