Sometimes, I outsmart myself.
To some of you, this comes as no surprise. Sometime in the past, perhaps in a different course in a different year, you outsmarted me, too. You know that in the proper context, such an endeavour is rather straightforward: you present an idea, I optimistically agree, and you implement your fiendish plan. Works every time, doesn’t it?
How do I do this to myself, you might ask?
Outsmarting myself usually entails a well-meaning attempt to disguise the mechanics of learning so well that, hopefully, students are unaware of the turning of the cogs. If my planning works, students are engaged in an activity that leads invariably to higher-order thinking. Historical re-enactments? Mundane tasks? Subversive poetry? Whether they are successful or not, the goal is the same.
Was my structure for the literature circles too prescriptive? Perhaps. Still, keep in mind the options provided to you have theoretical/pedagogical foundations, even if the “cogs” are not obvious to you. They come from the Reader Response tradition; here is a brief explanation from the Purdue Online Writing Lab:
At its most basic level, reader response criticism considers readers’ reactions to literature as vital to interpreting the meaning of the text. However, reader-response criticism can take a number of different approaches. A critic deploying reader-response theory can use a psychoanalytic lens, a feminists lens, or even a structuralist lens. What these different lenses have in common when using a reader response approach is they maintain “…that what a text is cannot be separated from what it does” (Tyson 154).
Tyson explains that “…reader-response theorists share two beliefs: 1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding of literature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented to them by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning they find in literature” (154).
Perhaps explaining this approach to you would have helped you understand the purpose of these tasks. Your response to some of these tasks suggest that, at the very least, you are unaware of the connection.
Time to show you the cogs, ladies and gents.