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 Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought

The Importance of Reading the Classics

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

BB

Posted in Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

More Thoughts on Close Reading

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!

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