Reflections on My Presentation

First—thanks everyone for participating wholeheartedly in my writing activity and in the discussion yesterday! I really appreciate it.

Now, on to my thoughts about my presentation. Overall, I’m pleased with how the presentation went. Looking back on it, I think the best part of my presentation was the actual discussion. My plan was to talk about the context for my lesson for about 5 minutes and then to devote the rest of the lesson to the writing activity and the discussion. I’ve never taught before, so I really wanted to challenge myself with this project by building at least 15 minutes into my lesson for real discussion. I also wanted to moderate the discussion in such a way that we would hit about 5 different points that I thought were important in the story. I had a little list of discussion questions that I used to sway the discussion a bit, and I was really pleased that we actually touched on most of the topics about “Death of the Right Fielder” that I wanted to discuss (the characteristics of the right fielder, the story as allegory, is baseball as a sport important to the story, etc).

I really struggled with how to open the lesson. Basically, I examined the process I went through to write my interpretation paper and that’s how I came up with the glossary homework assignment. I don’t think that this assignment would be particularly necessary or all that useful for other texts, but I think it’s necessary for a story like “Death of the Right Fielder” that has many baseball references that may leave my students clueless. I talked about this glossary homework assignment in the very beginning of the presentation, so I definitely wasn’t 100% comfortable standing up in front of everyone yet. Looking back on it, I think I may have rushed through the explanation of the assignment a little. I’m curious to hear your feedback about this particular glossary assignment. Would it be useful in a real classroom?

I wanted to incorporate a writing assignment into the presentation. I picked the baseball poem because I thought it would get everyone to start thinking about the themes that were present in Dybek’s story and how those themes run through a lot of baseball literature. I would stick with this pre-discussion writing assignment if I were to teach this again, but I think I would put some concrete directions or some guiding questions up on the overhead to help students know exactly what I wanted them to be thinking/writing about.

Since this was one of my first times “teaching,” I’d really appreciate any thoughts/suggestions you guys might have! Thanks again!

7 thoughts on “Reflections on My Presentation

  1. abbie

    You did great 🙂 I enjoyed the piece and thought you led the class well. I definitely understand your reasoning behind the glossary assignment, and as Alicia and others pointed out, if would be almost essential (if not just useful/helpful) in certain classrooms with international students, &c., to explain some terms and jargon for the students to “get” the piece.

    However, I have to say that I liked the part about comparing DOTRF to the poem you brought in a little bit better. That was almost just as elucidating about baseball-specific terminology as the glossary. I actually took a literal approach to that mini-assignment and found almost identical words in each piece, like loneliness, distance, &c.

    Anyway, I thought you had a really nice lesson plan with lots of diverse activities. Great job! & thanks for exposure to baseball/sports lit. — for me, seeing was believing!

  2. Tim

    Lindsey –

    Never underestimate the value of vocabulary assignments! I read somewhere that the average college graduate of the 60s and 70s has a vocabulary of about 30,000 words – including inflected forms – where the average graduate today has a vocab of about 12,000. A powerful vocabulary, especially words and phrases that are as contextual as yours, is what sets good students apart from average students. You obviously did a lot of research on this – I initially thought of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) when I came across the reference to leukemia. To cement these terms/words and their context in your students heads, you might considered having them write a short fictional paragraph where they would be required to use a number of them.

    The wonderful/confusing thing about baseball is, like other sports, it has a vocabulary all its own. Maybe you could have students select terms from their favorite sport and define them in context for the class.

    As to the analogy of Dybek’s story, this could be difficult for students and, like most teachers, I would probably find myself giving them bigger and bigger hints as the discussion wore on. They can only tread water for so long before they disengage. If they weren’t getting anywhere after some lengthy discussion, you could give them a choice of three or four possible scenarios/analogies and then have them debate which one they think is the most likely and support their ideas with passages from the text. Get them headed in the right direction before you loose them.

    I think I would also play up the humor in the story. There are so many satirical images you could play with. I really like the grave marker – a bat with a mitt and cap hanging down, the Bermuda Triangle, etc.

    The only thing I didn’t like about the story was Dybek’s disparaging remark about the Cubs!

  3. nikki

    I loved your choice of story! It was definitely a high-interest piece–especially for high school boys, the most difficult demographic of readers (or non-readers) to reach. The fact that it was about a sport would win over half your audience right away. And it has so much literary merit as well that you could trick them into analyzing “real literature” without them even realizing it! (Tricky yes, but totally worthwhile.)
    The glossary activity would definitely be useful, and I can see a lot of other related activities that could branch off from there. You could have students generate a glossary about something they are interested in (a sport, video game, hobby, anything) and then incorporate those terms into their own short story. (They would have owenership of their writing that way!)
    A quick note on the glossary homework you presented: I think it might be a bit too much to expect students to email you anything between classes (at the HS level anyway). Ideally, it would work really well the way you suggested, but in my world of 10th graders that would be a flop. You’d end up with only one or two terms for your list. However, if you gave them in-class time to look up the terms, that would probably work well.
    I also liked the idea of using the poem as a comparison. I don’t remember what your timeframe was for the lesson, but I do think the poem and glossary at the same time might be a lot to handle. If you were to do one each in two 50 minute classes that would probably work very well.
    I had actually just spent the weekend watching a LOT of baseball with my dad, so I was very excited to discuss DOTRF. I think there’s a lot going on there, and I agree with you that the discussion could have gone on a lot longer! Great, unique choice of story. It’s clear that you’re thinking about what would interest your students, and that’s so important. Good job!!

  4. Alicia

    I thought you did great!

    As a total sports idiot, I’d be the first in line to dread a story like this, full of references I don’t even know are references…that’s how clueless I am. However, I could feel that you were teaching a genre (is it a genre? – sports lit?) you loved. Seriously, one of the best pieces of advice I have from my teaching career thus far is to show the excitement you have for your material. My students used to laugh at how I would get so into demonstrating a vocab word, and they’d shake their heads and say “Miss, you are SUCH a dork…but it’s fun.” I really think you should try to get in a position someday where you can teach that sports literature unit you envision – it’s a GREAT idea.

    The other thing I like is that the students start to educate each other. I would have had students who knew everything about baseball. And they would have turned (in very uncharacteristic high school fashion) and started to passionately discuss with less savvy classmates, bringing the class together. You just can’t buy that type of energy in a public school classroom. It’s priceless.

    As the class explained some of the sports-related subtleties of the text, I suddenly saw more and more meaning. So the lesson kept growing and evolving for me as it unfolded. Very cool.

    How about taking the list of sports references and taking the kids to the library for a reference scavenger hunt? Better yet – say “no computers!” and make them use the books. That could really be a fun lesson in how to do research outside of google.

    I think you are going to be a wonderful teacher. Thanks for the lesson!

  5. toddkelly

    I really liked the piece that you chose, I had never read it or the author before. I am definitely planning on using it next year for either Opening Day or the first day of spring.

    Vocab is tough in my opinion. I’ve never really found a way to make it interesting or exciting. I like the idea of having them create a glossary or usage guide to some subject they are interested in (a sport, activity or subculture). I have a slang glossary from the ’50’s called “Straight From the Fridge Dad” that I’ve used to talk about how subcultures have their own languages. I agree with Tim too, that we really need to stress improving our students’ vocabularies, they are lacking in my experience.

  6. afaye

    Really great job! You lead the discussion like a pro, seriously. This was a tough story, but a great way to engage Tim and Todd’s subculture vocab. Like Alicia, my understanding deepened when I received your sample glossary and as the discussion progressed. When I read the story I kept thinking about Charlie Brown’s baseball experiences and how depressing the sport was to me, so I agree with Tim that the humor of this story is something to incorporate into your engaging discussion. Thanks for a great story and a good discussion!

  7. Susan

    Nicely done. I think the “difficulty list” for vocabulary is a great idea, especially with a story that involves such specific terms regarding a sport. You did a nice job of leading the discussion and posing questions like “are we supposed to take this literally”? The more I thought about the story too, I think you hit on a relevant point that it took place in Chicago and discussing how this seems allegorical. It got me thinking that maybe it’s an allegorical story for gang violence (especially with the violent terms of baseball), which there is plenty of in that city. Someone in class mentioned also how with baseball unlike other sports there is no “class division”; however, I think this story touches on class division because the boy died playing baseball in contrast to softball that the gang called the Jokers played, which makes your definition of 16-inch softball even more relevant to the story. Aside from baseball terms, perhaps history of the city and several other terms like “Latin Lords” etc. might be of difficulty.
    The comparison to “Thurman Dreaming in Right Field” was great and reminded me of the intertexuality approach of Linkon. If students were struggling to understand the position of right field by reading the story, the comparison of distance, loneliness, and violent language of the poem definitely helped. The follow-up homework assignment of rewriting the story as a poem also fit in well.

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