I don't have to be anywhere in particular today, astonishingly (other than office hours at 2, but we all know how vital those are), so I'm sitting at my desk in front of my laptop prepping for tomorrow. Normally I don't prep this far in advance anymore--only 1.5 semesters in and I've developed the habit of prepping at 7 am the day of class--but I (again, astonishingly) don't have much vital work to do today, so I'm trying to do what I can ahead of time.
Normally I prep at the kitchen table, because normally it's 7 am and I'm eating breakfast and drinking my coffee as I work. And at 7 am, that's the only spot in the house that has access to any kind of natural light, which makes it a little more pleasant to be up and working.
My god! I can't prepare when the computer is available. I write down a discussion question, note a single passage, and then go through the Internet Cycle (two email accounts, bloglines, statcounter, blogger comments). There's nothing new in any of these places, or very rarely anything--I'm running through the cycle every 5 minutes, after all. When I do get an email, I am now replying with shocking alacrity, for normally I am not a good email-responder. This is wildly unproductive. No wonder it used to take me 4 hours to prep for a 50-minute class back in the early days, when I did all my prep at my desk.
Part of my problem, too, is that I still have it in my head that I need 4 pages of notes (handwritten, peppered with questions) to get through a 50-minute class. I established this ratio back when I adjuncted my first class in 2005. I probably established it, in fact, the very first time I prepared for a class: that was what I needed that one time, so that is what I have needed every subsequent time. Never mind that I've now clocked in more than 250 class hours at this new gig (a 4/4 load does beef up one's experience pretty damn quick). And these days, in this class in particular, 2 pages of notes really seems to get the job done--I rarely finish up everything that I want to cover anymore. But I still have the 4:50 ratio in my head, and I don't feel at peace until I have all those pages filled and/or an Emergency Backup Group Activity jotted down in the margins. (I almost never need said activity--which is good, because they're usually kind of stupid.)
Here's the thing. I have no idea how other people prepare for classes. I have no idea what their notes look like. Now, I'm sure that different things work for different people, and that modeling my prep on someone else's wouldn't be a good idea. But it troubles me that I'm essentially working from an only slightly evolved version of what I did the very first time I ever taught (by which I mean the first *day*, not the first course). True, I have more discussion questions now and a whole lot less leading the students through the narrative, unless we're dealing with something particularly tricky. And this class is going really well, so I think that my discussion/lecture method is working--it's the literal preparation, what I'm putting down on paper and how I'm organizing myself (and how much time I'm putting into it), that I sometimes suspect could use some improvement.
So, what do you guys do when you're prepping a class? Literature classes would be most obviously relevant to my own needs, but I'm interested in whatever you've got.
On a related note, I haven't been to very many undergraduate classes since I was an undergraduate (as a TA, I just attended lectures, which is not what I'm doing), so I've completely forgotten what kinds of things my professors used to say to get us talking. Once in a while I find myself asking a question that I really don't endorse: "What does this poem mean?" "What point is the author making in this story?" "Why did the author choose that particular image?" What I'm getting at is legitimate, but the questions themselves (as I phrase them) make me really uncomfortable, as they seem so...reductive. And based in authorial intention in a way that I find troubling. But often I can't think of another way to phrase them that the students will understand. (When I'm working off the cuff, I have a tendency to ask really wordy, convoluted questions that utterly baffle my students (and they should baffle them--they baffle me half the time), so I usually end up rephrasing them in a way that goes too far in the other direction, as in the questions above.) So, as a secondary, extra-credit question, what kinds of questions do you ask students to get them talking about the "deeper" levels of a literary text?