Question: How can you be sure that students read the assigned work?
How to Make Sure the Students Read the Literary WorkIn my classes, no matter how the literature program is organized, when discussion of a literary work is called for, the students pose questions about what they do not understand and these questions are the focus of the discussion. Poems are usually short enough—and puzzling enough—that no preview is needed to generate questions. With short stories and novels, students’ previews lead to students’ question and students’ involvement in the discussion.
How to Preview Short StoriesThe students read one paragraph a page or column. When they finish reading one paragraph a page or a column, they will have plenty of questions. First, I ask them what they have learned from their one-paragraph-per-page or column preview and then I ask them what they want to know, their questions. I record the questions on the board by using key words. I re-organize the questions according to questions of fact, interpretation and judgment. And now the students read to answer the questions.
How to Preview NovelsThe students read for ten minutes somewhere in the beginning of the novel, summarize what they have read and raise questions to which they want answers. Since they have read different pages near the beginning, their summaries will be somewhat different. I put key words for the questions on the board.
Next, they read in the middle of the novel, starting on different pages near the middle. Again, they read for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions. I add key words to the questions already asked.
This time, they read three-fourths through the novel for ten minutes, summarize and raise questions.
Finally, they read near the end, but not the end, summarize and again raise questions. I arrange the questions in the following manner: questions of fact, interpretation and judgment.
The students gain a knowledge of the author’s style. Oddly, sampling as they have, they do not have a clear understanding of the plot. In fact, they raise more questions than answers as a result of the sampling. Try it. It works.
Next Blog: Starting Literary Discussions with Students’ Questions