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My First Rocketbook

April 2, 2010

I thought I already wrote this post.  Senility in my middle age.

Anyway, I watched the first Rocketbook video from Netflix: The Great Gatsby.  Let’s face it, it wasn’t earth-shattering by any account.  It wasn’t especially entertaining.  It wasn’t more clear than Cliff’s or Spark Notes are.  The illustrations were only mildly helpful and only mildly decent.  It was late when I watched it and I nearly fell asleep a few times.

On the upside, it was quicker than trying to read a text-based study guide and Mach speeds faster than reading the book.  I got a much deeper sense of the literary elements than watching the movie would have given.  I effectively went from zero to test-ready with The Great Gatsby in an hour.  Not bad.

But am I really ready for the pedagogy test?  (The content knowledge will be too broad to fully cram for.)  Well, let’s see.  You English-teachery types out there, keep me honest.

The Praxis pedagogy test will ask three questions about a list of high-school-relevant literature.  The questions are always the same, but the list of works changes.  They are (abbreviated):

  1. describe two literary features important to the work (with examples);
  2. describe two obstacles to student understanding (specific to this work); and
  3. describe two assignments that address answers from 1 and 2.

I considered trying to answer these questions here, but they were long, boring, and woefully incomplete.  I need the full story to go with the nice tidbits I gleaned from the Rocketbook.  Sure, the doctor’s eyes on the billboard symbolize the judgment of God, but what was he judging?  The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s misguided and illusory goal of getting Daisy, but why was that misguided again?  Nick’s rejection of Jordan symbolized his rejection of high society, but what led to that?  Was it the hit and run?

Question 2 is probably the hardest to answer with the knowledge I have now.  The twenties time period might be an obstacle.  Maybe the gray characters rather than raw good and bad?  Tom’s racism might catch a few kids off guard.

I think a nice, loyal-to-the-book video would make a nice companion to the Rocketbook.  Yeah, yeah, reading the book would be better, but I take the test in a few weeks.  I just don’t want to spend too much time on Gatsby because there’s no guarantee it will even make the list!  I’m trying to troll the waters for potential tidbits.  I’ll be okay if a Shakespeare piece I know hits the list of works: Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, or MacBeth.  I know Midsummer Night’s Dream okay, but I doubt it will be included.  Animal Farm, Beowulf, Scarlet Letter, a couple Poe shorts, The Hobbit — those I can do.  (What would it take to sneak Ender’s Game or Fahrenheit 451 onto the list?)

The good news on this test is that half of it comes from an analysis of student writing.  That I believe I can do.  (Thank you, Critters!)  A passing score can reportedly be ALMOST achieved from just one of the two parts.  So if I can squeak out half the literature points, I’ll be in good shape.

I plan to fully write responses for a few different works (maybe including Gatsby, R & J, MacBeth, Hobbit…just to be indulgent, Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, Beowulf?) so I can push through them faster on the test.  It seems the smartest approach, not unlike the exhaustive study process I used to prepare for college history tests.  *shiver*  As long as I pass it, the school will reimburse the cost of the test.  Big incentive to study hard.  Fingers crossed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 3, 2010 7:03 pm

    Here’s the “teacher response.” Sorry if it’s dry! I’m basing this mostly on my experiences as a student, but also a bit on my experience teaching novels in Women’s Studies classes (I seldom get to teach that). I taught Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Herland” and Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye.

    In terms of student difficulties, I think time period and political situation present challenges to students, as well as issues of class in those periods. These same challenges can be seen as exciting areas of student engagement. For instance, I don’t know if Orwell’s works make the same meaning for readers unfamiliar with Cold War politics. Issues of gender and society might throw them off, too. Women’s roles in the 1920’s were definitely different. I think you could always go with race, class and gender analysis. Activities that integrate these ideas and the themes of the works make the works more meaningful experiences for students; for example, acting out scenes or acting as “reporters” who tell about the time period or even fashion projects that show how people may have dressed in that time.

    I know Grapes of Wrath would have been more interesting to me as a student if I had been asked to do more than read, watch a boring film adaptation and write an essay. The history and especially photography of the period made it come alive for me later. Hands-on projects and team assignments have always been a favorite of mine as a student and as an instructor. Possibly students could discuss the photos of Walker Evans and imagine how they would have felt if they’d lived in those times.

    It sounds like you’re on the right track, but I’m starting to wonder something. Is the book list you’re going by one that you were given or dug up? Reflecting on what I read in high school, the list sounds okay, but I’m wondering if that’s what the kiddies are reading nowadays. You would know better, working in an HS and all.

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