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The Progress of Lesson 1

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    This first lesson took place with all six students in the group, 2 male, 4 female. The students had read the text as homework and I had asked them to underline and look up the words and expressions they did not know. At the start of the lesson we quickly went through any queries students still had at a semantic level. I had not given students a copy of my framework for analysis, so the discussion was to a large extent teacher-led.

    Whilst lesson 1 was geared towards looking particularly at the level of ‘text’ as a product and in relation to the immediate context of the aim, audience, function and structure of the text, students did start to deconstruct the text and issues of representation and voice also surfaced. I followed the structure of my framework for analysis loosely. The first 20 minutes or so of the lesson were taken up by me explaining the task, i.e. that we would look at the text twice over the course of two different lessons, that in each session we would look at it in slightly different ways, and that Dutch students would be joining us for the second session. I also explained briefly what these two different ways of looking at text were and that in the second session we would focus on a text as ‘cultuurtekst’, i.e. looking at discourses and possible intertextual references. Students had heard of the terms ‘discourse’ and ‘intertext’, as they had been mentioned in other classes, but it seems fair to say that the understanding of these concepts was still somewhat vague. I only explained these in a cursory manner. This was partly because in previous years when I piloted my course, students had shown resistance to explicit analysis in class. They felt the language class was for learning language skills, not for doing text analysis. Equally, in previous lessons in the course with the cohort of students on whom I am basing this study, students had responded very negatively when I mentioned the word ‘discourse’. One student, Chris, said: ‘It’s always ‘discourse this and discourse that. It’s just jargon’, referring to another (literature) course. Other students were nodding in agreement. I felt at that time that we could talk about the issues by referring to terms such as ‘ideas’, ‘values’, and ‘network of ideas’, as these terms seemed less ‘loaded’ to students. After all, my aim was not necessarily for students to carry out a full discourse analysis of texts, but rather to raise awareness of underlying assumptions in texts. I did not purposely avoid the term ‘discourse’, but I felt we could talk about all the issues which a critical look at texts would throw up in language with which students felt comfortable. As it turned out some students occasionally used the term ‘discourse’ themselves, and whilst students sometimes searched for terms and phrases, they were able to express complex ideas fluently and at times in an academic voice.

    The level of participation of individual students in this lesson was more or less on a par with that of other lessons during the year. Noteworthy is that the male students did not contribute very much to the lessons, though this was partly reflected in all lessons, as the female students tended to be very articulate and eager to engage in classroom discussions. Both male students signaled signs of resistance towards this particular text. Chris particularly disliked the text and said several times it was a very ‘bad’ (slechte) text. He commented once that the writer was probably drunk when he wrote it. Andy participated more than Chris but tended mainly to contribute only when being addressed directly. Andy commented that he had not much to say about the text, because it did not relate to him. Both Andy and Chris rejected the triviality of the text. Andy commented later in his interview that he felt the topic would have been better discussed using a ‘better’ text. With this, I assumed he meant an academic text or one from a ‘quality’ newspaper. The female students in the class on the other hand clearly were invoking personal experiences and intertextual references, even in this first lesson. In my discussion of the data of this first lesson, I am guided by the topics of the framework: content, function, and text structure. A more specific selection of data was guided in the different ways of reading the text. I will now turn to the discussion of the first point in the framework; that of ‘content’.

    This page titled The Progress of Lesson 1 is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gerdi Quist (Ubiquity Press) .

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