Last semester, I had students construct presentations of terms and historical events in my Early American Literature survey course. I have a posts on the assignment itself and on some of the projects that students created. This semester, I am tweaking that assignment in a couple of ways. Rather than having students present on specific terms and presenting during the last week of class, I am having students present on texts by authors that we will be covering throughout the semester. I have done something like this before with the Wikis in my “The City in American Literature Course.” This project, however, is a little bit different. Below, you will find a description of the project and a discussion of my thinking in regards to its construction.
Note: For this assignment, students must read a novel, play, or autobiography by one of the authors we will cover during the course. In the class, we are reading short stories and some plays with the occasional poem. To begin with, I wanted to make sure that the texts I chose for students to present on were not overly difficult. As such, even though we are reading stories by William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, I did not put novels by those authors on the presentation list.
Objective—The objective of this assignment is to expand upon your knowledge of American literature from 1865 through the present and for you to share that new knowledge with your fellow students. To do this, each group will read a text from the list below, and you must work with your partner to create a presentation (video, Prezi, infographic, etc.) and a written product to share with the class. The presentation can derive partly from the written product.
Written Portion—This portion will appear on the Wiki in Canvas. The written portion must contain the following information.
- Title of the text
- Author of the text
- List of characters, their relationship to one another, and one sentence for each character that describe him/her. There must be at least 7-10 entries here. (For short story collections like Cane and In Our Time, we will discuss what characters to include. For novels and plays, list the main characters.
- Provide a plot summary, 500-750 words, of the text. The summary needs to hit the high points of the text. It does not need to provide every single detail about what occurs. (Again, for Cane and In Our Time, I will discuss how to do this with those groups.)
- Find two academic sources (journal article/book/book chapter) that discusses your text.
- Summarize each academic source in 250-500 words each.
- Works cited page that contains the text you are presenting on and the sources you chose to use in the presentation.
Presentation—Look at the schedule below for your presentation date. Your group will have seven to ten minutes to present to the class your text and how it relates to what we have covered during the semester. You must have some product for your presentation. This can be a video, a Prezi (with voiceover), an Infographic, a Moovly, or any other delivery method. Your presentation must contain the following information.
- Title of the text
- Author of the text
- A brief summary of the text (1-2 minutes)
- Key points from the academic sources about the text (1-2 minutes)
- A discussion of how the text relates, specifically, to what we will discuss in class that day along with what we have discussed in class up to that point (3-4 minutes)
- A list of five questions for us to think about in regards to how the text relates to what we have covered in the course.
Peer/Self Evaluation—You will be required to evaluate your partner’s contribution to the project and to evaluate your own. To do this, I will distribute (either on paper or through Canvas) a form that has you rank you and your partner’s contributions to the project. I will average out the results to get this portion of the grade.
When constructing the assignment, I made sure to provide students with everything I expected them to create to complete the project. As such, I approach assignment sheets like this the same way I would approach any assignment in an online course, being as thorough as possible. Taking what I learned from last semester, where I tried to leave the assignment open-ended, I chose to provide specific requirements in regards to presenting the material this time around. In this way, I hope to avoid student confusion and to create the feeling that this assignment is not as hard as it initially appears.
Along with the more specific assignment sheet, I also decided to make the presentations rolling. In this way, I am hoping to have students build upon one another and build upon the texts that we will be discussing the day that they present. Ultimately, I want students to gain a wider range of texts and readings than just what we all read for the course. The goal is, as always, to expand their knowledge of literature and to expose them to as many texts as possible, as presenters and the audience, within the limited time I have them in the class with me.
Below, you will find the texts students will present on this semester.
|Chesnutt, Charles||Paul Marchand, F.M.C.||Feb. 6|
|Baldwin, James||Blues for Mister Charlie||Mar. 31|
|Chopin, Kate||The Awakening||Feb. 1|
|Dunbar, Paul Laurence||The Sport of the Gods||Feb. 8|
|Fitzgerald, F. Scott||The Great Gatsby||Feb. 24|
|Gaines, Ernest J.||A Gathering of Old Men||Apr. 21|
|Gibbons, Kaye||Ellen Foster||Apr. 5|
|Hemingway, Ernest||In Our Time||Feb. 27|
|Hurston, Zora Neale||Their Eyes Were Watching God||Mar. 20|
|O’Neill, Eugene||A Long Day’s Journey Into Night||Mar. 3|
|Toomer, Jean||Cane||Mar. 1|
|Twain, Mark||Pudd’nhead Wilson||Feb. 3|
|Walker, Alice||Meridian||Apr. 19|
|Williams, Tennessee||A Streetcar Named Desire||Mar. 29|
|Wright, Richard||Black Boy||Mar. 6|
Please feel free to use this assignment and tweak it. What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below.