Monday, November 14, 2011

Building Background in Literature

Question: How is literature usually taught and how might it be more effectively taught?

Answer/Quote: “The current reading model…gives nearly half of apportioned lesson time for activities before the reading, whereas previously English teachers first assigned a reading and then used many follow-up activities such as discussion, group work, papers, and tests. This current model is based on the theory that…background familiarity is the most important factor of good comprehension. The teacher facilitates better understanding when the student is able to connect the known (prior knowledge) with the unknown (new ideas) found in a text.” P. 402.

As examples, the authors propose two columns before reading Catcher in the Rye: The first is headed, “List Phony Things Kids Say and Do” and the second, “List Phony things Adults Say and Do.” For The Glass Menagerie, the two columns are headed “Dependence” and “Independence” with the discussion centered on “What do parents do to cause or encourage…?” And “What are the effects on the child of…?”

Comment: I think the authors’ model is interesting, spending considerable time becoming familiar with the issue in the piece of literature before reading. Another way of doing the same thing is to have the students read for ten minutes near the beginning of the play or novel, for ten minutes half way through the play or novel, for ten minutes three-fourth through the play or novel and for 10 minutes near the end of the play or novel, review what they have learned and raise questions to which they want answers. RayS.

Title: “Building Background for English Lit Class.” L Peterson and J Pignotti. Journal of Reading (February 1993), 402-403.

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