Teaching Students to Analyze Text - Room 213

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Teaching Students to Analyze Text

Teach students to analyze text with a gradual release of responsibility activity.When I was in high school, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, my English teachers told me what to think about the texts we read.  They would assign texts and corresponding questions.  We would answers the questions, go over the answers and then memorize said answers when test time came. It was all about regurgitation, not independent thought.

Today, I want my students to be able to approach a new text and do the literary analysis independently, without needing me (or Sparksnotes) to tell them what to think.  Now, I don't drop them in the  wild forest of analysis without a compass and hope they come out unscathed.  Instead, I use a gradual release model to show them how to approach text.  

First we spend some time learning how to close read, talking a lot about the kinds of clues to look for, things like:

Big moments in the plot
References to the title
character development
conflict—developing, continuing or resolving
Author’s craft:

figurative language
structure of the text

You can find all of this in my free Close Reading Bookmarks and Tips .

deep read
After they've learned about close reading, I begin with short stories, because of their brevity, before we move onto longer texts.  Then, I will use a little bit of gradual release as we study three short stories.  The first one is one of my all time favourites:  The Singing Silence by Eva-Lis Wuorio (I’d provide a link, if I could, but I can’t find an e-copy).  The story is about a wonderful old guy named Vicente, who discovers that true contentment is not found in your pocket book, but in doing what brings you joy.  It is just chock full of good messages and I use it as a jumping off point to writing about literature.  First I will set a purpose for reading the story: to analyze the character of Vicente and to discover the author’s message.  I will direct them to take notes with that purpose in mind and will model the process of close reading with them, using the first few pages of the text.

When they have finished a close read, I will have them turn and talk to a partner.  What did they learn?  How would they describe Vicente?  What evidence would they use to back up their statements.  We will discuss their discoveries as a class and then I will model how to write a literary paragraph. We will repeat the process with theme.
Next, I will assign the story, Saturday Climbing, by WD Valgaardson, another text that deals with finding contentment.  Students will get the same instructions: close read, paying attention to character and theme.  During the following class, they will work in groups to discuss their notes and then to complete a group paragraph, based on the model we co-created the previous day.  Once they are done, they will trade with another group to mark that group’s paragraph with the same rubric I will eventually use to mark the paragraphs they will write on their own.  On the way out the door, they will provide me with an exit ticket that will guide my instruction for the next day–what do they still not get?
group paragrasOn the final day of this process, they will be assigned The Spaces Between Stars, by Geeta Kothari, and the task of discovering the theme.  The end result will be a good copy paragraph that they will pass in for formative assessment.
Once we have completed this process, students feel a little more confident when we move onto longer and more difficult texts.  Hopefully, by providing them with a reading compass, they will know what direction to go in that wild forest of literary analysis!

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  1. I'm going to try to track down those stories. What level do you teach?

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  3. How do you have them annotate nonfiction?

    1. In a very similar way; however, they are looking for thesis, idea development and organization. They still look at author craft, because non-fiction writers will employ many of a the same techniques as a fiction writer. For example, an opinion piece may still have metaphors and imagery. It will still have diction used for effect.

      I hope that helps!

  4. Does your text book have a copy of "The Spaces Between Stars" by Geeta Kothari in it? It is not in the textbook for my students and I cannot find a copy of it online. Could you possibly provide a copy of it?

    1. Hi, Sarah. Send me an email at room213custom@gmail.com

    2. I have the same request. I cannot find this story, and we don't have textbooks.

  5. The Singing Silence can be found here: http://richardsonsresources.weebly.com/uploads/8/7/3/8/8738397/the_singing_silence.pdf

  6. Another request, what does your rubric look like? You mentioned that you use the same rubric with them on Day 1 that you use later on. I'd like to see that.

    1. Hi. I have it at school so I'll check after the break. If I forget, email me at room213custom@gmail.com!

  7. May I see your rubric for this?


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