Posted in Classroom Ideas, Teaching Techniques

Reading Journal

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?

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

The Importance of Literary Analysis

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.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought

My Thoughts on Close Reading

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.

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

Bringing Social Media Into the Classroom

In my experiences, social media is one of those tricky things. It’s everywhere right now. Everyone has social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – especially students. Students have social media. Students understand social media. They know the formats and how to use it. It’s a major part of their lives. Social media isn’t something that’s going to go away any time soon; we as teachers should see if we can find ways to embrace social media and use its powers for good.

I know this might sound crazy. Generally we’re trying to keep social media out of the classroom. It’s one of those teenage evils like cell phones and the internet (depending on whom you talk to.) But I’m not talking about letting students go on their social media accounts during class time. That’s really the last thing I’m advocating. Allowing students to do that would most likely end badly. I’m talking about finding ways to build lessons around social media and the text being read in class.

Yes. This is something that can be done with some creativity and ingenuity. It’s something I’ve done before, and it works well. I think that using social media in the ways I’m about to explain is a great thing to do because it’s something that students can connect with, even if they aren’t necessarily connecting to the text being read.

What I’ve done with social media has students going nothing with computers or their phones or technology in any manner, shape or form. Unless, that is, you give them permission to do so.

What the wonderful world of Pinterest has provided me with is social media worksheets. Yes, they are a real thing, and I think they’re pretty fabulous. And there’s a lot of them. They have them for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve also found them for cell phones (smart phones) and iPads. These are all things that students are familiar with. And now they can be used in a fantastic way in the classroom.

I’ve used these worksheets for characterization, and I’ve only done one or two activities with them. (I have lots of plans though.) I think that these worksheets are great for characterization, and I also think that they would work really well for plot sequencing and creative writing activities. The truth of the matter is, though, the possibilities are probably endless. You’re only limited by you.

BB