Saturday, January 05, 2008

Loving Literature as the Basis for Literature Study


Part 1
Explanation in progress for Purposeful Literature Study: Making good readers great thinkers.

Believe it or not, there is a way to do literary analysis without killing the love of reading for a child/student! My experience has been that by discovering deeper and more meaningful levels in a story, a reader/student falls more in love with a story. By creating an atmosphere of wonder, questioning and discussing, relating your experience with the text, predicting and sharing your prediciton, the story comes to life. Notice that each of the activities mentioned above is done with someone. Reading is a social event. That sounds shocking. "No, it's not," you say. "It's an isolating event where everyone has his own nose is his own world." I would object and say that we long to share what we are reading with someone. If we're reading a great book, we're talking about it. (Just ask my husband!!) "Conversing about a text deepens our understanding of virtually everything we read (Keene/Zimmermann, Mosaic of Thought, page 7)."

The underpinning keys to good literature study then are: 1.) a good book with rich layers of meaning; 2.)shared reading in a community of readers who are talking to each other about the story--that is, discussion; 3.)a study designed so that the student is lead to discover and/or construct the meaning; 4.) quality over quantity, that is: not every book the child reads should be analyzed. Many other books can be read and discussed, but 3 or 4 per school year is sufficient for in-depth study.


The goal of literature study is a search for meaning, the discovery of a story, and the appreciation for the craft of the author. The most important teaching technique for this is modeling behavior. Children need to see us read, they need to hear us ask questions about a text or predict something in a text. The study is divided into three parts: Before Reading: Anticipating Meaning, During Reading: Constructing Meaning, and After Reading: Reconstructing and Extending Meaning. While all of the Hillside study guides have these three sections, this is not something I made up myself. It is well-accepted, long-practiced, and heavily researched method for teaching almost any subject, even found in the Ignatian method of education.

More to come in further posts:
Research on reader behavior
Levels of interpretation and critical thinking
Writing as part of literature study

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very helpful to read this, thanks.

Betty Dickerson said...

This was very helpful!! I'd like to ask you a question about some of the books in your catalog, but I don't see an email. Would you mind emailing me? My name is Betty and I'm at: 6dickersons at bellsouth dot net

Many Blessings,
Betty