Analyzing Fiction and Nonfiction Strategies

With the adoption of the Common Core Standards, and other states that have implemented parallel standards of their own, the English department has been given the task of supporting students’ growth in understanding texts, fiction and nonfiction, in a deeper and more analytical manner.  An inch-deep, mile-wide approach to reading analysis is no longer acceptable.  Teachers must wrap their minds around teaching skills as opposed to texts.  This means that we must change the way in which we teach students to approach reading.

1.  Close Reading

Essential Aspects of Close Reading:

  • A close reading is a careful and purposeful reading AND rereading.
  • Students really focus on what
    • the author had to say
    • the author’s purpose was
    • the words mean
    • structure of the text tells us
  • A transaction between the reader and the text
  • Getting what the author had to say and bringing some of your own ideas to bear on that text.

“Close Reading and the CCSS, Part 1.” – Common Core State Standards TOOLBOX. Web. 29 July 2015.

Some Close Reading strategies:

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It seems as though there are a thousand-and-one resources available for reading and analyzing literature.  You can purchase entire unit plans complete with daily assignments, guided reading questions, collaborative activities, assessments, and powerpoint presentations!  They are a new teacher’s savior and an experienced teacher’s rejuvenation.  When I started teaching AP Language and Composition, I searched for nonfiction text analysis resources, and while I found some wonderful lessons, I felt empty-handed.  I was given just enough information and guidance to be able to meander through my first year, but I knew that it would become my objective to really customize those materials to best support both my students and myself.

2.  SOAPSTone

Any AP English teacher can tell you that the go-to strategy for analyzing any nonfiction text is the SOAPSTone method:

After reading a nonfiction text, a student would analyze the piece to identify each of the SOAPSTone elements.  This allows them to gain a greater understanding of the text, make connections, and therefore use a more critical eye while evaluating the efficacy of the piece.  For example, if a student was unaware of the political background or historical impact of a piece, they may view its argument in a much different way than what was intended.  Additionally, the tone plays a major role in how a piece is interpreted.  A sarcastic, humorous tone will lead the reader in a much different direction than a didactic one.

41EqLO2XLWL3.  SIFT

Thanks to the wonderful resource, and foundational element of my Pre-AP English course last year, The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English, I was able to identify another text analysis method: SIFT

  • Symbol: Examine the title and text for symbols
  • Images: Identify images and sensory details
  • Figures of Speech: analyze figurative language and other devices
  • Tone and Theme: Discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme

 

4.  Fourfold Method

analysis of drama, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction

  1. Literal or historical level: the things that are happening in the story are literally happening on a surface level
  2. Political level: the level on which human beings relate to others in a community and in the world
  3. Moral or psychological level: the way in which the self relates to the realm of ethics
  4. Spiritual level: the universal level on which a persona relates to the cosmos, the way of the pilgrim soul

5.  Aristotelian Theory

Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575

 

 

  • Cornerstone of critical theory
  • Poetics laid out the basis for traditional analysis of drama (dramatic fiction)
  • “the imitation of an action; a writer’s attempt to represent reality or truth in artistic form”
  • Structure and purpose of tragedy is:
    • Unity of Action:
      • tragic plots must have a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • action should be ordered and continuous
      • cause and effect process
    • Catharsis:
      • events should inspire pity and terror
      • vicarious experience to attain emotional purgation, moral purification, or clarity of intellectual viewpoint
    • Tragedy
      • reversal of fortune/fall from greatness brought on by error or frailty
      • hamartia inner weakness or inherent error
        • usually through excessive pride or hubris
        • reversal of fortune is characterized by “reversal of situation” and “recognition”
      • “Scene of Suffering”     

The AP Vertical Teams Guide for English. 2nd ed. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 2002. Print.

Reflective Teaching Challenge Day Twenty-One: My Hobbies

DAY TWENTY ONE

Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

1.  Running

I started running when I was engaged and planning to drop a few pounds before my wedding in 2009.  I didn’t think it would be anything that would last longer than June 2010.  What I realized was that I had found an activity that both modified my body, but cleansed my mind, gave me a goal to work towards, and gave me a greater sense of pride in myself than anything had up until that point.  I began to read and study the art of running.   I signed up for races, developed my own personal training program, and bought into the hype.  Before I knew it, I had started running half marathons and enjoyed it!  I was a runner.

Running Goddess

 

I used all these things today on my long run; that's water, not Vodka

I used all these things today on my long run

Medal and Bib Love my Medal

I bring my love and history of running into the classroom to help demonstrate to my students that benefits of working through the difficulties towards a greater goal.  I share with them that there were many times, more times than not, I wanted to give up.  I wanted to stop right in the middle of a run, the middle of a race to walk back to my car and go home.  I knew the joy and pride I would have if I kept going, and knew the list of reasons why I had started with that first step, and kept going.  I also share with them the cathartic aspect of working through a difficult task.  Most of the time when I share this with students, it’s in relation to the usual school-related topics:

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Homework
  • Studying
  • Coming to school on a regular basis

Ultimately, this connection works.  I hang up my race medals in my classroom as an allegory to those sentiments: Work Hard, Achieve Greatness; Learn Who You Are Through Your Struggles

2.  Reading

You cannot be a teacher and not have students assume that you’re a book nerd.  I grasp this assumption by the coffee cup handles and drink it all in.  Naturally, I share my love of reading with my students.  Not only do I let them know that I am a reader, I bring the hobby to school with me in all it’s glory and blemishes.  I let my students know that I have not read as much as I would like to; I”m not as well-read as I should be.  By letting them know that I am not perfect, that I struggle to maintain focus and interest in books as well as they do, they know that their experiences are normal.  Additionally, it shows them that I am interested in what they are.  It’s become well known around my school that I am huge John Green fan.  I show his vlogs, loan out my copies of his novels, and have even created an after-school event to watch “The Fault in Our Stars” on its premiere night.  Do I hyperbolize my fangirl status with John Green?  A bit; that’s not to say that my admiration is any less.  I do this because I want my students to know that I am undeniably enraptured with my love of reading and experiencing.

luv books

Books Collage

 

Matched/Crossed and The Hunger Games trilogy

Matched/Crossed and The Hunger Games trilogy

Read Books Collage

Book Collage

100 Book List One

Book 2

3.  Blogging

A few students know that I write my own blog.  Most of them know that I write, both creatively and for my own cathartic needs.  Similar to my love of running and reader, when I talk to my students about my own writing, I share with them both my triumphs, but my struggles as well.

Run a Sick Ass Blog

Daily Blog Schedule

Original blogging-topic schedule

cropped-new-fancy-oatmeal-header.jpg

cropped-cropped-picnik-collage2.jpg

Two of my original headers for Fancy Oatmeal

Additionally, I use my own blogging experience to support my requirement for them to maintain their own blogs.  I run down the reasons for why students should write, always looking for new scientific and emotional reasons to further support my statements.  Here is an example:

MGUxMDU1NzExNiMvakFlSldrSWp5VlJpVEZrMkFXLXZDNV80LUZRPS82NXgxMjI6MTE5NHg3NDIvMTI4MHg2MjAvczMuYW1hem9uYXdzLmNvbS9wb2xpY3ltaWMtaW1hZ2VzL2NkeGVjbm54b2Z3bWpibHI4bm1weXFmcmxmbGx3Mm45OGoxdTVkODlsYWV0cDF1bjg1dzF2cTk0cWg5ZW5uZW0uanBn

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write by Rachel Grate