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Final Presentation: Catagories

Lethologica's picture

To begin with I was both certain and uncertain of what I wanted to do for my final presentation. I had decided right off that I didn't want to just do a basic presentation, figuring that the class (and myself) would appreciate something more interesting, and almost immediately, my mind was cast back (though I don't know why...) to an eleventh grade english class that had made quite an impact on me. We had been reading The Handmaid's Tale, a novel that was known for its strange uncertainty of chronology, and my teacher had handed my class a bunch of excerpts from the book and asked us to put them in the right order. After not having thought of the activity for nearly a year and a half, my sudden memory of it seemed almost like a divine message, and I just knew that I had to do something that was at least similar to this activity. The only problems were figuring out how to fit the basic outline of the activity to the correct topic of the presentation, and make it fit within the time limit.

Deciding what it was that I had really taken away from the class--what I had learned--was not at all difficult. I cannot count the number of times I left the class thinking about a single, overarching topic: that of The Story (note the capitol letters!), and its incredible flexibility and usefulness. I knew that the original activity would not quite fit this topic, at least not within any reasonable time limit. I was, after all, not as concerned with the chronologies of stories, but rather with their characteristic of being so wide-spread and malleable. Eventually I came to the conclusion that, instead of producing a bunch of excerpts from a single story and asking the class to order them, I would produce excerpts from a whole lot of different stories and ask for them to be categorized into different genres. I would split the class into several groups (it ended up being seven in the end) and give each group a lot of excerpts from different stories that were considered parts of different genres, as well as a list of possible genres (numbering 6 while only 4-5 were necessary), and ask them to separate them by genre. I was expecting, and even hoping, that several of the groups would get it 'wrong' and come up with different answers. This would symbolize (quite nicely, I thought) the sheer universality of the story.

Overall, I think that the activity (I ended up thinking of it as a little social experiment) went rather well. I got a satisfactory range of responses from the different groups: they fell for several of the traps that I set to guide them 'off course,' as well as some that I hadn't even realized were there, which made it a learning experience for me as well! I found it fascinating to listen to the rationalizations of the different groups as they tried to work out the puzzle, taking note of how they were all different from each other, as well as my own thoughts on the subject. I feel that both the means and the ends of this activity went to show just how sensitive stories are to human perception, and in turn how important they become to out individual understanding of our universe.

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