Reusable Methodologies: Macro / Micro

ImageIf you’re all caught up on internet memes, you’ve seen: “I’m all caught up on my correcting and getting ahead on my lesson plans. Said no teacher ever.”

This is true if you are in year twenty. This is true if you are in year one.

That said, there must be an algorithm for how many years you’ve been teaching and how many classes per year you wing because you were grading papers until long past your “computer screens-off-so-the-bluelight-doesn’t-affect-your-circadian-rhythms” curfew.

This isn’t because veteran teachers grade less. This is because veteran teachers spend more time developing methodologies that can be taught once, and then returned to, unit after unit. This is great, because you can tweak the methodology for the unit, rather than reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

This is also good for two other, major reasons.

One: there is a fancy name for repeating a skill in different circumstances: learning. A student can study five Shakespeare plays in a year, but if she did not practice a skill consistently, it is not easy to say what she learned in class, outside of an appreciation for Shakespeare.

Two: if your methodology is relevant to anything outside your class, then you have given the students not only a tool to become a more skillful, empowered, critical thinker — but also, you have also demonstrated that learning is like that video game where you push an ever-growing sticky-blob, adding bigger and bigger objects the more you roll. Learning skills leads to bigger learning skills.


Speaking of bigger skills, I read an article in Psychology Today about why couples often argue over and over. It has nothing to do with being from different planets. It’s often because they haven’t agreed on what level or scope to focus on in the conversation: micro or macro. Are they talking about leaving socks on the floor, or about how somebody doesn’t actively demonstrate concern over the others’ needs? The socks are “micro.” The “needs in general” are “macro.” Are they talking about cancelling date night for a special guys’ night out (micro) or are they talking about communicating more effectively in advance of decision making (macro?) When the scope of the conflict isn’t clear, one side of the conflict is being petty, and the other is blowing everything out of proportion.

In literature, the prompt to analyze a conflict according to Micro/Macro is a generative one. It requires good understanding of the details of a text. It stimulates connecting those dots. It fosters hypothesizing and theorizing which bonds literature studies to all sciences and social sciences: it turns Sheakespeare into an experiment in speculation.

Here are some Micro/Macro prompts to use in the classroom. You can build them into a curriculum as an explicit goal, as I do in my Jewish Literature elective, “Power and Perception,” or you can turn to them when you are in a pinch to develop discussion questions. As long as the students have a decent grasp of the comprehension of the text, they case use the same Micro/Macro Methodology. I have, at times, used drama or art to help students explore the macro-worlds of characters which they would otherwise only see as the tip of the iceberg.

Afterwards, I will include a Prezi, demonstrating Micro/Macro in our own text, the Book of Judges from the Hebrew Bible.

Micro: What is upsetting the character in this scene?

Macro a: Based on the details in this story, what sort of history or back-story might these characters have (individually or together) that would escalate their negative reactions to each other?

Macro b: Based on the details in this story, what might each character fear will happen if his/her needs are not addressed? What this cause?

Micro: What solution does/might the character use to handle the conflict?

Macro: What might some of the unintended consequences of that approach be: if it does work? If it doesn’t work?

Micro: What/who does the character want/ desire/ love?

Macro a: What, from the character’s past, might cause this want/ desire/ love? Speculate about the character’s family, childhood, upbringing.

Macro b: What might that desired thing / person represent to the character?

As promised, the link to the Prezi below.