Annotation Comrades: Final (Elements of Craft)

Hello comrades,  I am going to be using some of the methods implemented in Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s chapter “What is Backwards Design.” I use their methods as a launching pad for the annotation partner assignment in this class.  To believe in one’s writing as a career path, the student writer would need to be a student of this poet’s work (I will explain more on that in further detail in the planning stage). However, from a literary point of view, these annotations will ensure the critical thinking juices are in full effect for the students.   I will expand on my goals (which specific craft elements are crucial in order to be successful with this assignment), the evidence (in this case what sort of annotations will help them think about craft), and finally planning (what will be required from the students to complete this assignment).  This course section is completely coming from a creative writing point of view, but at the same time, they will analyze the poem and be able to read poetry like a writer.

But first, a little background on Billy Collins.  Billy Collins was born in New York City on March 22, 1941.  His poetry has been featured in the Pushcart Prize anthology and was picked on many occasions for the best American Poetry Series.  The poet Stephen Dunn once said this of Collins, ” We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals.”  This rings true with Billy Collins’ work and can be said when you read his poem for this assignment.


My goal here for this assignment with my partner (and for the students I assign this poem to) is to identify Metaphor as a necessary craft element.  In the book How to Read Poetry like a Professor, author Thomas C. Foster says this about metaphor, Metaphors worm their way into our consciousness so that their first, overt meaning gets lost” (Foster).  Metaphors should be used as something the students question in the poem.  Of course, the students will be very confused with the metaphors in this poem.  But the purpose is to read the poem several times and make meaningful annotations relating to metaphor.  Metaphors are conscious deeply inside our soul.  The students truly need to understand how a metaphor is effective in a poem because they could get lost very easily.  Some writers (poets) have frequently placed metaphors in the poem.  In short, it is crucial to grasp the concepts with metaphors and understand how they are properly used.  This assignment is designed for entry-level composition or creative writing students in mind.   From a creative standpoint, critically pinpointing metaphors ensures they have the linchpin engrained in their minds.  Remember, the students (and my annotation comrade) needs to read this poem as a writer and study this piece diligently.


Evidence/Desired results:

Some of the evidence for this assignment will be based on completing this annotation assignment one week before we discuss the poem in class. This includes creating an account for the Hypothesis module on the blog and dissect the poem with your fellow classmates.  What am I looking for in their annotations?  Their annotations should be open to interpretations (remember poetry is very subjective in taste) but at the same time, I expect them to respond to craft.  The student needs to be centered on craft in order to be successful with this assignment and deviating from the main idea of this assignment hurts their learning outcome within the larger group during lecture. In particular, they really to be centered in metaphor in order to effectively participate in this assignment (going back to the previous stage here).  For example, a great annotation could be in response to why this line in Billy Collins “Snow Day” reflects effective uses of metaphor.    In order to have meaningful annotations on the craft elements, I expect the students to proofread their responses and implement proper use of grammar.  These annotations on Hypothesis should be formal but very subjective in their approach to craft strategies.  The annotations are designed to revolve around on how a metaphor works and how it challenges the reader throughout the process.  That is one of my keys to success in this assignment.  The second desired key to success is by researching other poems written by Billy Collins (which I will post the link on the blog).  The students should have a historical background and include a breadth of knowledge of his work.  Failure to do outside research Billy Collins will result in confusion on connections being used throughout the lecture and not following directions.  Therefore the research will have a performative evaluation as well.  All of the background information and annotations will affect student engagement because they depend on the outcome of the lecture.  These annotations are designed for metaphor as the element of craft.  Metaphors can be easily missed in a poem and I hope students look towards using these annotations effectively.

Planning: Hypothesis and an in-class writing exercise

The requirements for this assignment is very straightforward, but failure to follow the directions posted on the blog and ilearn will lead to less student engagement during lecture. You cannot learn inside the classroom if you do not go through the motions throughout this course.  The students will need their laptop and be able to create their own account in Hypothesis.  I will provide the directions to properly create annotations via links from Youtube on the blog.  If any of the students feel they are confused or lost on Hypothesis, I will suggest they email me their questions or meet with me in my office hours.  I want all of the students to be able to work on this together and not leave anyone in the dust.  Lastly, the students will be required to have their writing journals for the end of this assignment.  All of the students will be required to participate in an exercise after we annotate and discuss the poem.

As I have mentioned before, I chose Billy Collins’s poem “Snow Day” because it reflects a massive amount of metaphors.  A poet will either have several metaphors in the poem or have only a select few.  In fact, some poets might even stack metaphors together.  For instance, William Shakespeare had stacked a bunch of metaphors in Sonnet 73, “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire/That on the ashes of his youth does lie” (Shakespeare).  Examples like this one shows how easy it is to miss metaphors.  That is why understanding the germinal ideas of a metaphor is so crucial for this assignment.  This poem injects so many useful examples of metaphor as a useful literary tool and in turn, will help students when they write their annotations.  It is the student’s responsibility to critically think about the metaphors in this poem and diligently analyze the poem with metaphor in mind.

The students will be reading the poem online a week before class.  The first time they read it will be solely on pleasure. Just enjoy each line and do not think too much on literary analysis.  The second time, Be in tune with the language and craft elements as you read the poem.  Jot down your original thoughts as a sounding board leading up to this assignment.  The third time, the students will be looking for metaphors to note in their annotation.  With that entails is how those metaphors are working craft-wise.  The fourth time, they will read it and identify metaphors that pop of the page in the poem. If they may do so, they could pick out the best metaphors (all subjective of course) and how they possess this sense of power.  I will pose these questions (if they get stuck):

  1. Which metaphors in this poem are useful?
  2. Did the poet provide powerful examples of metaphor?
  3. Which metaphors were the most challenging?

These questions are designed so that they can formulate good annotations.  A metaphor is supposed to challenge the students from a literary standpoint.  But at the same time, I do not want cram all of these ideas in a student’s head.  A student is supposed to be challenged in the most creative and productive way.

The students will then reconvene for class and we will all be discussing the poem line by line.  From there, I will call on students and get their responses from the annotations.

After we finish discussing this poem, I will begin my writing exercise.  The students will then close their eyes and imagine as many metaphors as they can.  They will control their breathing and be mindful of their thought process.  This exercise is supposed to be basic because all of these students are in an introductory course.  When they have finished, they will open their eyes and list all of the metaphors in the form of a poem.  This process will be part of the individual activity portion because the students will be working independently on their writing exercise and are required to turn in a typed version of the exercise. A real and authentic method of recording their writing in the journals is to not think too much about the writing.  The students must write and let it come from the heart.  However, I grade and evaluate this writing exercise based on following the directions and keeping those elements of craft in mind when the students write their poems.

Teaching “Glocal Landon” within British Romanticism (Pedagogy)

Journal: Pedagogy (Project Muse Standard Collection)

It is important to realize that sticking to the canonical Literature being taught in College does not always work.  This concept gives us little chance to explore the “British Romanticism” period.  Jacqueline Labbe’s article from Project Muse titled “Teaching ‘Glocal Landon’ within British Romanticism” makes a strong case for teachers to use patterned themes from other cultures and connect to one of the Romantic Period’s poets Letitia Landon.  Labbe points out that Landon is not even considered high on the list of authors being discussed between the Romantic Period and the Victorian Period (With William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, William Blake, and John Keats’ work being required for a course compared to Landon).  The author further makes it known that “By focusing on the historical period and how it organizes genre along with national culture(s), rather than attempting to confine its writings to a homogeneous pattern of writing, teachers can bypass some assumptions about canon and instead construct a syllabus responsive to the themes and aims of the course itself” (Labbe, 202).  Sticking to the cultural human aspect to relatable patterns to Literature of the Romantic Period is suited to be more effective in the classroom setting than fixating on everything canonical.

Most of Letitia Landon’s poetry circles in on romantic issues with unhappy relationships or marriages.  Landon had even created this “Love” characterization and from there, teachers can connect with a diverse amount of authors (from the east all the way to Italy); this would be an accessible way to discuss these stories in class and find different themes that circles back to Landon.  All of Landon’s work provides a voice for each narrative and in turn, realize this idea of Love being lost is seen in different foreign stories.  In fact, Labbe continues to point Letitia Landon was used as a starting point for an MA course on the Romantics.  One week students might be studying the British Romantics, another week India and The East, and the last week would be solely on the Britons and Italy.

During the week when students focused in on the texts relating to the East, the students were required to look at plays, novels, and poems that reflected the key ideas found during this time period with Landon’s poems.  For example, famous philologist William Jones (during this time period) said this about language in regards what the students looked at in his article ‘Discourses Delivered before the Asiatic Society’: “The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a  wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of the verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source” (Jones, 204).  In response to Jones’ discourse on language, it is very crucial to understand the importance of Sanscrit and the use of grammar with the language.  Students had a good look over Jones’s translations on hymns and provided a sense of the form being used.  All of the students came to the conclusion that his language in the poems have the correct names in the language and at the same time, trace back to the English.  Now how does all of this relate to Letitia Landon?  The students in this course focused on Landon’s poem The Zenana.  What was discovered is that the narrative is identified with the imagery found in Indian Literature.  No matter what language or culture the story comes from, the image is a strong craft strategy when it comes to writing.  The author’s job would be showing the readers, not telling them.  In The Zenana, Landon’s reoccurring character Love connects to so many cultures that it fits right into the India Literature during the time period.

By using close reading skills and identifying imagery with Landon’s poetry, students had been to be keenly focused on the author’s voice than continue to point back to canon.  Landon is commonly widespread diversely in Literature circles because of her common patterns with love and romance.  This course overall was based on making Letitia Landon’s work a level playing field compared to Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Samuel Coleridge, and John Keats’ work.


I found this article very interesting because I know some English Literature instructors follow the canon and others have several other works that follow a pattern with one another.  I really believe a student should learn about other diverse texts that pertain to the class.  Other cultures will circulate around a common theme in their stories and if applicable, teaching the students more about what is outside the canon seems like they would be able to engage more in a discussion.  Following the canon with all your classes seem tiresome after a while and while it might be effective in some cases, Labbe’s argument leads me to believe every culture seems to lead us back to the theme from the original author.

Decoding Deviance

Some Television shows can be used as pedagogical teaching methods for a certain course in literature.  In the article “Decoding Deviance with The Sons Of Anarchy” by Joseph Kremer and Kristin Cutler from Washington State University, the authors delve into the sociological theories found in the TV show Sons of Anarchy. Sons of Anarchy is a television show based on the fictional depiction of a 1 percent motorcycle club set in Northern California (real-life motorcycle  clubs like the Mongols or the Hells Angels come to mind).  In fact, some of the cast members are actual Hells Angels members in the show.  This storyline puts Sociological Deviance to the test and how it can be coded with each episode. For example, the authors of this article define Deviance like this, “Deviance encompasses criminal acts but also a variety of things that might be considered amoral (e.g.,pre-marital sex, abortion) or just rub people the wrong way (e.g., people chewing with their mouths open, people wearing sandals with socks)” (Kremer and Cutler, 92).  Now that could be the closest to defining concepts of deviance in Sons of Anarchy academically.  These ideas correlate to deviance and how to rate deviance with some characters from the show.  The article goes into further detail with the method being presented in this study.  A Sociology of Deviance course at a University in the Pacific Northwest was being held during the summer, with the Sons of Anarchy as being the main source material during the entire semester.  The students in the course were in charge of coding each episode, focus on all the categories related to deviance, and were required to read specific practical articles on 1 percent Motorcycle gangs in history.  This class was designed as a seminar course (meeting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays).  The days the students did not meet in the class were meant for coding and extra reading in relation to the course.  A final project resulted in the culmination of data collected from the entire season of Sons of Anarchy.  This included the students most hated character, how the character’s actions connected to deviance, and how did this tv show help the students form their opinion on deviance itself.  Many students went as far as saying that watching Sons of Anarchy helped them connect to the sociological examples of deviance and to real life scenarios.  This entire course was a huge benefit for students to make connections to Sociological Deviance in Literature.  However, it is very important to know that this concept of using television shows for a class is solely reliant on a smaller class size.


This entire article reminded me of a conversation I had with the creative writing instructor I work with as an Instructional Assistant.  One of the things she primarily stressed was the importance of using multimedia as a tool for class.  Not only does this provide benefits to students staying engaged in the class, but lets them connect to real-life situations as source material for their writing assignments throughout the semester.  The Sons of Anarchy is a great television show to implement new pedagogical lessons being taught inside the classroom.  What a better way to study the sociological concepts of deviance than learn about a motorcycle club?

Teaching in An Online Environment

In Marsha Carr’s article The Online University Classroom: One Perspective for Effective Student Engagement and Teaching in an Online Environment, several universities are moving forward with a new design in online teaching.  What this means is that students are in favor of an online option for that specific course within their major.  Some of these reasons students are opting for online classes is because they either have a family or work-related responsibilities.  Carr warns that educators should consider how to present their online classroom to the students in an appropriate fashion and more importantly, shape the layout of the class to be formatted on an online interface.  Online courses go down a different route compared to the traditional classroom on campus and it is crucial to understand what the main takeaway is for students taking the course.


When taking on this new role as an online teacher, it is their responsibility to design the course based on the goals within the course, social aspects, and last but not least the information for the correct category.  The social interaction requires an idea for setting up sections for emails, online videos, and of course group work inside this internet classroom.  In order to successfully interact with the students, the instructor must have consistent updates, certain lectures each week, and discussion forums to answer questions about the course.  For some students, this is a new way to complete a course and approach a new way of learning through an online course.  However, for others, this is a daunting task to take on during a semester and some students drop the course due to the unfamiliarity of online education.   This is where the instructor posts a tutorial video on the online interface such as blackboard.  Blackboard is an online interface that encompasses forums, specific modules for the instructor to install on each section of the course, video conferencing (or an option to use Skype just in case a student needs to talk to the instructor face to face).  With all of these special tools required for an online course, it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure all of the students respond in the course appropriately in an academic setting.  These courses should be easily accessible to all students enrolled in the class and the instructor needs to install the correct link for students to submit their work online.


As someone who has had experience not only as a student taking online courses but also working directly with instructors as an assistant, I truly understand the pitfalls.  When I TA’d last fall in a creative writing class with 100 students, I can fully comprehend some of the disadvantages of working with students online.  Several questions came up as I was reading this article and reflecting on my experience with online learning: how do you assist a student when they are confused with a concept?  What sort of comments would be easily comprehensible for an online class when discussing their writing?  However, online classes will improve as time goes on and eventually, create a successful method to obtain the same goals an instructor would achieve in a campus setting.  After all, Marsha Carr said this, “Online course delivery is a valuable method of teaching but it requires an organized course format and delivery; an instructor who is knowledgeable in the environment; and students that are aware of the responsibilities and additional demands of the online setting” (108).

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching philosophies are a forever changing narrative for faculty members at a university.  According to Mary Bowne’s article “Developing a Teaching Philosophy” in the Journal of Effective Teaching, the philosophy is constructed to be both a reflective reminder; as well as a mantra to get them through the good and bad days as a teacher.  A teaching philosophy is a chance for faculty members to find ways to grow and make note of their specific ideologies used in the classroom.  For example, Mary Bowne makes note of the self-reflective process with a teaching philosophy, “This self-reflective process provides opportunities for faculty to continually self-examine their teaching and the learning take place within and outside the classroom”(60).  With this reflective process, several groups may participate in the teaching philosophy with the faculty member.  Some of these members could include students, supervisors, or even fellow educators.  This teaching philosophy is a tool for future educators wanting to teach someday because they look at the teacher’s philosophy so they can find their own narrative in the classroom.

As a first-time graduate student, reading this article really opened my eyes to teaching philosophies because I have only understood parts of the philosophy.  From my understanding, I have been under the impression that teaching philosophies reflect on the faculty instructor’s theories and lessons inside the classroom.  However, it astonishes me to read that a teaching philosophy encompasses a larger audience group.  It not only broadens my scope on what to expect when writing a teaching philosophy.  At the same time, I assure myself to not go into this process blindly and really seek out a second pair of eyes when I develop my own philosophy.  As Mary Bowne points out in the article, “Educators need to show humility, acknowledging that they don’t know everything about teaching and are willing to learn more, thus reflecting on past processes and experiences and adapting to new ones, showcasing a self-reflective, developmental process of one’s teaching”(62).  Mary Bowne shares the truth behind treating a teaching philosophy as a learning because the philosophy will always be a revision process.  As a writer and a student, I have learned that my work is going to be improving throughout my life.