RDR-20110405-268.jpg

For my class this summer, students are required to do a book review. To ensure they were thinking about the books (and actually reading one), I asked them to bring their books to class one week before the book reviews were due. Then, I set the class up for speed-dating (two lines of desks). Students were given a few minutes to tell their speed-dating partner about their book. Specifically, they were asked to discuss why they chose it, how it relates to the class, what the main arguments were, and one thing they learned or found particularly interesting. After a few minutes, I asked students in one row of desks to move down one, and the discussions started over. We did this a few times so students could hear about a couple of other books and practice talking about theirs (while not having to say the same thing too many times in row), and students said they really appreciated the chance to hear about others’ books and think a bit in class about their own.

 

Some documentary suggestions for courses on Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Media courtesy of the SWS listserv. Thanks Kyle for sharing this with Teaching TSP!

 Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Media

Dreamworlds 3

Miss Representation

Reel Bad Arabs

This Film is Not Yet Rated

Reel Injun

Game Over:  Gender, Race, and Violence in Video Games

Wrestling with Manhood

The Codes of Gender

Mickey Mouse Monopoly

Ethnic Notions

Further off the Straight and Narrow

Tough Guise

The Celluloid Closet

The Bronze Screen

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

Killing us Softly IV

DSC00749

If you require your students to write a paper, you know that one of the toughest things for students is narrowing a broad paper topic to one that is sufficient for a course paper.  This quick group activity helps students begin to refine their ideas with some help from their classmates.

  • Have students take out a piece of paper and write their potential paper topic in the center.  (Tell them to write in small handwriting!)  Tell them it’s normal for students, as well as professors, to start out with broad paper ideas that need to be narrowed.
  • Then, have students form groups of 3-4.  Each student should pass her/his piece of paper to the left (or right!), and all students should spend 1-2 minutes writing what comes to mind when they see their classmates’ paper topics.  Show them a picture like the one above (perhaps with a slightly more related topic!), and explain that they are creating brainstorming webs.
  • Students should continue to pass their papers around until everyone in the group has commented on each other’s paper ideas.
  • Then, give students a moment to look at their webs.  If you want to spend extra time on the activity, you can also ask them to pair up with someone from their group, talk through their webs, and talk through any ideas that the activity spurred in their minds.

Teacher
In keeping with the theme Hollie started about what to do on the first day of class, I’ll share two activities that worked well in my first class of Intro to Sociology:

1) I have a small class this summer (23 students), so I had the time this semester to do student introductions. I wanted to use these introductions as a way to get students to start thinking about their social location. After a short lecture on the basics of sociological framework and the importance of examining context, I had students first go around the room and introduce themselves by name. Then, I asked them to add a little “context” to their introductions. Who are they? What experiences have shaped how they see the world? Instructions to the students:

  • ›Introduce yourself!
  • First, tell us your name (what you would like to be called).
  • ›For all subsequent rounds, introduce yourself further by adding context. Tell us something about your context (what has shaped your view of the world):
  • Who you are, your background, your family, your interests, what you like to do, who and what you identify with, your heroes, activities you do or used to do, why you are in college, your goals, places you have worked, etc.

Go as many rounds as you’d like (I did two). If students start to simply name their interests, start asking them how that interest may influence how they see the world to direct their thinking back to their own social location.

 

2) Next, I reviewed the basics what sociologists study. Then, to get students to start working out their own sociological imaginations, I had them spend five minutes jotting down their own sociological questions and then had everyone share at least one of their questions with the class.

Activity: ›Sociologists attempt to answer questions we have about the social world. What are some questions you have about the social world?

In a Word Doc (hooked up to a projector so they could see it), I wrote down all of their questions so  that we could come back to them throughout the semester to see if they had gained the tools to know how to answer them. If they asked questions that weren’t particularly sociological (for example: one student posed a question about renewable energy), I asked them to think about the social dimensions of this problem (e.g., business interests, capitalism, funding for scientific discovery, etc.)

 

New Books in Sociology is an untapped resource for the classroom.  In these podcasts, the hosts spend about an hour talking with the author of a new sociological book.  While they are all interesting, a recent podcast caught my (aspiring genocide scholar) eye.  Evil Men, by James Dawes, draws on firsthand accounts of convicted war criminals.  This podcast would make a fantastic assignment in a course covering genocide, human rights, international law, or criminology.  Below are a few questions that could accompany the podcast.

  1. Who did Dawes choose to interview, and why?
  2. Why were interviews an appropriate research method for this project?
  3. Were people willing to talk with Dawes?  Why do you think this was the case?
  4. What did Dawes learn about why these “evil men” committed the crimes they did?
  5. What do his findings tell us about why people commit war crimes?  Based on what you have heard, do you find anything problematic about drawing scientific conclusions from his book?

This podcast could also be paired with several other activities on Teaching TSP, such as these activities about the Milgram experiment and this activity about power.

 

Ok, most of your semesters and winding down or over.   But, for those of us teaching this summer, we’ll soon be turning our attention to planning the upcoming course.

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself thinking particularly about the first day of class. Sure, it’s often a day that consists of the syllabus being passed out and students hoping to get out early.  But, in reality, the first day sets the tone for the rest of the course.  Because of this, I try to spend some time thinking about the goals for the first day.

Generally, I settle on the following three key goals:

#1: Communicate the course elements and expectations clearly.

#2: Immediately set the tone for the classroom as an open, safe atmosphere for learning.

#3: Create rapport between the instructor and students, and begin to create rapport among students as well.

 

To achieve these goals, I rely upon different activities.  Here are some ideas below:

Communicating Course Elements

Going over the syllabus is often a little boring.  But, it’s important to let the students know what they can expect throughout the course and what is expected of them.  I also like having them write down what they except and hope to learn from the course before we go over the syllabus.  Then, they can keep that in mind while we talk about the course, and, if you have them turn in their expectations, you can get a sense for what they are hoping to learn.  Of course you can’t incorporate all suggestions, but it’s good to know where students are coming from.

I’ve also heard about syllabus speed dating.  I haven’t tried it and would love to hear from someone who has, but the basic idea is that you set up in the classroom for “speed dating” and then ask students to discuss a question about the syllabus as well as a question that enables them to get to know each other.  Then, switch partners and ask two new questions.

Setting a Tone and Creating Rapport

These goals take more than one class period to achieve.  But, icebreakers and activities geared to get students talking often help create a positive classroom environment from day 1.  We’d love to hear your first-day activities so we can create a log of them.  Here you’ll find an older TSP post with a link to classroom bingo, which allows students to get to know one other.  A few other popular ones we’ve seen or done ourselves include:

Interviews: Have the students pair up and interview each other.  Then, give them a chance to introduce their interview partner to the rest of the class.

Two Truths and a Lie:  Each person should share three things—two of them are true, and one is a lie—and the class guesses which one is a lie.

Introductions with a Question: Have each student answer a question when they introduce themselves.  I have asked students to talk about the coolest place they have been (global studies courses), but any broad question would work here.

Student survey: Give students a short survey, which includes questions about their preferred name, why they are taking the course, their career goals, and any other things they think you should know.  I prefer giving them this survey and going over it alone, but I’ve seen others add a goofy question to the survey and go over it in class (after giving students a few minutes to fill it out) as a way to take attendance and do introductions.

Ok, that’s just a few.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on activities as well.

 

 

Office Hours sat down with  Catherine Squires to discuss her September 2012 article in American QuarterlyColoring in the Bubble: Perspectives from Black-Oriented Media on the (Latest) Economic Disaster. This is a great podcast to keep on hand for use in any class on race relations or any discussion on the recent economic crisis.

Letters
In this podcast, Squires explains how people of color were scapegoated by the mainstream media in responding to the sub prime mortgage crisis. Squires then explores how three publications that are targeted to African Americans or people of color more generally responded to this crisis. The podcast is a great discussion of  how neoliberalism and notions of “post-racialism” allow for stereotypes of people of color to remain unexamined and allow people of color to be scapegoated for social problems, even in this case of obvious fraud by lending companies.

We recommend the following discussion questions and activity to get students engaged with this topic:

1. How does Squires define “neoliberalism”? Were you familiar with this political philosophy before listening to this interview? Have you recognized the elements of neoliberalism in political discussions recently?

2. How does Squires define “post-racialism”? Were you familiar with this ideology before listening to this interview? Have you seen this ideology expressed by politicians? by your family and friends?

3. In what ways did Squires find that people of color were blamed for the sub prime crisis?

4. According to Squires, how did the ideologies of neoliberalism and post-racialism lend support to the blaming of people of color (instead of focusing on racist practices by the lending companies)?

5. Take a look at the three news outlets that Squires examines in this paper: Black EnterpriseThe Root, and Colorlines.  Take a few minutes to look over each site. How do they seem similar and different? According to Squires, how did each of the news sources respond differently to the economic crisis?

6. Is Squires optimistic that these news sources created by and for people of color have the ability to challenge dominant narratives about people of color? Why or why not?

Teaching TSP is very happy that Girl w/Pen has joined TSP’s Community!  Of course, we’re happy for many reasons, but one that we must highlight is the fantastic amount of teaching resources that can be found on the blog.  Here’s an example, posted by Girl w/ Pen’s Deborah Siegel last month, which could easily be adapted to the classroom.

Start by giving your students this short, in-class quiz.

1. Children rarely have a firm sense of what “gender” they are until they are how old?
a) 1 year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years

2. This past holiday season, which country produced a toy catalog featuring a boy cradling a doll and a girl riding a race car?
a) the US
b) Sweden
c) France

3. True or false: In a study of 120 pregnant women conducted shortly after women learned the sex of their baby, those who knew they were carrying females described their fetuses’ movements as gentle, quiet, and rolling while those carrying males described kicks, jabs, and a saga of earthquakes.

 

Then, to get the answers and learn much more, watch this TED Talk in class.

Below is a guest post by Marie E. Berry, a Sociology PhD student at UCLA.  Marie studies the political engagement of women after mass violence.  In the post below, she suggests an activity to accompany Megan Comfort’s recent special feature.

Who is affected when an individual goes to prison? Megan Comfort’s recent special feature, “Repercussions of Incarceration on Close Relationships,” is a powerful reminder of the wide-reaching impact of the U.S.’s high incarceration rates on our society. This article would be an important addition to any class that tackles issues related the criminal justice system, class, race, or inequality in general. It could also be used in the context of an international human rights law class, especially as it references the ways different countries are tackling the issue of incarcerated mothers.

Incarceration rates have increased at an astonishing pace over the past few decades. As Comfort notes, the number of people behind bars in the U.S. has jumped from approximately 380,000 in the mid-1970s to 2.2 million on any given day today. We don’t yet have a way of assessing the full social effects of this, although we can begin to imagine some impacts given that just over one-half of all prisoners report that they are a parent to a child under 18 (Glaze and Muraschak 2010).

The following exercise would be useful for two primary purposes: first, to help students comprehend the vast number of people who are affected when an individual goes to prison, and second, to begin a discussion what this means in the context of the class, racial, and regional inequalities that exist within the criminal justice system. This activity could be done individually and is written as such; however, it could also be done as a class with several volunteers completing the exercise on the white board.

  1. Imagine that each member of the class will be spending the following 3 years in prison.
  2. Take out a blank sheet of paper, and start by placing your name at the center of the paper.
  3. Draw one ring of “ripples.” Within this ring, list the names of the people in your life that will be the most directly impacted by your absence. Think here about immediate family members, best friends, etc.
  4. Think now about how your absence will affect each individual in this ripple, using what you learned in Comfort’s article.  Specifically, think about the following questions:
    • Who would come visit you?
    • What responsibilities do you currently have that will have to be adopted by someone else? (Financial responsibilities? Support obligations?)
    • Which relationships will be strained by your absence?
    • Using what you learned in Comfort’s article, who in your life might go through a “secondary prisonization”?
  5. Next, draw a second ring.  On this ripple, list the names of other people who will be directly affected by your absence. Think here about your employer, your classmates, your group of friends, etc.
    • How will your absence affect each individual in this ripple?
  6. Outside of these ripples, try to list the names of everybody else you interact with on a regular basis. What impact will your absence have on these individuals?

While this activity doesn’t fully assess the network of individuals whose lives are affected by the incarceration of a single individual, it will help students grasp the scope of our penal system’s impact on our society.  It might also be helpful to note that this isn’t a “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” exercise, which might lead students to make assumptions about the reasons for their hypothetical “imprisonment.” Instead, it is a chance to begin to assess the interconnectedness of our society and thus the number of lives that are affected each time someone goes to prison.

It would then be good to follow this activity with some general discussion questions.  These could be discussed in small groups or as a class.

  1. This activity began to give us an idea of the vast number of people who would be affected if you were to go to prison. Now, let’s consider these ripple effects in the context of what we know about the profiles of the US prison population. What are some of the family, community, and society level effects of incarceration rates, given that the people most likely to end up behind bars are extremely poor, African American, and live in areas of comparable disadvantage?
  2. What does Loïc Wacquant mean when he refers to the phenomenon of “hyperincarceration”? In which ways does the US criminal justice system target policing and punishment policies “first by class, second by race, and third by place”?
  3. Comfort describes how female visitors to the prison are often asked to change clothes, which they must find in a bin of discarded attire in the visitor’s center. How does this restriction on the individuality and autonomy of the visitors parallel similar restrictions on the incarcerated population? What impacts might this have on an individual/family/community/etc.? How does this process reflect what Foucault described as a process of dismantling of the self?
  4. How might incarceration continue to have ripple effects once an individual is released?

Is “Latino” a race or an ethnicity? As sociologists, we are quick to refer to “Latino” as an ethnicity, but will just as easily include “Latino” as a racial category next to “White,” “Black,” and “Asian.” So, which is it? And why does it matter?obligation

Wendy D. Roth tackles this question in her recent special feature on The Society Pages “Creating a ‘Latino’ Race.” This feature would be a great addition to any discussion of race and ethnicity in the United States and how those categories have evolved over time for White, Asian and Latino immigrants and citizens. This topic would be ideal for the first weeks of a course on Race and Ethnicity or to introduce the topic in an Intro to Sociology class. This would also be a good topic for a Research Methods class when discussing how we classify racial categories and why this practice can be controversial.

Use the following activity in class to get a conversation going about race, ethnicity and Latino identity:

First, hand out an example of the Census questions on race and ethnicity. Have students fill them out on their own. Then ask:

1. Did you feel that the available categories on this form lined up with your own racial and ethnic identity? Why or why not?

2. Do you think that having “Hispanic” as an ethnicity and not a race makes sense? Why or why not?

3. What benefits do you see to having “Hispanic” listed as an ethnicity? What drawbacks?

4. What might you change about this form if you could? Do you believe there are better ways to classify people racially?

 

Then, start a conversation about Roth’s finding using these questions:

1. According to Roth’s research, how is the way that Puerto Rican and Dominican migrants understand race and ethnicity quite different from how Americans traditionally think of race and distinguish it from ethnicity?

2. When Latino immigrants come to the United States, how do they fit into the racial classifications already in place (now and in the past)? How do these classifications not line up with how they identify themselves?

3. According to Roth’s finding, how does the experience of Latinos in the United States differ based on skin color? What does this say about race and racism in the United States?

4. Why have many Latino immigrants seen it as advantageous to remain “bicultural” instead of “passing” for (non-Hispanic) white?

5. Why is the Latino race/ethnicity question a controversial topic? Why does it matter if Latino people are understood as an “ethnicity” or as a “race” by the US government? What might this potential change mean for Latino Americans? How would such a change disrupt notions of strict racial categories held by many Americans?