Course: RUS 101
Instructor: Mark Pettus
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumDescription of Course Goals and Curriculum
- This course is meant to introduce you to reading, writing, and speaking Russian. No prior experience is expected. The curriculum begins with learning how to read, write and pronounce the letters in the the cyrillic alphabet. Throughout the class you will read exclusively in print and write exclusively in cursive (the cursive alphabet is quite different from the print alphabet). Then the curriculum moves on to grammar and vocabulary, progressively increasing in pace.
- This course consists of one 50 minute class five days a week. Attendance is required and considered as part of your participation grade. Missing a couple classes a semester will not usually affect your grade, but if you do miss class you should reach out to the professor or the Assistant Instructor (AI) and make an effort to turn in any assignments. The class is taught by Professor Pettus twice a week and an AI three days a week.
- The curriculum is highly structured around a daily lesson plan created by Professor Pettus. The textbook, Russian Through Propaganda, written by Professor Pettus, is separated into 5 chapters with 10 lessons each. Each class aligns with one of the lessons in the textbook, and each lesson comes with a daily homework assignment. These assignments are single page worksheets, primarily composed of exercises from the textbook, and posted on Blackboard. At the end of each chapter, there is a day of review followed by a quiz. The questions on the quizzes are almost entirely pulled from the homework assignments. The final exam is made up of questions from the five quizzes.
- Each chapter focuses on a couple aspects of Russian grammar like verb conjugation, tense, or one of the six different cases. Each chapter also comes with a list of vocabulary words you are expected to know, many of which will appear on the quiz.
- There are different AIs for each section whose teaching styles may differ. Some may teach directly from the textbook and others may teach the textbook lesson using powerpoint slides and exercises that they prepare themselves.
- When Professor Pettus teaches class, he typically follows the lesson from the book, but often shares interesting relevant anecdotes from his time in Russia, clips from his favorite Russian films, and his favorite Russian rock songs.
- As the title of the textbook suggests (Russian Through Propaganda), the textbook features many Soviet propaganda posters and examples of Russian culture from the Soviet era.
Learning From Classroom InstructionLearning From Classroom Instruction
- Since the curriculum is aligned with the daily lessons in the textbook, each class covers all of the information needed to complete the assignments and all the information on the quizzes. If you pay attention to the instructor and participate in the oral exercises, you will learn (or at least be exposed to) all of the concepts necessary to succeed in class.
- As always, it can be helpful to take notes during class. Since many of the assignments are taken from the textbook exercises and some of the exercises are gone over in class (orally), it may be useful to take notes in the textbook itself, as the instructor will go over many of the exercises.
- As mentioned previously, the different AIs will vary in teaching style. Some may assign additional exercises (e.g. short vocab quizzes, monthly one-on-one conversation practice, etc.) that can be helpful, but are not graded (although they may count for participation).
- Professor Pettus is quite fond of sharing his favorite pieces of Russian culture, including music, film, and poetry. Although the relevance of these cultural pieces are usually difficult to grasp, they are often very interesting. By exposing yourself to Russian language through the music, poetry, and similar pieces of Russian culture, you can improve your pronunciation and vocabulary.
Learning For and From AssignmentsLearning For and From Assignments
- Homework consists of a daily single-page worksheet. As the class progresses the worksheets become more difficult, but you will rarely have to write more than a sentence at a time (i.e. translating a sentence or answering a simple question). Some worksheets can take as few as 10 minutes while some may take over an hour (of course this depends on your skill level along with the difficulty of the worksheet).
- Probably the most helpful aspect of structure of this class is the fact that nearly all of the questions in the textbook exercises, homework assignments, the five quizzes, and the final are all drawn from each other in that order. This makes it easy to review the material necessary to do well on exams.
- Like with any language class, it is important to review vocabulary. Each chapter of the textbook comes with a long list of vocabulary words. Most of the time you will only need to know the words that show up on the homework assignments for tests, but of course it is good to study them all for the sake of learning. Most students find that flashcards are the most efficient way to build your vocabulary, especially since they can be used whenever you have some free time, for example while eating breakfast. Another good way to study vocabulary is by writing out the words over and over again (writing the English definitions alongside the Russian words can be helpful).
- The textbook contains a lot of helpful resources to use while studying and while completing homework assignments including a glossary, cursive writing diagrams, and tables of the different verb conjugations and noun and adjective declensions. The conjugation/declension tables are especially helpful for understanding grammar.
- Since every homework assignment is a worksheet you print off of BlackBoard it is easy to reprint them for review. This is a great way to study for quizzes. Your worksheets will be returned to you graded and corrected so you can go over your corrected homework to find specific areas that you need to improve.
External ResourcesExternal Resources
- Both the AIs and Professor Pettus have office hours, so there are plenty of opportunities to ask any questions you may have.
- One-on-one tutoring is available through the residential colleges. If you feel that you are struggling and need a tutor, ask your residential college director of studies to set you up with a peer tutor. If you sign up for tutoring, it is helpful to think about the specific topics you need to work on before your session. You might also want to bring corrected tests and quizzes to review with your tutor.
- Working alongside your classmates is a good way to get some practice speaking the words. Of course, it is important to follow the Honor Code and complete your assignments individually, but asking one another questions about what you learned in class that day can help you to gain a deeper understanding of the material.
- Wiktionary is a good resource for looking up individual words as it contains information about the conjugations/declensions and other grammatical features of the word. You can even purchase a keyboard mat or stickers to make typing in Russian much easier. If you don’t have Russian keyboard accessories, you can use Google Translate’s on-screen keyboard to type out words and copy them into Wiktionary or a similar resource. Professor Pettus recommends not using Google Translate for definitions as they are often unreliable. Never use Google Translate to translate full sentences for your assignments.
- As previously mentioned, Professor Pettus shares a lot of Russian culture in class. Listening to these songs and watching these movies (or even finding your own Russian music or movies) is a great way to expose yourself to Russian spoken by native speakers and improve your vocabulary and pronunciation. Additionally, Slavic culture events on campus are often posted in the halls outside class.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionWhat Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
- Assuming you have no prior experience, Russian is quite difficult to learn. You will have to learn a new alphabet (which includes several letters that look like Latin/English letters but sound nothing alike) and how to write in cursive (many of the letters look completely different in cursive). With six grammatical cases, three tenses, three grammatical genders, and six conjugations (which vary word by word) you will have to learn many endings for each word. There are many other quirks to the Russian language (e.g. highly variable word order, a lack of articles, multiple verb aspects, etc.) that make it very confusing to learn, especially at first.
- As a native English speaker, Professor Pettus is quite aware just how difficult learning Russian is and he does not want to fail you (as long as you put in the work). Homework assignments are graded based on completion and are corrected and returned. The quiz questions are pulled from the homework assignments and the final exam questions are pulled from the five quizzes, so you will know what to study. There are many resources available to help you succeed in this class.
- Professor Pettus wrote the textbook and assignments himself, so he is very familiar with them and the material covered in class is completely aligned with the text. His teaching style is relatively unique compared with other introductory languages courses. The class focuses primarily on grammar and is taught primarily in English. Usually, you will not be expected to speak in Russian outside of specific in class exercises. Students who have struggled with other language courses may find this style to be a better fit. This means you will be more personally responsible for learning vocabulary. However, you will usually know which words may end up on the test based on homework assignments.
- Students are highly encouraged to apply for Princeton in Petersburg, an intensive Russian language summer program. There are grade requirements, but occasionally exceptions may be made for students who express interest and motivation. It is intended to be a relatively accessible experience for interested students. Princeton in Petersburg is an integral part of the philosophy of the curriculum, but it is not necessary to benefit from the class.
- Many students find Professor Pettus to be engaging, interesting, and often quite funny. The textbook is filled with Soviet propaganda posters which are often ridiculous, interesting, funny, and/or disturbing. Occasionally you’ll even catch a joke or two slipped into assignments.
- If you have never learned a language other than English or other relatively similar languages (i.e. the Romance languages and German), Russian will be very unfamiliar to you. That’s a pretty obvious statement, but it means that you will gain a whole new perspective on what language is, how people communicate, and how strange English is from the other side. The focus on grammar makes this especially true.
- This class is a good choice if you are interested in Russian language, Russian culture, or linguistics in general; if you are tired of learning Romance languages or just want to diversify your language abilities; if traveling to Russia for a summer sounds exciting; if you want to learn a relatively rare language considered critical to national security and economic interests by the State Department;
Beginner’s Russian I