First, a simple update. I have finished grad school! My certification paperwork is in the works. I am moving into the next chapter of life, and I am very excited about all of that. I am currently substitute teaching and looking for jobs. I am also very excited about the holidays and everything the future holds.
Now to move onto the pondering. I have a journal where I keep notes for this blog, teaching ideas, teaching resources, professional development notes, and all sorts of other job related things. This journal goes to work with me every day. And sometimes when I’m at work I just sit and think. Today I started thinking about technology and the classroom and how the two relate and all sorts of other related things. And as I thought I came up with a list of questions. I thought that here would be a great place to share those questions and see what all of you thought.
- What are good ways to use cell phones in the classroom?
- What are good ways to bring technology into the classroom?
- How can technology be used for differentiation?
- How can social media connect to English class?
- How can students connect with English class?
- How can writing be made fun and accessible?
- What are ways students can connect with older/classic texts?
- What are students reading and how can that be brought into the classroom?
- How can grammar be fun?
- How can I get my students to read on their own and on a regular basis?
- How can I make a great class library?
- What are good ways to connect texts to today’s world?
- How can I make reading and writing relevant?
I’m sure that with time I’ll add more questions to the list. And please feel free to share your own questions with me or give me your thoughts on my questions.
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?
What are your thoughts on young adult literature? Do you like it? Do you read it? Do you think it has a place in the classroom? Would you bring it into your classroom?
I love YAL. I’ve loved it since before I really knew what it was. I love discovering new authors and new stories. I love seeing different writing styles. I love delving into an area of literature that always seems new and exciting. And now that I’m (almost) a teacher, I want to be reading YAL more now than ever. I want to know what my students are reading. I want to be able to make recommendations.
And I want to bring YAL into my classroom. Reading the classics is a great thing to do. It’s an important thing to do. But it’s also important to read YAL. It’s important to read things one is interested in and can connect with. It’s important to read things one wants to talk about. And yes, sometimes that’s the classics. But sometimes it’s not. And there needs to be an alternative.
I think that sometimes people write off YAL because it’s a newer genre and not as much is known about it. It doesn’t quite have the foundation that the classics do. But it has been around and fully recognized for about 50 years. I understand that there might still be people who are a little leery of this genre. But I think it’s time to embrace YAL because it’s awesome. It’s awesome and we should be talking about it.
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.
I think that as English teachers we have much more power than we realize. We can create lifelong readers or individuals who hate reading based on the books we choose and the methods we use in the classroom. Not every book will mesh well with every student. I think that’s why it’s so important to use a wide range of texts in the classroom and to encourage independent reading.
Independent reading. Isn’t that something we have elementary school students do? And then don’t we slowly but surely phase it out because we don’t have the time or there are other things we need to do or something like that? I think it’s time to bring it back. I think it’s time to carve out pockets of time that are exclusively for reading. Reading is important, and I really don’t think we give it enough credence the higher we get in education.
I worry that especially at the high school level we aren’t encouraging independent reading enough. Often there isn’t time set aside for independent reading. We encourage reading for assignments, but we don’t necessarily encourage students to go out and find books to fall in love with. If the only books students read are the ones we assign, it’s no small wonder some of them hate reading. We aren’t allowing them to find the books that speak to them.
Books do speak to people. The stories and characters become entities we can relate to. We fall in love with the stories because there’s something familiar in them. But if we don’t let students seek out their own stories and reading material they don’t have those opportunities to connect with stories and fall in love with reading.
I think we need to find a 10 minute chunk in our time with students and let them read. Every day. We need to foster a love of reading so our students can understand all that books offer. We need to be willing to recommend books if students can’t find one. We need to teach students that there are more books out there than what we have time to teach; we need to teach students to want to explore and discover.