Tag Archives: Sheridan Blau


First things first, here are the PseudoTweet posts you all composed last night.  I hope you enjoyed and found some educational merit in the activity.

  • Helen Krebs:  My brother is so lazy since coming home.  I wonder what he’s going to do with himself.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Why doesn’t my son love me anymore?
  • Helen Krebs:  Hare probably won’t ever pitch to me in the back yard anymore—he just reads and walks to town and sleeps.
  • Helen Krebs:  Don’t get why my brother is so different.  What’s wrong with him?  Can’t we just play ball?
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Harold, have you found a JOB yet?
  • Harold Krebs:  No one understands what I went through.  My parents don’t respect me as a grown man.
  • Harold Krebs:  Goin’ by the girls’ school to see sis play some ball.  She’s got a killer arm and her friends think I’m cute.
  • Harold Krebs:  Mom made me breakfast in bed again.  Love the bacon, hate the passive-aggressive convo.
  • Helen Krebs:  Is it weird to call your brother your beau?  I just want to make sure he knows I love him, even now.  Especially now.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  My son is back from war and just isn’t the same—unmotivated, not interested in girls.  Are other moms experiencing the same?  Help?!?!
  • Short-haired girl who walks down street (to BFF):  Who is that creepy man who keeps watching us walk?  He makes me nervous.  Let’s walk a different way tomorrow!
  • Helen Krebs:  Don’t think anyone’s coming to my indoor game.  They think I haven’t noticed about Harold but I have.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  I am worried about my son.  He just lays around all day, walking aimlessly.  He sleeps till noon.  I wonder when he’ll get back to normal.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Please pray for my dear son Harold.  He’s lost and needs healing from the Lord.
  • Helen Krebs:  Krebs is being so weird lately.  I wish he’d get back to his old self; I can’t figure him out!
  • Harold Krebs:  Geez, everyone should just leave me alone!  Nothing’s wrong with me!
  • Harold Krebs:  Lies are my essence.  The world is full of ‘em.
  • Helen Krebs:  Hare is coming tonight so I better pitch like crazy!  Have to pitch an A-game, time to impress!  He taught me how.
  • Harold Krebs:  Had I known then what I know now I would have never enlisted in the war.  It’s not like had to go; I chose to go.

On to my reflection . . .

Thank you all for listening so attentively to my presentation.  I have to admit, it was actually pretty disorienting to stand up there and see that I had everyone’s undivided attention.  (Needless to say, I’m not used to that with my 10th graders!)  I felt much more like a presenter than a teacher, as I don’t feel I incorporated enough hands-on activities to keep a group of 10th graders interested, but I hope the activities I was describing (when conducted in real life) would have done so.  In comparing my presentation with other people’s, I feel like I talked/explained too much and didn’t get “students” involved enough, but I knew that was going to be the case as I was planning.  I opted for a more information-based presentation partially because I was too stubborn to let go of any of the pieces of the lesson, but also because I was confident that you all wouldn’t need to do every activity in order to understand the learning objectives I have for my real students.  In any event,  I’m not sure it mattered as much to you as it did to me, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

It was very difficult to forgo the discussion sections of my lesson plan because I knew you guys would have had great points to talk about.  Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of my everyday interactions with students, so although I would have personally enjoyed the intellectual discourse, I had to refrain from indulging in large- and small-group discussions of the text.  (I had considered scripting a more realistic discussion, but I decided to save everyone the pain.  I think we’ve all been there when the crickets are chirping—no need to simulate  the agony!)

I feel like the main thing I could have done differently would be to slow down and talk about a few assignments more in depth instead of trying to race through 2+ days of lesson plans.  Were I to do it over, I think I would focus on a few specific activities rather than providing an overview of everything.  One part of me doesn’t feel like I did justice to my learning objectives with PseudoTweet and the question flood because I glossed over them so quickly; I would have liked to have had more time to talk through my rationale for each one—which, in short, was that I wanted to encourage (force) students to read, engage, re-read, and re-engage with the story.  And I wish I had remembered to mention where I got the inspiration for my activities (Blau, Elbow, Greene, and Salvatori & Donahue).  Another part of me keeps saying that I explained it all in writing and that you are intelligent people who can read, so I didn’t need to bore you by lingering over details you were capable of reading on your own.  But I still think I could have slowed down and explained better.

I also feel like I should have incorporated more hands-on activities for the benefit of the audience.  I planned to do three participatory activities, but only got to two—the question flood and PseudoTweet posts; I was also planning to have you write/discuss one of the journal responses, but that was the first to go due to time.  (Sidenote:  I keep noticing that I’m thinking of you guys as the audience more than as students because I felt like I was presenting much more than actually teaching.)  Ironically, I sped through the explanations so quickly that I ended with more time than I expected and ended up being disappointed that I hadn’t included the journal/discussion activity I had planned to include in the middle.  I tried to revisit the topic of that lost activity (the story’s title), and I appreciate you guys having something to say about it, but that conversation didn’t flow as I would have liked.

Overall, I’m pleased with the lessons I created if not with how well I articulated them.  As I think I explained last night (it’s a bit of a blur), I had already read the story with my real students, and we did some of the activities, but I tweaked my 610 lesson considerably after seeing what did and didn’t work in my classroom.  I’m looking forward to trying last night’s version of the lesson next year when I have more time to dig into the story with students.

Please share any thoughts or suggestions you have about any part of my lesson or handouts.  I’m especially interested to hear what people think about the types of activities as well as the pacing of the lesson.  I’ve never purposely avoided full-class discussions as much as I did in this lesson, and it felt risky, so if you have thoughts about that, please let me know!

How do I love thee, Literature Workshop? / Let me count the ways:

  1. Non-threatening Approach:  People often talk about “bad teachers,” but Blau doesn’t assign blame.  He explains that although some traditional teaching practices are flawed, teachers don’t rely on them for malicious reasons.  Now, instead of thinking of these people (and myself) as “bad teachers,” I realize they are (I am) simply misguided.  Call me needy, but I appreciate reassurance that my intentions are good—otherwise I couldn’t stand such prolonged (and painful) reflection on my own practices.
  2. Ironic Paradox of Teaching (55):  Teachers learn more than students when “teaching” a lesson.  I’ve never thought about it quite like this before, but it’s certainly true.  It makes me wonder how so many otherwise “good” teachers can be fooled into thinking they’re doing the teaching, not the learning.  This one idea alone is enough to turn my basic approach in the classroom upside down.
  3. Memorable Sayings:  Blau uses expressions from other scholars to summarize his own arguments, specifically, Newkirk’s “looking for trouble” (24) and Rosenblatt’s contention “that taking someone else’s interpretation as your own is like having someone else eat your dinner for you” (25).  These two sayings will help me apply Blau’s concepts in my classroom because they are easy to remember and clearly encapsulate his ideas.
  4. Two Terms:  “pseudoliteracy” (27) and reading “dysfluency” (30).  I had never come across these ideas stated like this, but I could immediately apply them to what I see in my classroom on a daily basis.
  5. Personal Reflection:  Blau refers to many other scholars throughout TLW, some of whom I remember from my undergrad days.  I pulled out some old books (Rosenblatt in particular) and reflected on my English Ed courses back then.  I’m learning so much more now than I ever did as an undergrad because it’s hard to understand educational theories when you have no concrete experiences to apply them to.  Now, as I read TLW, I’m picturing my students (past and present) in the workshops.  I’m hearing the types of comments they make and envisioning how I can encourage them based on what I know about my teaching environment and myself as a teacher.
  6. “Responsible” Teachers:  Blau questions what it means to be a “responsible” teacher:  “The conventional idea . . . is that a responsible teacher will [answer all possible questions before assigning a reading] as if reading is . . . a process in which one never experiences frustration and . . . always understands everything immediately” (41).  Blau’s suggestion certainly isn’t conventional.  I never thought about providing crutches to students as doing them a disservice, but now I see that it enables them to continue hobbling along lamely with weak skills.  This is going to be a struggle for me because it’s so different from what teachers are tacitly taught to do, but now that I’m aware of the harm of enabling, I can work to improve my methods.
  7. Poetry Workshops:  They’re fantastic!  I was so intrigued by the workshop for “My Papa’s Waltz” that I did an experiment of my own.  Both people I asked to read the poem explained their interpretations apologetically (as if they knew they must be wrong because I, the English teacher, had read the poem differently).  This shows me even intelligent adults believe there is one “correct reading” of a poem.  (The workshops also reminded me that I enjoy poetry a lot more than I usually think I do.)
  8. Transcription of Workshops:  This method enabled me to picture the workshops in my own classroom.  I could even identify my real students by the types of comments made by S1, S2, etc.  I felt like a fly on the wall, and I could see myself in the role of both teacher and student.
  9. Two Disciplines of Interpretation:  Textual evidence and evidentiary reasoning (75).  The next time someone argues that if there is not one correct reading, then any reading could be correct, I can show him this explanation.  Blau outlines the parameters of legitimate interpretation very clearly.
  10. Background Information & Intentional Fallacy:  Excellent practical examples of how background knowledge and the author’s intention do and do not affect students’ readings of a text.  The Roethke discussion and Sir Phillip Sidney exercise were very helpful.