Originally I meant to write this post at the beginning of the month, but then among other things I got distracted and didn’t. I haven’t written any posts this month because I’ve been finishing up all the classwork for my masters, and life has just been crazy. But I’m actually really glad I didn’t write this post sooner, because it will be a much better post now. Instead of writing about how I’m going to start a reading journal, I can write about how yesterday I did start my reading journal.
To be honest, I got the idea from a blog post I read last month and reposted to this blog. I want to be able to keep track of what I’m reading, and I find that I need a pen and paper method over a digital method. Digital is great, but I simply don’t spend enough time on my computer to keep up to date with such a method. I always have time for paper and pencil, and there’s no booting up required which is good when I’m short on time.
So, yesterday I grabbed a blank composition notebook and some colored pens. The composition notebook because I’m hoping to have many reading journals and I want them to be uniform in size. The colored pens because color coding is obviously important always. And with materials in hand I started writing.
I wrote about my relationship with reading and thoughts I have regarding reading first. Such writings are just done in black pen because that’s easy. Then I wrote about the books I’ve read this month. Books I read for personal enjoyment I wrote about in pink. Pink is a happy color. And books for student teaching I wrote about in green because that’s how I color code work in my planner.
I recorded the month and the year I read the book; no dates because honestly that’s getting too complicated. What if I don’t write about a book for a week, and I forget when exactly I read it? Then I wrote the title and the author of the book. And then I wrote some of the thoughts I had about the book. If I liked it, why I liked it, etc. This was I can talk about books with my students if I want to, and I know what I’m reading and how much I’m reading throughout the year.
I’m really looking forward to keeping up with this project and eventually sharing my reading with my students. What are your thoughts on reading journals?
I’ve written about annotation already. I think it’s a really important skill to have and to teach regardless of what the subject matter is. I think it’s an especially important skill to teach if you’re teaching English, because so much of English revolves around analyzing and talking about texts. And at the end of the day I like to consider myself a pretty decent annotator. I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’ve come up with techniques that definitely work for me. But there’s one pretty massive thing I struggle with. I don’t like writing in books.
As an English major and a future English teacher, this is kind of a big deal. In these areas of life we annotate our books to remember what we felt and what we thought so we can share it with others. And I don’t like to do that.
I have no problem with putting sticky notes in my books. Nor do I have any problems with writing on articles and print outs. But I have a really hard time actually writing in a book.
I think it stems from growing up an absolute book lover. Writing in books has always kind of seemed like defacing them. It’s always made me cringe and squirm.
I’m working on it. I have certain books I allow myself to annotate in. Maybe one day I’ll be a full fledged annotator.
What’s your stance on annotating?
Annotation is something tricky, and it’s something that everyone has to develop their own style for. We as teachers can provide different samples and guidelines of annotations for students to look at and use as they see fit, but students need to find a method that really works for them, or they won’t use it and the point of annotation will be defeated.
I think that annotation is an important skill, so students developing their own effective and understandable method is important. Annotation ties in closely with close reading, which I’ve written about here and here.) And I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be in any level English class and not know how to annotate. We are constantly asking students to talk about the text, relate to the text, cite the text, and for them to do that well they need to be able to refer back to the text and know what spoke to them. What made their hearts sing and what made them cringe? Annotation is important for this.
Because of all of this, here are some different annotation techniques. Feel free to share your techniques with me in the comments. I’m always looking for new and exciting tips and tricks to use in the classroom and share with my students!
- Highlighting key words and phrases. Be careful not to overhighlight though. Your page will end up covered in highlighter, and you’ll have no idea what you actually wanted to remember.
- Margin notes. This is one of my preferred annotation techniques. I like to write my thoughts and questions in the margins so I can remember them later and use them in discussions.
- Symbols. A lot of people come up with a system of symbols to show what they liked, didn’t like, found interesting, etc.
These are just a few options of what you can do with annotating. Teach your students, but also allow them to teach you and show you what works for them.
In past posts I’ve written about young adult literature and literary classics. In this post I want to talk about literary analysis.
Analysis is one of those things in the world of English that I really struggle with. It’s not the same type of struggle that I face with reading the classics. That’s something I can grow into, learn to love. Analysis is a little bit different. I know that analysis is important. I know that analysis is kind of a big deal. But I struggle with it.
I think that part of the problem is that much of my reading is done for pleasure. I don’t want to analyze a text when I’m reading it for pleasure. I don’t want to be looking for figurative language or themes or anything like that. I want to embrace a story and let it absorb me when I’m reading for pleasure. I just want to love what I’m reading.
But as an English major and an almost English teacher, I have to embrace analyzing literature. I have to actually actively analyze literature. I have to teach students how to analyze literature.
And I will. Over the years I’ve developed tips, tricks, and techniques for analyzing literature. I have Post-Its and annotations and all sorts of other knowledge. And I know that analysis is important, so I’ll teach it as such.
But in the interest of full disclosure, when I’m reading for pleasure, I’m just going to let myself be absorbed by the story. Sometimes that really is the most important thing.
Last week I blogged about young adult literature. In that post I talked about the fact that reading the classics is important and is something that needs to be done. Really I wrote an entire paragraph on the importance of balanced reading. So this post is all about reading the classics and my thoughts on that.
Reading the classics has always been something I’ve struggled with. The classics aren’t something that’s ever truly and deeply interested me. I know that some people are really drawn towards the classics, but I’ve always been pulled more towards YAL. It’s where I felt I fit best; they’re the books that felt like home.
But as I’ve grown up and moved forward in life, and especially as I’ve moved closer to becoming an English teacher, I’ve realized I want to be more well read. I think it’s important for a couple of different reasons.
- I want to be well read so I can have educated conversations about literature. I majored in English, and I want to be able to sound like I did.
- I want to understand the texts I’ll teach my students. A lot of times these texts are classics. Therefore, I need a certain level of familiarity.
- The classics I have read, I’ve largely fallen in love with. To Kill A Mockingbird anyone?
These are all good reasons, but there’s one more I think is really important. I think it’s important to model good reading habits for my students. I think to model good reading habits I have to read a variety of books and texts and talk about them. I think we have to be honest about our likes and dislikes and explain why we feel the way we feel. This will allow students a solid example and foundation to build their own reading habits on. And ultimately, don’t we want our students to be readers?
Lately I’ve written about close reading. You can read my other post here. Since entering my internship close reading is something I’ve thought about a lot, and I have a lot of thoughts on the topic. That’s what happens when you really start to think about something – you realize just how many thoughts you have.
While my thoughts are varied and sometimes contradicting, I do believe that close reading is important. There’s a lot we can learn from close reading, and so long as we use close reading appropriately, it can be a valuable asset. But here’s my latest question on the topic.
Why do we call it close reading?
I ask because when I was thinking about it the other day, I realized that a better name might be active reading. We’re actively searching for information. We’re actively highlighting words and phrases that seem important to us. We’re actively asking questions. We’re actively thinking about what we’re reading and what it might mean.
So why not call it active reading?
I just think that if we did call it active reading, it might be a less intimidating concept, and a concept that’s more easily understood. Sometimes students get confused when we ask them to close read a passage because it’s a foreign concept and the name is a little abstract. I think that the title of active reading is more self explanatory for everyone involved.
Maybe it’s time to think about reconsidering what we call things. Maybe it’s OK to rename things if we think it might make more sense to our students. I think this is definitely something to really take some time and think about it.
Let me know what you think!
I have mixed feelings on close reading. There. I said it. First and foremost, I firmly believe that not every text should be close read. It’s important to read for pleasure. It’s important to sit down and read a book and love it for what it is. That’s important.
Now that I’ve super stressed the importance of reading for pleasure, here’s the thing. As important as it is to read for pleasure (because it is) it’s also really important to know how to close read a text. To be successful in further academic endeavors, and a lot of aspects of life in general, one has to know how to analyze a text. One has to be able to look beneath the surface. So many times there’s so much more to a text (or a play or a movie) than what lies on the surface.
The thing is, it’s really easy to read for pleasure. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time or energy to read a book for the surface story. And the experience is often really enjoyable. I like reading for pleasure and taking in the surface story and not digging too deep. Why would I want to dig too deep? Wouldn’t that ruin the reading experience?
It might. I’m not going to lie. I find that there’s a wonderful pleasure in reading for the love of reading. But there’s a lot to be gained by digging deeper. There’s so much more of the story to explore when one looks at symbolism and theme and characterization. There’s so much to be gained from reading and re-reading and looking deeper. Even looking just a little bit deeper can be a big deal.
What’s important (in my opinion) is to find a balance. It’s important to know when it’s necessary to look beneath the surface and when to just read for the sake of reading. It’s important to do both. It’s important to be able to model both for our students. We might have a huge influence on their reading habits. I want to teach all my students about the importance of reading and all the different aspects and levels of reading that there are. I want them to love reading as much as I do. I also want them to be successful readers; I want them to know how to dig deep into a text and learn from it.