After a semester and a half of hearing students complain about the horrible prompts I am making them write I’ve decided it’s time to do something about it. First some background. The composition program at the university that I teach at has a reader and from that reader prompts, written by our department head are used. Although TA’s are encouraged to write their own prompts and sequences, many of us use the sequence and prompts provided for us. It makes our lives easier, which I believe is the departement head’s objective.
There are some issues. The book is new and is being reworked into a national edition and not all the sequences have been attempted in the classroom. Because of this the only way to see if a sequenence or prompt works is to use in the classroom. Last semester the prompts and readings went over well with the students. There were complaints but they were expected because we were making our students think and work. This semester however the complaints are warrented. The prompts are horrible and the readings are not much better. Although the readings, I don’t think, are the problem. This semester plain and simple it’s the prompts that are creating the problem.
So what am I going to do about it? I figured something had to be done because I was about to have a mutany on my hands and was not so thrilled about my students suddenly standing in the middle of lesson screaming “Mutany! Get her!” It seems as if we are headed in that direction. So to prevent being tied or taped to desk with a sign on my forehead that says, “I’m a terrible teacher” I’ve decided to let the students write their own prompt.
Tomorrow I will begin this experient. I’m first going to show them what the prompt is that was given for this reading, then as a class we are going to write our own. We will have established goals before writing the prompt looking at how the readings connect, what we as writers hope to accomplish and learn through the prompt and then ask the question that will give us the prompt. After the prompt has been written the class will vote, their prompt or the department’s. I was actually thinking of having them chose their prompt or the department prompt which would also provide me with a bit more variety when it came time to grade these papers.
I will further update you readers on the outcome of this experient. I do have some concerns. 1) Will they treat this assignment as a joke? 2) How can I get them to think in terms of writing a prompt? 3) Do I tweak the prompt to make it better for them by giving them suggestions?
I would love any feedback you guys have on this. Have any of you done something like this? If so would you do it again? If yes why? If no, why not? Do you have any suggestions for how to go about this?