FAQs for the 240s

Below are some frequently asked questions that pertain to all four courses in the 240s series. In the next post here, you’ll find answers to questions that are course specific.

  • I’ve been told that my 240 course is 4 hours long. What does that mean and how should I use the extra time? All the courses in the 240s series are 4 hours, 4 credits. (This is unlike English 110, which is 4 hours, 3 credits.) The extra time allotted for these courses equals to 25 more minutes, twice a week (50 minutes total). Whereas a 3-credit course meets for 1 hour and 15 minutes twice a week, a 4-credit course meets for 1 hour and 40 minutes twice a week. This additional time was added to the 240s so that instructors could devote extra attention to teaching writing, close reading, and research. For ideas about what to do with this extra time, see Karen’s handout and Amy’s handout. Because students are receiving an extra credit for this course, the 4th hour should include all students. Also, please note that your class might be scheduled for 1 hour and 50 minutes because a 10-minute break is included in all courses that meet for more than 3 hours. Many instructors choose not to give the students a break in the middle of the course but to end class early.
  • How much writing should I assign in the 240s?
    The department recommends that 15- 20 pages of formal writing should be assigned every semester. Faculty can choose whether to split this writing in various ways. Some suggestions:

    • Three papers of equal length (5- 6 pages each)
    • Three papers of unequal length (3-4 pages, 5-6 pages, and 7-8 pages)
    • Two papers (5-6 pages and 7-8 pages) and an annotation assignment.At minimum, please assign at least two formal papers.
  • Should I assign a research paper or what kinds of assignments should be given in these courses? Yes, you should assign some kind of research component in all of the 240 courses. The kind of research you ask students to do will depend on which of the courses you’re teaching. In English 241: The Text in Its Historical Moment you might ask students to do historical research, whereas in English 244: Theory, you might ask students to find additional secondary sources that engage the theoretical arguments covered in class. In addition to a research paper, many instructors are asking students to submit annotation assignments. See Gloria’s handout for a possible assignment sequence and an explanation of the annotation assignment.
  • Is assigning low-stake writing recommended in these courses? Yes, the extra hour and the challenging material covered by these courses makes them ideal for integrating informal writing assignments. There’s no mandate about how this can be done. Some instructors ask students to blog about the reading due that day in response to pointed questions. Other instructors assign in-class writing to jump start discussion (or wrap up discussion) or ask students to submit short assignments that ask for the key terms/ ideas in the discussed texts. The extra time in the course will also give you more space to assign and discuss informal writing, and it’s highly recommended that you use some of that time to do so.
    Examples of informal assignments are:

    • Blogging
    • Journaling
    • In-class writing
    • Keyword identification assignments
    • Note-taking exercises
  • Should I assign critical or theoretical reading in my 240?
    Yes! Please do. Some critical (i.e. methodologically oriented) readings should be assigned each semester in every 240. We define this loosely, but we think that these readings should situate the class discussions within larger academic discussions. For example (these lists aren’t exhaustive but are just meant to provide some ideas):            -Theoretical readings that define genre (for 243), that think the relationship between history and literature (241), that discuss the role of theory in literary studies (244), or that comment on canonicity (242).- Secondary readings by scholars that show how theory is used in literary scholarship (244), that situate literary texts in historical moments (241), that demonstrate how literary histories are formed (242), or that show how genre influences literary interpretations (243).
  • How much material should I cover in the class? Should I be focused on ensuring coverage [of literary history, theory, genre]? While there are certain parameters for each of the 240s that dictate how much material should be covered (see the FAQs below for each of the 240s), these courses were not designed as coverage courses. Instead, focus on assigning an array of material that demonstrates diversity in method rather than content since these courses are meant to introduce students to how literary studies has been conceptually organized.
  • I taught this course once before, and the students found the material and/ or assignments unusually challenging. How do I encourage students to complete difficult assignments? Many students and instructors of the 240s have noted that these courses are particularly challenging because of the difficult material assigned and/ or because the courses ask students to think conceptually about literary studies. Embrace the challenge! These courses were designed to be rigorous and to push students to engage more deeply with the methodologies of English studies. You might find that you need to adjust the pacing of your course to help students keep up if you assigned too much reading or writing. However, take advantage of the 4th hour to help your students process the material and use the time to scaffold difficult assignments by assigning paper proposals or by workshopping thesis statements (as just some examples). The handout for how to use the 4th hour provides some additional ideas for how to organize class time that might help with challenging texts and ideas.
  • How do the 240s fit into the new English Major and Curriculum? All students that declared the English Major in Fall 2014 and after are now required to take all four of the English 240s. Ideally, your students will have already taken English 170W before beginning this sequence. However, since English 170W is a co-requisite for 241, 242, and 243, some of your students will be taking the courses concurrently. Your students will have already completed English 110 and 130. The 240s are meant to introduce students to some of the methodologies and organizing concepts of literary studies and to prepare them to do the more advanced and focused work required in the English electives. See Steve’s handouts here for a schematic representation of how the English majors courses are connected.
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About Karen Weingarten

Karen Weingarten is an assistant professor at Queens College.
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