I was taken aback. In my classes, students talk and write about the books we read. This is all we do. Too often middle and high school English teachers assign "projects" of various kinds hoping to engage students with literature, but as a result they do not become truly skilled readers and writers. The primary way I know to teach college students to become sophisticated readers and writers is through reading, writing, and discussion of their reading and writing. So I am biased against projects that would distract from what I see as my core mission. I don't expect my 7-year-old to appreciate this and indeed for a younger reader to make a map such as he imagined would be very instructive.
|Franco Moretti. Atlas of the European Novel, 1800-1900 fig. 4 p. 19|
My teaching didn't fulfil his expectations that first visit, but N. has since voluntarily attended six more of my class meetings. He sits in the back of the room drawing, thinking, reading, staring out the large window at the other college buildings in his view. He may be enjoying mimicking going to school or going to work by driving off with me in mornings, though it's a kind of school-going that is entirely on his own terms: he goes if he wants to, he daydreams for 75 minutes if he wants to. Or maybe he's simply enjoying the change of scene. It's interesting to get a glimpse of what he picks up from class discussions; after hearing their names come up in class he asks me questions about Austen's characters later, and he even made a connection between our examination of Austen's punctuation (especially dashes) as a means of representing speech and a similar technique used by Eleanor Estes in the book he's currently reading, The Tunnel of Hugsy Goode. I'm still waiting to see if he draws that map of Hogwarts.
Bonus shameless self-promotion: My belief in a pedagogy of discussion is so firm that I make my students read their papers aloud to me and then we discuss them.