This past week has been a flurry of more global, more intense collegiality than I’ve ever witnessed. It comes as a result of a terrible situation, of course. But I have been so grateful for and so amazed by the communities that have sprung up, by the support being offered freely from those with any kind of expertise.

I was so appreciative of people on Twitter and Facebook who shared brief ideas and suggestions as they worked on their newly-online syllabi. I want to share mine here as well – not to say that they are exemplars but to provide a starting point and a way for others to think about possibilities that they might incorporate into their own courses.

This is far from set in stone. As I told my students during our first Zoom meeting today, I expect that things will continue to shift as we all figure out what we can and can’t expect of ourselves and each other in this new format that we’ve had little time to prepare for. To that point, if you want to share your revised syllabus, please drop a link in the comments! I would love to see what others are doing.

I started with a table of contents. I don’t usually do this in my syllabi, though it occurs to me that I should start doing that now… But here, I wanted students to be able to navigate easily through this document that I wasn’t presenting in person.

I did include videos recorded via Zoom, where I shared my screen with students and walked them through each section. But for future weeks, if students want to check something, they can now easily navigate to it within this (admittedly very large) document.

Here’s the syllabus for my class on Critical Approaches to Adolescent Literature. Further down is the syllabus for my class on Early British Literature. (The first section, on distance learning and isolation, is identical in both documents, so I only include it once here.)

General Notes on Distance Learning and Isolation:

Some of you may have taken online classes before. This is NOT what you would expect from an online class. This is a stopgap emergency measure, and there’s no way it can be as effective as a class that was originally designed to be online. We’re all doing the best we can, but there will be glitches and upsets. The main goal here is to finish the semester without losing our minds.

That means that if you’re not sure about an assignment, or if you somehow don’t see a notification and realize only a week later, don’t worry. Send me an email or visit my office hours (details below). Flexibility is key here, and I will do all I can to ensure you all get the grades you’re aiming for.

Having a routine has been proven to help people maintain healthy mental states. If you’re taking care of children or elderly people, you’ll probably have a routine mostly built in. But make sure to schedule time for classes and homework, if only to ensure you have time for yourself! Build little routines into your day.

Some ideas:

  1. Set aside a designated space for schoolwork, whether it’s a commonly used space or your own separate office. Returning to the same spot for a specific activity will help get you in the right headspace. (It’s science!)
  2. Maintain your eating and cooking routines. Take some extra time with them if this is an activity you enjoy. Indulge in some fancy teas or coffees, or whatever gets you excited.
  3. If you had a crafts hobby you haven’t touched in a while, pick it back up; or, start a new crafts hobby! Set aside some time each day, and make sure to practice self-care.
  4. If you won’t be leaving the house (a smart idea, all things considered), do some exercises or stretched. Get the adrenaline flowing! (https://www.downdogapp.com/ is offering their app free for a while, so if you need some coaching, they’ve got you!)
  5. If you usually do your makeup or other kinds of grooming, don’t ignore that just because you’re not leaving the house. Spend some time on yourself, just for yourself. It’ll help you maintain a sense of the “world out there.”
  6. Keep in touch with friends! Be active on social media, form chat groups, etc. Even if you can’t get together, make sure to maintain contact. Check in with people who might need help and reach out if you need help.

MAIN GOALS AND ACTIVITIES FOR THE CLASS:

  1. Read Young Adult books to get a sense of the field.
    • More flexible reading schedule. Not totally free-for-all, though!
    • Discuss books in informal chats and via once-a-week video conferences.
  2. Learn about topics of debate and conversation in the field of Young Adult literature.
    • Listen to / watch videos I will share with you.
    • Occasionally, read secondary criticism.
    • Some low-stakes assignments to make sure you understand the videos/texts. These may be in the form of charts, drawings, infographics, etc.
  3. Learn / hone skills of critical analysis.
    • Discuss the YA novels and the secondary videos/texts with classmates, in formal groupwork and informal chats. Required: 10 engagements per week.
    • Write one more essay. (I am grading your first essay and will return it to you shortly.)
    • Create a reading list.
    • Write fanfic or create fan-art.

TOOLS WE WILL USE:

BlackBoard:

No more Discussion Boards. Slack channels will replace these.

Assignment sheets will still be posted to BlackBoard (as will this document). You will submit your final reading lists and your final paper via BlackBoard. Everything else will happen on Slack and Zoom.

Slack:

  1. Follow this link: [removed]
    • You will be prompted to create an account with any email you choose. Your name should be your FULL NAME, first and last, so that I can keep track of you.
    • There are a number of “channels” which you can access from the left side of the screen on a computer, or from the menu on a smartphone.
      • The #general channel is for questions / comments about the class. This document will be hosted there.
      • The #assignments channel will have writing assignments and reading schedules.
      • The #random channel is for you all to informally chat about anything at all.
    • Each book we read will have its own channel.
      • You can enter the channels whenever you want and add your thoughts.
      • You should keep to the reading schedule, but you may read ahead and skip backwards to return to books we finished discussing.
      • Channels with new posts will appear bolded in your list.
      • You can post directly to the whole channel, or you can reply to a specific post. You can also tag people, so that we know who you’re responding to.
    • Each writing assignment will have its own channel. I’ll post detailed instructions there, and you can ask questions and have informal chats with each other there as well.

Zoom:

  • Follow this link: [removed]
    • You will be asked to allow a download of the Zoom app, whether on phone or computer. Allow it!
    • Once you’re in, click “Join” and enter this Meeting ID: [removed]. Follow instructions to create a username.
    • We will use this meeting space in two ways:
      • Once a week, we’ll meet “face-to-face” for an hour. See the survey I sent asking which day you prefer: [removed]. Zoom meetings on the free plan can only go for 40 minutes, so we will have to hang up and rejoin to get a full hour.
      • Once a week, I will hold office hours. See the survey I sent asking for which times you prefer. When I’m holding office hours, you will be able to enter the “waiting room” and I will let you into my “office” in the order that you called in.

SCHEDULES:

Reading Schedule:

  • Thursday, March 19: Finish up with The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
    Zoom.
  • March 24 – March 31:The Sisters of the Winter Wood
                Slack for chats; Zoom once a week on Thursday 3:30-4:30pm
  • April 2: Sometimes We Tell the Truth (selection, not the whole book)
            Slack for chat; one Zoom session on Thursday 3:30-4:30pm
  • April 7 – April 16: Spring break.
  • April 21 – May 5: Dark and Deepest Red           
    Slack for chats; Zoom once a week on Thursday 3:30-4:30pm
  • May 7 – May 14: The Poet X
                Slack for chats; Zoom once a week on Thursday 3:30-4:30pm

Writing Schedule:

March 24 – May 14: Share a book for your reading list, one per week.
To limit outside exposure, there will be no library or bookstore requirement. Instead, you will use online libraries or sites like Goodreads to gather titles. And since we have this added online chat space, we can spread the assignment out over the rest of the semester.

  • Each week, you’ll find one book that fits a theme, genre, or topic (as described on the assignment sheet).
  • You’ll post it to the Slack channel #reading-list.
  • You will include the title, author, publisher, and year of publication.
  • You will also include a summary (copy-pasted from the site on which you found it) and you will cite your source (Goodreads, NYPL, Buzzfeed, Epic Reads, etc).
  • Finally, you’ll add a sentence or tow about why you chose this book.
  • Keep all your books in a document. You will turn in this document at the end of the semester, through BlackBoard, so that I can have an easy record of it to grade.

April 20: Fanfic/fan-art due
I’m pushing this way back rather than having it due in a couple of weeks because it’ll be difficult enough to figure out what’s going on with the regular reading – we can save the more creative piece for later, so that you have more time to get used to online stuff first.

  • You will have the option to work in partners or on your own.
  • We’ll talk about specifics after we read Sometimes We Tell the Truth.

May 16: First Draft of Final Essay

May 16 – May 21: Mandatory virtual-office meeting to discuss your paper

May 22: Final Draft of Final Essay
I’m pushing the essay to the end of the semester. Originally, I had planned to have a day of presentations at the end of the semester. But since we can’t do that, it makes more sense to just leave this big project for the end. That also gives you the chance to write about any of the books on the syllabus, rather than limiting you to only the texts we’ve read before your essay is due. So, a win-win!

Things to do before our first class on Thursday, March 19:

  1. Read this entire document!!!
  2. Make sure you can access Slack and Zoom.
  3. Fill out the survey.
  4. Finish reading The Inexplicable Logic of My Life.
  5. Make sure you have a quiet space and/or headphones, and you’re ready on Thursday at 3:30pm.

See you then! Onward, brave adventurers!


ENG301: British Literature I, Spring 2020: Online Instruction (March 24-May 12, 2020)

MAIN GOALS FOR THE CLASS and how we’ll achieve them:

The move to online, and the loss of a week as your professors rethink their syllabus, means that some things have to be dropped from the syllabus. Other things need to be rearranged. Below is an outline that explains my choices – where I chose to keep things, where I chose to cut things, how I chose to reconfigure some assignments, and the reasons behind it all.

  1. Get a sense of medieval and early modern British texts:
    • Discussion of texts in informal chats (using Slack) and via brief weekly video conferences will replace our 2.5hr weekly classes.
    • The Slack will be open all week long. I will check it on a regular schedule (not 24/7). This way, we can make sure that you understand the basics of text as you’re reading (plot, character, language, etc).
    • Infographic timeline: I will show you how to create an infographic, and you will organize the texts from our syllabus in chronological order.
  2. Understand the ways various medieval and early modern genres work:
    • I will record some video and audio for you, accompanied by PowerPoints. These will replace my lectures that usually gave you context of the genre and the conventions. (Like when we talked about courtly love in relation to Lanval, for example.)
    • It would have made sense to cut some texts from the syllabus, but we need a good representation of all the genres. I’ve cut down the amount of time we spend on a couple of the texts, and I’ve cut out the secondary (critical) text on The Merchant of Venice.
  3. Learn about topics of debate and conversation in the field of medieval and early modern British literature:
    • This will be covered in videos and PowerPoints as well.
    • Some leading questions designed to help you think about the debates/topics will be posted in Slack so that you can think about them during the week as you read.
    • During our 30-minute weekly video-conferencing session, we’ll talk about the topics/debates a bit.
    • Some low-stakes assignments to make sure you understand the videos/texts. These may be in the form of charts, drawings, infographics, etc. which you’ll post on Slack. This will basically replace in-class writing. They’ll be short and very informal (and ungraded).
  4. Learn / hone skills of critical analysis:
    • Discuss the texts and the secondary videos with classmates, in formal groupwork and informal chats. Required: 10 engagements per week. Engagements can happen at any time before Tuesday at 6pm. They can be in the form of a question (clarifying a point in the text, asking about context, etc.); a thought about interpreting the text; or a response to a classmate’s question or interpretation. Responses MUST be more than “I agree with you.” They must substantively contribute to the conversation. (Let’s be real, otherwise you can just write “I agree with you” ten times, and that’s not learning…)
    • Write two more essays: one on romance (Lanval, Bisclavret, The King of Tars, Roman de Silence) and one on drama (The Second Shepherds’ Play, The Merchant of Venice).
    • Write an adaptation or fanfic of ONE text from the syllabus. (This is definitely critical! You’ll write this after we discuss Sometimes We Tell the Truth, which is an adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.)

TOOLS WE WILL USE:

BlackBoard:

Assignment sheets will still be posted to BlackBoard (as will this document). You will submit your papers, timeline, and creative project via BlackBoard. Everything else will happen on Slack and Zoom. Slack and Zoom both have phone apps.

Slack:

  1. Follow this link: [removed]  
    • You will be prompted to create an account with any email you choose (keep in mind that everyone in the class will be able to see your email address, so use your Lehman email if you want privacy). Your name should be your FULL NAME, first and last, so that I can keep track of you.
    • There are a number of “channels” which you can access from the left side of the screen on a computer, or from the menu on a smartphone.
      • The #intro-syllabus channel is for questions / comments about the class. This document will be hosted there.
      • The #assignments channel will have writing assignments and reading schedules.
      • The #random channel is for you all to informally chat about anything at all.
    • Each text we read will have its own channel.
      • You can enter the channels at any point during the week when we’re reading a specific text and add your thoughts. Do not go ahead. You may return to previous weeks’ discussions, if you have more thoughts you want to add. (This is a bonus of online learning!)
      • You can post directly to the whole channel, or you can reply to a specific post. You can also tag people, so that we know who you’re responding to.
      • Channels with new posts will appear bolded in your list.
    • Each writing assignment will have its own channel. I’ll post detailed instructions there, and you can ask questions and have informal chats with each other there as well. Same rules as with the text channels.
    • If you want to create a private study group with just a few people, you can do that!

Zoom:

  • Follow this link: [removed]
    • You will be asked to allow a download of the Zoom app, whether on phone or computer. Allow it!
    • Once you’re in, click “Join” and enter this Meeting ID: [removed]. Follow instructions to create a username.
    • We will use this meeting space in two ways:
      • Once a week, we’ll meet “face-to-face” for 30 minutes. We will not meet as a full class – I think that would get overwhelming. Instead, we’ll meet in smaller groups for 30 minutes each. See the survey I sent asking which timeslot you prefer: [removed]. I will post the groups/schedule as soon as everyone has responded.
      • Once a week, I will hold office hours. See the survey I sent asking for which times you prefer. When I’m holding office hours, you will be able to enter the “waiting room” and I will let you into my “office” in the order that you called in.

SCHEDULES:

Reading Schedule:

March 24: The King of Tars; Beowulf (lines 1-1250); Cohen’s “Monster Theory” Seven Theses
Instructions:

  1. Review the seven theses (document of your summaries posted to BlackBoard and to the #king-of-tars-beowulf channel on Slack).
  2. Review the plot of The King of Tars.
  3. Read Beowulf lines 1-1250.
  4. Watch the video of me talking about monsters & lump-babies & Grendel & Beowulf…
  5. Join the Slack channel and engage at least 10 times before class on Tuesday, March 24.
  6. Make sure you know your timeslot. Join Zoom on time.

March 31: Roman de Silence
Instructions:

  1. Access the document of questions about Roman de Silence.
  2. Note that you will be reading selected lines throughout the text. You do not need to read the whole long text!
  3. Watch/listen to/read any supplementary material I give you (I’m not sure yet what format it will be in – this depends on your preferences, among other things.)
  4. Read Roman de Silence, using the questions to help you understand the text.
  5. Check in on Slack frequently this week. Silence can be confusing – use the resource of what can be a group-study, where you can all help each other out. I will of course also be checking in to answer questions, etc.
  6. Engage on Slack at least 10 times before class on Tuesday, March 31.
  7. Join your Zoom at the right time.

SPRING BREAK!! Yes, that’s still on… Make sure to relax and actually take time for yourself. It’s easy to just hop onto Slack and chat with people (and sure, do that in the #random channel). But don’t do schoolwork unless you have to.

April 21: The Canterbury Tales: “The Miller’s Tale”
Instructions:

  1. Access supplemental materials I provide (video, audio, or written). These will include links to resources to help you understand the Middle English of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
  2. Read the Norton’s introduction to Chaucer (pages 256-261).
  3. Read the Norton’s introduction to “The Miller’s Prologue and Tale” (page 282).
  4. Read “The Miller’s Prologue and Tale” (pages 282-298).
  5. Engage on Slack at least 10 times, at any point during your reading of the introductory materials or the text itself.
  6. Join your Zoom at the right time.

April 28: Sometimes We Tell the Truth excerpt
Instructions:

  1. Access my supplementary materials.
  2. Download the PDF of the excerpt you need to read (posted to BlackBoard and Slack, as all docs you need will be).
  3. Read the text!
  4. Engage on Slack at least 10 times.
  5. Join Zoom at the right time.

May 5: The Second Shepherds’ Play
Instructions: Same as previous weeks, with perhaps some adjustments as we figure things out!

May 12: The Merchant of Venice
Instructions: Same as previous weeks, with perhaps some adjustments as we figure things out!

I will check Slack chats a few times throughout the week. I will not be available 24/7…

Writing Schedule:

  • all due by 11:59pm via BlackBoard on the dates listed
  • detailed assignment sheets will be posted to BlackBoard and Slack
  • we will review the assignments via Zoom
  • you can ask me questions about the assignment in Slack, and you can chat with classmates and share ideas as well (I’m not worried about plagiarism – partly because I can see everything you write on Slack even if you’re in a private group 😉)

Essay #2 (Romance) Draft #1                         Saturday, April 4

Essay #2 (Romance) Final Draft                     Sunday, April 19

Creative adaptation / fanfic                             Tuesday, May 5

Infographic timeline                                        Tuesday, May 12

Essay #3 (Drama)                                           Saturday, May 23

Things to do before our first class on Tuesday, March 24:

  1. Read this entire document!!! Use the videos linked in the doc and on Slack to help you understand everything. Ask questions on Slack if there’s anything you don’t understand.
  2. Make sure you can access Slack and Zoom (links above).
  3. Fill out the survey: [removed]
  4. Review The King of Tars and the monster theses; read Beowulf lines 1-1250.
  5. Make sure you have a quiet space and/or headphones, and you’re ready on Tuesday at your assigned time to join Zoom.

See you soon! Onward, brave adventurers!

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