Tip 3: How to prepare for a new class

If you have been given a new class (either new to you or to your college), it can be overwhelming. There are some things you can do to make it more manageable however.

Hit the internet for other people’s syllabi on the same topic.

When I was first asked to teach Early British Literature I didn’t know what sophomore students at colleges usually studied. I didn’t take that class as a sophomore. So I went to the internet and put in different names of possible courses and “syllabus” into the search engine.

Doing this let me see what other people were teaching and sometimes gave me lesson plans or lecture notes or sample essays.

It also helped me not to feel so lost.

Pick stuff you are interested in.

If there is something you love about a field, make sure you teach it.

I enjoy teaching audience to my freshman composition classes. They learn a lot and I get to show off that PhD that took me twelve years to finish.

I wrote a lot of papers on Sylvia Plath’s poetry, but I no longer care for it. So, even if our anthology has some of her poems, I skip them.

When I first started teaching Early British Literature I included all the Arthur stuff, because I thought the students would be interested. Turns out they weren’t. I learned a lot about it, but then I moved on to other literature that I was more fascinated with.

What this does is
1. make the prep time easier and
2. make the class time more animated.

When you teach what you love, it shows.

Once you have a list of possible topics to cover and a list of those topics that you like, organize it into sections.

With freshman composition, I start with writing a narrative paper, because students are most used to personal expressive writing. This lets their first paper be something they know well, themselves. I use this paper to introduce my grading system and it counts the least. Then I introduce whatever I think they need next.

For Early Brit Lit, I organized the readings into eras. When I figured out I couldn’t get to Shakespeare because I had too many earlier topics, I knew it was an issue.

Once you have the sections, organize the pieces.

One section would be research paper, since most schools require those. Then I work backwards trying to divide that up.

I want a paper and a revision. I need to teach them note taking and how to evaluate websites. I also want to talk about organization. The book has a good chapter on generating ideas and planning. All those things go into a list of sections.

If I’m going to have a compare/contrast paper, I want to introduce both kinds. Then I want to talk about how to synthesize the two together. I have a few websites with good examples they can look at. I want them to write on a particular set of topics. Whatever.

I may not use all the sections I come up with, but at least I have the beginnings of an organization system.

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