Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class

  • 5 replies
Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« on: August 29, 2013, 02:29:22 AM »
I have just today been given a very late change to my schedule for this semester (We start teaching next week).  It is to add a literature appreciation class for some of our top non-English major students to what I am teaching... with a lot of scope to decide what I will do, how I will do it, and how I will assess it. There happens to be no prescribed textbook, and it has previously only been taught by one of the Chinese teachers.  It is an interesting challenge to take on with only a few days to prepare. The biggest challenge for me right now is making decisions about how I will assess it.

What I am interested in knowing right now is for those people who have taught literature appreciation classes before, how have you assessed it?  I can work out the finer details of what specifically to read/discuss in class later, even as I go along. But I do need to upfront in the first lesson talk about how it will be assessed. It would also be very helpful for me if those of you who have taught it, could tell me what topics/areas you have found it helpful for cover in the first week or two of the class to give the students the background knowledge that is helpful to them to prepare them for the rest of the class. 
Sometimes it seems things go by too quickly. We are so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take the time to enjoy where we are. (Calvin and Hobbs)

Re: Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2013, 02:50:57 AM »
I have taught literature and it is pretty easy to asses using either multiple choice or free response exams about the content you've asked them to read. You can also assign essays/papers which analyze (in a basic way I'd assume, since these are non-majors) the works they've read. Usually my students get a mixture of multiple choice questions about facts and analysis questions where they get a passage and have to apply what they've learned either in essay/short answer form or also with multiple choice questions.

One thing I'm doing with my students this year is making them keep a reading journal. I require them to select "adult" literature/articles (so no The Little Prince or Harry Potter) and write three reflections a week on what they've read. They're supposed to read for at least 20 minutes in each sitting. I check the journal weekly and I don't care what they choose as long as it is age/level appropriate, in English, and not a textbook. I haven't had to do this with previous classes because I was teaching really high performing students who read on their own without prompting, but I moved to a different city and a different school and the kids are just not reading at a level they need to be. With the reading journals I have kids trying Walden, A Tale of Two Cities, and Jane Eyre. Walden might not be what I'd have chosen for my first foray into reading serious literature in English but at least they're trying and sticking with the books.

In the first class I'd highly suggest doing a general lecture just about developing reading skills and becoming a habitual reader. I give my kids the rundown on how much they should be reading a day, what is appropriate reading material (they are used to FTs patting them on the back for picking up Harry Potter or Twilight but my kids are headed abroad, they need to be reading literary fiction, not YA stuff), how to improve reading speed, how to be an active reader, etc. Again, this is important for my kids because they are going to university in the States. Your mileage may vary with kids who are not English majors but if they have a strong enough interest to take a literature elective then it should be relevant still.

Also be sure to include literary terms/concepts and test them on them. imagery, sound devices, plot structure, characterization, archetypes, etc. All of that is, imo, more important than the works that you choose or memorizing facts from the lives of authors. You can structure your course around these themes and choose works that fit the theme. Think back to when you took 9th grade literature and try for something along those lines.

Re: Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2013, 03:09:34 AM »
How you assess will depend on what you teach.

If you're actually going to sit down and go through a poem with students in class (which I generally wouldn't recommend) then your final exam is going to be totally different from a course which concerns itself with a more historicist analysis (which I would recommend).  

Which way are you inclined?

For me, broad generic themes and literary movements ("The Rise of the Novel", "The Industrial Novel", "Romanticism") were the cornerstones of the literature courses I have previously taught.  

I normally make use of a mid-term essay and an exam based around "long answer" questions mixed in with a few other elements like multi-choice and such to meet institutional requirements about exam paper content.  Depending on where you are and what kind of students you are dealing with, a full blown essay may be way too much for non-majors.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 03:15:29 AM by bobrage »

Re: Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2013, 08:07:09 AM »
Thank you for the feedback so far... I am teaching in a Tier 1 school and the students in the class are the best students in the school, though not English majors... But among the biggest challenges in taking this class on is making the class relevant or at least engaging to the students who are choosing to do it. TLD I really appreciate your suggestions and really like the use of the journal
Sometimes it seems things go by too quickly. We are so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take the time to enjoy where we are. (Calvin and Hobbs)

Re: Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2013, 04:19:01 PM »
I differentiate in assessment between the Lit courses. There are the specialized courses, eg. "The Victorian Ghost Story", "Delusional Debauchery: Literaure of the 1920s" and so on.
Then there are the survey courses.

For Lit apprectiation, the assessment depends on the size of classes. If I have less than 20 students in a class, the course will be assessed by an essay written at home, essentially a watered-down version of a research paper. If more than 20, I usually write a 50 question exam, consisting of 10 Multiple Choice, 10 Complete the sentence, 10 Identify the quote, 10 Define the term and 10 full sentence answers.  eg:

In which Victorian novel does the main character attempt to obliterate all bad aspects of his personality by drinking a medicine of his own invention?
A. The Old Curiosity Shop
B. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
C. Jack Sheppard.

William Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet" is a .....(here the student should write tragedy)

"It was a dark and stormy night"......(here the student, to get a full mark, should write "Edward Bulwer-Lytton's "Paul Clifford".

Elegy.......(a mournful poem usually lamenting the recent death or departure of a loved one)

1. In which fin de siecle novellette are we introduced to a ghost who is scared by two American children in his own manor house?
answer: This takes place in Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost".  I normally use this section to test the student's ability to follow instructions, they have to use full sentences and, more often than not, they fail and answer in half sentences or one word.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde.

"It's all oojah cum spiffy". Bertie Wooster.
"The stars are God's daisy chain" Madeleine Bassett.

Re: Assessment in Literature Appreciation Class
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2015, 12:06:47 PM »
Well....after 2 years back in the UK.
It looks like I'm going back....

High school this time, no more training centres!!!
Been told that I'll have to teach some literature classes.
Not sure, how to do this or what books would be suitable for high schoolers.
I'm assuming that only the higher level students will be doing the literature classes.

All I can remember from my literature classes was Julius Caesar and A town like Alice (more nasty riben!...could be popular!)

Any pointers would be much appreciated!

Arse end of nowhere...across from the renegade province.

"Liberty is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear" - George Orwell