Classes galore!

This has been such a busy week!  I taught four classes for my teaching practicum: two Foundations for Learning 100’s, a lit freshman seminar, and an intro to comm studies.  The first FFL we did as a scavenger hunt because it was one of the dreaded “no paper assigned” classes.  I did a really basic intro to evaluating online sources and using a couple databases, and then they worked in groups to find things using the library’s online resources.  They were pretty engaged the whole time, and I think the class was successful because it was hands-on and interactive.  I’ll definitely keep the scavenger hunt in mind for future classes that don’t have a specific assignment to connect to their library instruction.

The second FFL class had an assignment to do group speeches about extreme sports.  I know absolutely nothing about extreme sports, and of course there aren’t a whole lot of scholarly sources on those either.  We talked about evaluating online sources, what scholarly and popular means, and practiced using Academic Search Premiere to look for articles.  One thing I did that I’ll definitely use again was demonstrating how different a search looks in a database when you use the Google-a-phrase model vs. when you separate terms in each box.  The only reason I thought about doing that was because when I was prepping I had so much trouble thinking of a way to demonstrate narrowing down a search.  Each extreme sport  would only yield about thirty articles or so, and there’s really no reason to narrow that down.  So I decided to demonstrate searching for “X-Games” and narrowing that down with terms like “athletes” and “women,” and then realized that it might be fun to show how confused a database gets when you treat it like Google.

The clunkiest one this week was the freshman seminar, which is a whole course themed around disability in literature.  FMS classes are tricky, because they need to learn basic research skills just like the FFLs or English 101s, but the research they are doing is actually really specialized.  I have an English background so I’m pretty familiar with doing literature research, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy to explain.  Lit research can be especially messy.  I started out doing an excercise that I’ve seen Jenny do a few times, taking a thesis statement and expanding each different idea into as many search terms as possible.  One of the thesis statements a student had was something about how a character in a story they read felt like he could still participate in “normal” activities in spite of his disability.  We talked about how else to say that, and the students came up with great terms like “agency” and “self-actualization.”  I was more or less pleased with how that went, but unfortunately the terms we came up with didn’t yield much in MLA because the story wasn’t that well-known.  It’s hard to take that excercise and then also talk about how not everything you come up with will actually yield any results–and how that’s acutally good because you’re saying new things.  I think these more specialized types of classes will come more naturally with practice.

My favorite class this week was the intro to comm studies, which was also the first one I’ve done with absolutely no backup in case of emergency.  It was an evening class with a lot of “adult” students.  I find that students who are older than traditional college age are often a lot more engaged and genuinely interested in learning about library research, which can help increase the energy of the whole class.  I did the basic model with that class–start with Google, evaluate a wikipedia page and a website about one of their topics, then move to the library homepage and do some searches in relevant databases.  I think one of the reasons this class was successful was because I really took my time.  The instructor gave me a whole hour and I met them in their classroom, so they didn’t have computers for me to give them time to search on their own.  I did several examples for each section of the lesson and they were really responsive and asked a lot of questions.

Another interesting part of that class was being in their classroom instead of the library.  Although they weren’t able to practice, the feeling of the class was a lot different when the students didn’t have a computer in front of them to distract them.  I think they were also more comfortable in their own space–and, quite frankly, I think they were relieved to have a little bit of a break in the middle of that three-hour class block.

We did a lot with citations as well because the instructor requested it.  Jenny suggested that I have them get into groups, give them an article, and have them cite it and then write it on the board.  This made the class more interactive and allowed them to get up and move around.  I think they have more of a grasp on citations than other classes usually do when we just do human citations and show them the guides on the library website.  That is another activity that I would consider doing again even if the teacher didn’t request it.

All in all, a pretty good week of teaching.  The more consistently I do it, the more comfortable I get with it.  The biggest things I think I need to work on are slowing down and narrating all the steps I do, as well as just feeling more confident so that I can roll with the punches.  The first one is something I can consciously stop and make myself do, the second one I think will get better with time.