My comp students have been a little lackluster in discussion this past week, despite having seen the magnificent Chaplin’s Gold Rush (1925). Last Monday, we went over Project 2, which is a film analysis essay; in discussion, I sought to tie a few prefatory clips from the film to our background reading in order to better frame our investigation of theme and prepare for the Wednesday screening. I discovered that several hadn’t done the reading, and the discussion lagged, to say the least. Only about 1/3 of the class showed up for the screening, though I think the remainder did watch it on their own for the response paper homework.
The next day, on Thursday, we used our screening of the film to get into a more detailed discussion of theme. After that, and to refresh Project 2, and I had students do some group work in which they drew concrete excerpts (in paraphrase and direct quote) from the background reading. They were to choose information for its relevance to important ideas developed in Gold Rush, and it seemed to go well–I’ve not yet had a chance to look over their work, though, since I’ve spent the last week grading Project 1.
In general, students did a good job with the first project; the goals of the assignment were straightforward and clearly organized around concise and precise description. The weaker essays were those that overused weak verbs, lacked variety in sentence structure, and–something to keep in mind for later classes–seemed to get trapped in the details, unable to construct a larger sense of the whole. I’ll return the essays tomorrow, and I’d like to spend a few moments at the end of class allowing students to go over my comments and write a quick response.
Also tomorrow, we’ll be going over the background readings on immigration and race, in preparation for our screening of The Jazz Singer. However, as I’ve been thinking about classes this past week, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to move into The Unknown, especially since the film may stimulate more active engagement. The Jazz Singer may also be easier to research, which would make it ideal as a text for the research project. On the other hand, the background readings for tomorrow won’t dovetail as well with the Lon Chaney picture. I may leave the schedule as it is, but I’ll have to think about it a bit more.