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Why Teach Genesis?


WHY TEACH GENESIS?

I introduce Genesis at the beginning of the semester as a way to engage my students in Close Reading and Textual Analysis.  

I begin the semester with Genesis for several practical reasons - it is a text most students have some familiarity with, it is short and conducive to analysis and close reading, there are right and wrong answers to the questions I pose, but there are also answers that are open to interpretation and debate.  Furthermore, no matter what a student is studying, I think it is important to start a conversation with my students regarding moral responsibility and the concepts of good and evil.  Students are often overwhelmed with the choices that face them regarding their careers, what they should study, who they are as individuals, and what they stand for politically and ethically.

I focus on core topics - curiosity, free will, choice, guilt, justice, punishment, reward, and more.  Ethical and moral questions are raised and discussed.

Before I begin any of the class discussion or group work, I ask my students to first mark up the text using my Interpretive Note-Taking guide. I have a blog post here: Interpretive Note-Taking.
Here are some images from one of my students:
 

Here are some more reasons for teaching GENESIS 1, 2, & 3:

REASON #1: 

IT'S A GREAT TEXT FOR CLOSE READING AND ANALYSIS

Scholars have argued over the meaning of Genesis for centuries.   The approach I take is in the spirit of political philosophy.   It is a fabulous text for digging deeper and going beyond the surface teaching.  For instance, on a very superficial level it appears that God created everything in six days but the text doesn't support this position.   Moses Maimonides in The Guide to the Perplexed presents the case that “beginning” is not a temporal beginning “for time belongs to the created things” (Book II.30).  This claim helps establish a valid response to the criticism of Genesis as regards the impossibility of God creating the universe in six days.  In this one respect, it helps reconcile the theory of evolution (the universe was created billions of years ago) versus creation (it’s unclear how the first moments are to be understood temporally).

Later in the semester my students work on creating Infographics on the Scopes Trial. The earlier work on Genesis proves to be a great beginning point as they are now familiar with Genesis One. This Infographic was created by one of my students. I have a blog post on Infographics here:

INFOGRAPHICS IN THE CLASSROOM

REASON #2: 

IT'S A STORY ABOUT GROWING UP

Genesis is about innocence and responsibility.

REASON #3: 

DISCUSSING CURIOSITY and ENCOURAGING THE PURSUIT OF WISDOM.

This is one of the most important reasons for teaching Genesis - it has an equivocal lesson regarding curiosity and wisdom.  Here is what I say about it in my unit on Genesis 2 & 3:



REASON #4: 

IT WRESTLES WITH INTERESTING AND PERPLEXING QUESTIONS.   FOR INSTANCE, CAN SOMETHING COME FROM NOTHING?


This question is raised in Genesis 1.  I discuss Stephen Hawking's theories during this lecture.


REASON #5: 

IT'S A SHORT TEXT THAT CAN BE TAUGHT AT THE BEGINNING OR END OF A SEMESTER.




This short text may be used when you have extra time during the semester. My TpT unit would be an excellent text to keep on hand as an emergency sub lesson - you will find my bundled unit here:

Of course you could create your own questions too. 

If you would like to see my questions for Genesis One 
(also a great project that could be left for a substitute teacher) 
you will find my free unit here:  

Close Reading & Textual Analysis (Genesis Chapter One)



These are some of the reasons I use Genesis.  I would love to hear your comments.

For more information on teaching Great Speeches at the beginning of the semester see my blog post here: ENGAGE YOUR STUDENTS FROM DAY ONE.

Thanks for visiting,
Linda Jennifer



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