Class Assignments

Teaching Green Romanticism to Environmental Studies Majors: Assignments

Tilar J. Mazzeo, Colby College

Criteria for Discussion Grades

A:  EXCELLENT, Evidence that reading has been done completely and evidence of significant preparation for class discussion, including formulation of independent ideas, outside research, efforts toward comprehensive analysis, and attention to in-class themes.  Characterized by active, constructive, and thoughtful participation in class discussion, including a willingness to take intellectual risks, initiate discussion leadership, and take responsibility for one's own learning.

B:  VERY GOOD, Evidence that reading has been done completely and evidence of some preparation for class discussion.  Characterized by generally attentive attitude and some thoughtful and constructive participation in the day's discussion.

C:  GOOD, Evidence that the reading has been done completely, but without effort at analysis or independent comprehension. Characterized by passive or occasional participation in class discussion.

D:  MARGINAL, Evidence that part of the reading has been done or that the reading has been done poorly—or, participation that is not constructive or is disrespectful of others.  Poor reading includes not looking up unfamiliar words or completing the additional preparation exercises, including poem paraphrases.  Arriving to class late, ringing cell phones, text messaging, and coming to class without a copy of the appropriate text are automatic Ds.

F:  UNACCEPTABLE, Evidence that the reading has not been done.  Evidence of partial reading, combined with participation that is not constructive, is disrespectful of others, or is disruptive is an F.  Absence from class or extreme tardiness is an F. 

Discussion grades are assigned daily, and you may ask to see your scores at any point during the semester.  Keep in mind that good discussion does not always mean being right or always having the answer; it can also mean asking good questions, taking a risk with an idea, or helping us to work through a problem as a group.

Class Presentation Assignment

During the course of the semester, you will be asked to make a brief, informative, and well-prepared presentation to the rest of the class based on outside research.  While you are strongly encouraged to come see me during office hours to talk about your presentation, I am including here a basic description of the assignment requirements and some suggestions for preparing your presentation.

Individual or Group?  Your first decision needs to be whether you are going to make your presentation to the class individually or as part of a group.  If you are giving an individual presentation, you should plan on leading class for ten minutes.  If you are part of a group presentation, you group is responsible for a total amount of time that is equivalent to ten minutes per person.  In a group presentation, everyone needs to participate fully in the project, but this does not mean that each person has to speak for ten minutes.  You can nominate a single presenter.  However, every individual in a group must complete a group narrative before grades will be assigned.

What is your topic, and how does it connect to Romanticism?  The topics for presentations, in either event, should seek to connect the literature and culture of the Romantic period in Britain to contemporary issues in environmental studies or to recent historical issues connected to the development of the North American environmentalist movement.  These connections to not need to be literary; you are encouraged to draw on other disciplines with which you might be familiar, including scientific fields.  However, your goal in all cases should be to make connections for us between your research topic and the texts that we are studying in class.  How does Romanticism affect or engage in the topic on which you are presenting?  Chose your topic and your research with care.  Is it relevant?  Is it interesting?  Will this stimulate class discussion?  In choosing your topic and research, you are encouraged to be creative—think about unusual materials that you might use to demonstrate your point, and remember that your presentation should make a claim of some sort.

What if you get stuck with your research?  If you need concrete research assistance, remember that the reference librarian is available to help you or your group on campus.  She has a copy of the course assignment and syllabus. 

When should I begin my project?  What, not now?  This is a significant class project, and you want to give yourself as much time to prepare as possible.  However, you need to begin working seriously on the project two weeks before your presentation because you need to circulate your "playbill" at least one week in advance.

How to make the best presentation?  While developing your topic and conducting your research is clearly critical, do not underestimate the importance of presentation and preparation.  Practice and plan your presentation.  Rehearse it.  Time it.  Do not attempt to speak "off the cuff" unless you are an extremely polished public speaker.  Even then it is probably not a good idea.  You should also think about additional materials that will help your listeners stay focused on your topic.  At minimum, you should plan to circulate at the time of your presentation some sort of written material, which might be as simple as a handout but can be as innovative as you like.  You should also consider whether there might be other types of material that you could present that would help illustrate your points.  Do not show images just to show something, but if you are talking about the sublime and can find a painting that perfectly illustrates your point, use it.   Generally, you are encouraged to be creative and even humorous in your presentation, while maintaining a serious focus.  Fascinate us.  But keep in mind always: the key in all cases is finding relevant materials and strategies that will focus your presentation and keep your listeners engaged in what you have to say.

How to prepare the class for your presentation and when to circulate your playbill?  Are the particular issues that you would like your classmates to focus on in their reading for the day of your presentation?  Is there a short piece of writing or an image that you would like to pre-circulate?  You need to hand out these materials the week before. You are also required to circulate your or your group's "playbill" to the listserv no later than the Monday before your presentation.  Remember that the point of the playbill is to tell us what to expect in class on Thursday evening and perhaps what questions to think about in advance.  This is advertising your presentation and commits you to your topic. 

What if it goes wrong?  How will you know how hard I worked when I choked? What should be included in my research portfolio?  If you choke even after preparing carefully and diligently, it is not a crisis.  You get credit especially for trying to do something unusual.  You are also going to hand in, on the day of your presentation, documentation of the research that you conducted.  This documentation can be an annotated bibliography, a research notebook, a narrative description of your work, or anything that you would like to submit to prove the extent of your research on this project.  This is your back up plan, and it allows you to take some chances with your presentation. 

How to complete a group narrative?  If you worked in a group, everyone in the group needs to submit a completed group narrative before any grades are assigned.  This is due no later than one week after your presentation.

Group Narrative Worksheet

Please take a few moments to tell me about the progress and work habits of your group.  In particular, please list the participants, and tell me which responsibilities each person took upon him or herself.  This will affect materially the grade assigned to an individual, although isolated comments will not be credited to the same degree as a group consensus.  Please be fair and as polite in your comments, which I am sure is what you would like them to be in their account of your efforts!  That said, I do need to know if someone checked out, impeded the group's progress, or did not contribute equally to the group's final project.

While everyone has a right to see comments that affect his or her grade, your name will not be disclosed.  However, I cannot use any anonymous narrative in my grading process, so I need to have:

Your name:

Please list the members of your group individually and comment on each person's contribution.  Please include a self-evaluation as part of your narrative.  Keep in mind that honest self-evaluation will inevitably accord more closely with your peer's narratives and are taken most seriously.











Paraphrase Exercise

As part of your preparation for class, you should plan to complete a paraphrase exercise for each poem on the syllabus. 

To complete the exercise:

  1. Begin by reading through the poem once, quickly.  Mark any words that you do not recognize and look them up in the dictionary, finding the most appropriate definition for the context.  Remember that the Oxford English Dictionary is available to you on the library's website.  At any rate, you should use a college-level dictionary.  If you can carry it around in your book bag, it is not a college-level dictionary.  You should also google any unfamiliar references to proper names that you do not recognize.


  1. If the poem is particularly difficult, you may find it useful to read the poem through the second time out loud.  At any rate, read it slowly, sentence-by-sentence.  Your goal is essentially this: to translate each sentence into something resembling "plain" English.  You need to translate precisely—in other words, do not skip bits or leave out details.  You may find that you need to turn the order of phrases around, however.  Poets regularly use inversion, which is changing the normal subject-verb-object order of a sentence, for musical or metrical purposes.  Often, you have to go back to significantly earlier in a sentence to locate the subject, and pay particular attention to implied or explicit comparisons, either metaphors or similes.

            Happy is England! I could be content
            To see no other verdure than its own;
            To feel no other breezes than are blown
            Through its tall woods with high romances blent:
            Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
            For skies Italian, and an inward groan
            To sit upon an Alp as on a throne,
            And half forget what world or worlding meant.

Incomplete paraphrase:

England is happy.  I'd be happy to see no other verdure.  To feel no other breezes.  Yet, I feel a languishment for Italy and groan to sit on the Alps, my throne, and forget the world.

This paraphrase does not translate the poem in a precise word-for-word fashion, and it doesn't clearly translate unusual words.

Complete paraphrase:

England is happy!  I would be content to see no other greenery than what belongs to England.  [I would be content] to feel no other breezes except those that blow through the tall English woods, woods that are blended with high romance.  Yet, sometimes I feel like I am wasting away with desire for the skies of Italy.  Sometimes I feel an inward groan because I want to sit on top of a mountain in the Alps like I am sitting on a throne and want to forget partly what the world or things of the world mean.

This paraphrase is specific, precise, and complete.  It does a particularly good job of understanding the complex syntax of implied subjects.