I’m three weeks into the spring semester, and I uploaded my feedback on my students’ first major assignment a few days ago. I’ve never assigned this project (a literary autobiography) before, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. It’s pretty small stakes, in comparison to the other major assignments, but it was something I decided I wanted to try this semester for multiple reasons. In today’s post, I thought I’d describe the assignment and my reasons for creating it, just in case someone reading this is looking for some classroom inspiration. I think this assignment would work well across many education levels, in case any high school or even middle school teachers have stumbled across this post.
It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course. [Update: Here’s the page all about this course.]
It’s been over a month since my fall semester began. The introductory material for my ENG 170 class – background information on the always-changing and fluid concept of “childhood,” the history of children’s literature, some basic literary terminology – have all been covered, though not to the extent that I would like. Introductory courses call for so much material to be covered and sixteen weeks is never enough time to accomplish that task to the degree I would wish for my students. Nevertheless, my class has moved on to the next major section of my course design: learning how to write literary analysis. Of course, this assumes we are also working on another primary goal: learning how to analyze children’s literature in any mental, verbal, and/or written form.
As I’m about two weeks into this second unit of my course, with two more weeks ahead devoted to this specific skill, I thought I’d break down my approach to teaching the writing of literary analysis. I’d really love to hear back from any teachers and students reading this post. Teachers, how do your approaches to teaching this task differ from my own? Students, what was the most effective learning experience you’ve had in relation to learning literary analysis? I’d love to hear from all of you, but I’ll start by sharing my own process.