Writing about Literature: Journeying through Faerie

While reading faerie and fantasy stories running from medieval romance to Victorian revisioning
of the fairy tale in this first-year composition course, students describe and interpret patterns and
breaks in the tradition, write the same literary genres that they read, and add their own voices to
the scholarly conversation through writing and delivering short conference papers. Like any
romance or hero’s journey, students finish the course by engaging public humanities and telling
others what we have learned through composing digital storytelling videos for a general audience
and making them available online.

Syllabus

Story Time Project

Partnering with a local early education center near campus, we facilitated an event where students read their stories to their target audience: young children. Before the event, my students were nervous. We were preparing to visit the class where they would read their own stories to an audience of four-year-olds. They were excited to get out of the classroom and read their work, but many of them had limited experience working with children. I told them that what their audience will remember is that college students cared enough about them to come to their school (with snacks). They were still nervous, but now had a new framework for engaging public humanities.

The experience was eye opening for many of the students. After the event, they wrote short reflections examining the response from their audience. Students who were resistant to my advice to work on reaching four-year-olds no longer needed to be convinced as they revised. Students who had trouble seeing their own worth as writers and storytellers were encouraged by the captivated audience. Thanks to funding from the Emory Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, everyone left with a bound copy of our class fairy tale anthology.

Student Feedback and Continuous Improvement

Students noted my feedback as a method for creating a community of care. One student wrote that “the instructor cared a lot about the students and what we were gaining from the class,” and another wrote that I “was readily available to meet with students, empathetic, and genuinely interested in content.” I generally cultivate a caring persona when working with students, but with this class that method of teaching was especially important because I needed to model ways for them to treat the preschool students they would read to.

Some students would prefer a “faster-paced” class rather than the iterative process of revision. One student articulated this concern well, discussing how the “repetitive papers” (genre analysis revisions) were frustrating and they wished that we had read more fairy tales and “discussed the historical significance of the work.” I think that is a wonderful idea, but that would mean offering a fairy tale class rather than a first-year composition course. I take from this feedback that I need to clarify the purpose of the course and make my pedagogical decisions more transparent. Without sacrificing the importance of revising, I will scaffold the assignments better so they seem more incremental and less repetitive.


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