Last year I taught both English 1102 and 1101, respectively. As a whole, I believe that both semesters went relatively well, particularly the spring term, which has been a challenge in recent years.
During the spring term, I decided to try a new theme in 1102–social movements and popular culture. Students were instructed to choose a social movement that interested them and that they wouldn’t mind studying the entire semester. I told them that by the end of the course, they would argue whether or not popular culture helped or hindered the movement. For this course, I made sure to scaffold each assignment since research can be overwhelming for students, especially if it’s their first time doing it. We started with an exploratory essay that either focused solely on the history of their chosen social movement or a look at the positive and negative ways that popular contributed to the success of the movement. From there we moved to an annotated bibliography, so that they could find a popular culture piece to critique in their rhetorical analysis, as well as sources for their larger essay and presentation. Their rhetorical analysis focused on really breaking down a piece of popular culture related to their movement and start thinking about the ways in which the movement benefitted (or didn’t) from the piece. Finally, students worked on their research argument and a final presentation simultaneously. They were allowed to use portions of their prior assignments in their final argument and encouraged to continue building on the sources. Overall, the students were really engaged in the material this semester, particularly the days we would recreate different speeches or analyze pieces of popular culture in class. I received really nice feedback from the students and the only change I made to the class this spring was having students also consider how current popular culture can change the perception of a prior movement.
In the fall, I once again used the American Dream as a theme and I think it might be time to switch out if and/or when I teach composition again. While students were engaged with the topic, the material felt a bit stale to me due to having taught it for a couple semesters at this point. We also had a lot of technical difficulties, which made it hard for me to include the assignments I had planned. I’ve learned to stop trying new technology until I’ve had more time to really play around with it prior to the semester starting. I’m not sure how I want to structure a future 1101 course, but I do know that I really want to have it work better with the 1102 course.