Beauty Pre-Draft: Recognizing Key Terms

Lesson Plan – Classroom key terms

Lesson objective(s):  The objective of this lesson is to create a list of specialized vocabulary and key terms that the class will use throughout the semester (in discussion and writing). Students will become familiar with these terms, which all concern the course topic and course readings. The idea is a) to start students off on equal footing (no one begins way “ahead” of anyone else) and b) ensure that when certain important words are used (in discussion or in writing) we all have the same definition in mind.

Total estimated time: at least a half an hour but this activity should be ongoing throughout the semester

Additional outcome(s): At the start of the semester students will need to rethink and relearn what some terms mean as well as become comfortable with a lot of new vocabulary and concepts. Students will slowly build their specialized vocabulary throughout the semester.

Course work or assignment underway: The first time this activity is done should be at the beginning of the semester after the class has read (watched, listened to, observed, etc.) a text that exemplifies or introduces the course topic. For instance, for my proposed topic, Beauty, the class could begin by reading an excerpt from “The Form of Beauty” from Plato’s Symposium; the subsequent list would include terms like “beauty,” “taste,” “aesthetic,” “form,” “perception,” “attraction” and would be defined according to what Plato writes. As we read and discuss more these definitions will change and expand but hopefully everyone’s understandings of what something means will remain more or less in harmony.

Work and/or reading completed before class: The text being used should be read before the class and perhaps even discussed without pinpointing key terms.

Sequence of classroom activities: 

Use Gordon Harvey’s Elements of an Academic Essay to define keyterms right away. Attach vocabulary to what students see and read by showing a clip from, say, a provocative and relevant cosmetics commercial to get a discussion started on some general terms and concepts that will be important to the course. In this case, I would want to get students to begin thinking about the words “beauty,” “ugliness,” and maybe “perception” and I would use the commercial, or a number of examples, in order to discuss these words and come up with a “definition” for each. Any subsequent readings that define and discuss beauty may mean that another aspect is added the definition under “beauty.” So a term’s definition will evolve as the students read and discuss more throughout the semester and more terms will be added to the list.

For this assignment then, they are practicing what you’ve just shown them in class. They will have to decide what the keyterms are in the text and then also decide how the author is defining them. Sometimes a writer will assume the reader will know a definition but with more specialize vocabulary s/he will usually define it so the reader knows how it is being used. This activity can become an automatic response to any “reading” of any “text” (films, advertisements, magazines, articles, etc.).

Make it very clear that language changes within a community or culture and the terms’ definitions will change within the classroom community throughout the semester. Because this class is sharing a common “language” (concerning beauty) this means that we must acknowledge that we also share common ideas about thoughts, ideas, objects, and concepts that are being expressed by and in that language.

Reflection on the lesson’s success or alternative approaches: This exercise is useful for most types of media students may be assigned (film, text, photography, etc.), although it will need to be tweaked according to what medium they are interacting with and what the instructor would like to focus on for that particular text.

Download: Beauty Pre-Draft Recognizing Key Terms (PDF)

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