Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Bawds of Euphony"

Today, we had a Sophomore English: Critical Thinking sub department meeting. There are ten of us, and we take turns each meeting running through a lesson from our respective class. Hopefully, the lesson leverages our one-to-one laptop environment in some way. The lesson today was a critical thinking exercise using Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

The subject of this post is not really the lesson, rather, something that came up within the activity. A very 21st century question. The activity had us in partners, posting ideas about a stanza to a Moodle forum, where other sets of partners answer meta questions about our original ideas.

My partner and I had stanza ten, which includes the phrase "bawds of euphony." Better look that one up. As a phrase search, Google takes us straight to a scholarly (or maybe pseudo-scholarly) essay explicating the stanza. There we go. Being the fun-loving English teachers we are, we continued the activity by looking up each words individually in the dictionary. These definitions helped us form our own idea.

So the question is: how do we teach critical thinking if students have easy access to somebody else's (an expert's?) critical thinking?

It doesn't work to say "don't use those sites." That'll be as effective as scaring students away from Sparksnotes.

Finding somebody's thinking isn't the same as doing your own thinking.

My initial idea was, well, you do the activity. Then, you teach students how to conduct a scholarly search, find some materials, and hold them up to the class's discussion to identify similarities and differences.

BTW - that's a pic of an albino blackbird

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