I was very excited to receive this prompt as in undergrad and especially now, I oftentimes think of better ways to teach course material. As English and Humanities majors I find there’s this expectation that we are all amazing at reading, retaining, and interpreting texts, but that is not always the case. For example, I can’t stand Chaucer, Dickens, or Proust and in undergrad I struggled with them. I didn’t want to interact with the text, I couldn’t understand the language, I was unmotivated simply because these texts were difficult for me to comprehend through traditional means.
Even before reading the chapter on designing classroom activities, I knew that if I were teaching I would begin with a Buzzfeed quiz. Call me a millennial, but those quizzes are addicting and fun, and in the teaching sphere they would also help students collaborate with each other and connect to the text. The idea I had in mind was a simple “personality” quiz, “Which character from Shelley’s Frankenstein are you?” (If you go to the link it is a quiz I made very quickly as an example.) By beginning with something personal, I have ensured that the students who take the quiz connect to the text. This connection works both if the students have previously read the text or if the text is new to them. If they are reading for the first time and they received an answer of “The Creature” from the personality quiz, they will read the novel with more empathy towards the creature as they have “connected” with him through the quiz. Similar to if they have read the novel before, they may reread or think about the novel in a different way depending on the results of the personality quiz.
The great thing about this quiz is it can be a catalyst for later activities. Once the students have found their personality/character match, I could assign them a social media project where they cultivate a Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, blog, Vine (RIP), Instagram, or Snapchat for their character. With Shelley’s novel, this would be ironic and fun, as we could “modernize” the “modern Prometheus” with an active Twitter account.
In my head this project would span the entire semester (though it could also be done in a week or any period of time), ending with an analysis paper where the students would defend their understanding of the character by comparing and contrasting in-depth interpretation of text to their social media accounts.
An assignment like this is full of digital humanities tools: social media, online research, quizzes, etc., but it also allows for creativity and individual understanding of text. If someone is having trouble getting into or comprehending the text, giving them a singular focus and homework that seems more fun, will motivate them and help them with the text. Students can receive overarching understanding of a novel in class, but by allowing them this creativity to explore the text in their own individual ways and ensuring that the content they come up with makes sense through the use of the final (defense) paper, they will better retain the knowledge of this novel, than through traditional means.
Side note: It’s also a good idea to search a few key terms from your text on Buzzfeed, such as Frankenstein, as some funny posts come up that could spark classroom discussions. For example, this link could spark discussion on how the creature is described in the novel versus how he is portrayed in media. (585)