This semester I created a new introductory assignment for my students in English 112: Writing and Research in the Disciplines. The idea came to me while I was thinking about the work involved in producing a bibliography. That gathering and compiling of sources, an essential part of the research process, is a tedious undertaking for many students. Yet list-making, itself, is something that many of us turn to in discussions of our favorite things. Think Maria von Trapp and Oprah. The list could go on.
It occurred to me that such lists could serve as introductions, getting-to-know-you opportunities that would also offer practice in compiling MLA-style bibliographies, discographies, filmographies, and TVographies.
Creating lists of their favorite things—whether books, music, films, or TV series—may make the process of producing citations less dull. I hope it does. Even if it doesn’t, the lists will offer us starting points for conversations about some unfamiliar things that may someday join our own lists of favorites.
For my top-five list, I chose my favorite Common Reads—or as some schools call them, Campus Reads or Interdisciplinary Reads. I have these books on my brain because I’m currently teaching Tara Westover’s memoir Educated, this year’s Interdisciplinary Read at Catawba Valley Community College. As I meditate on Tara Westover’s book, my thoughts turn to how her memoir differs from other Common Reads that I’ve studied with my students.
Exploring a single book, such as Westover’s, over the course of a semester bears witness to the volumes we can learn about writing through the slow, careful study of well-wrought prose. When the pages are only slightly more familiar to me than they are to my students—which has been the case with every Common Read that I’ve taught—the experience has enabled me to model the pursuit of lifelong learning that I aim to foster in my students.
Quinones, Sam. Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic. 2015. Bloomsbury, 2016.
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Crown, 2010.
Spiegelman, Art. Maus. 1991. Pantheon, 1992.
Westover, Tara. Educated. Random, 2018.
Whitehead, Colson. Underground Railroad. Doubleday, 2016.
4 thoughts on “A Lust for Lists”
Very interesting post! Educators need to find ways to help students engage in their class and this post shines a light on that process. Overall, the post is very strong and well constructed. I appreciate the addition of her own list and the picture of the books on her list. I kinda wish we did this in our class!
Thank you, Alec!
As one your many English 112 Students, I thought it was a wonderful idea creating our own word press. Not only did it took me out of my comfort zone, but it helped me explain who I want to become in the future. I look forward in getting to know more about my classmates, as we are assigned to listen, read, and acknowledge each other’s blog!
Thank you, Jenn. I hope you will continue to maintain your WordPress blog.