As I continue to work toward a Writing-About-YA Lit-Course, I have some clear questions that I’m writing through…
1. How will I address Close Reading?
Teaching close reading is something that is a constant subject of conversation among my fellow instructors in the English Department. Everyone agrees that it is important–essential, even–but not everyone agrees on how to go about it. For a Literature course, I am leaning toward incorporating mini-lessons on Wilder’s special topoi for Literary Analysis. I think that list would make a good framework for students to keep returning to as we read a variety of texts. However, I never feel like one can go amiss with a mini-lesson and/or practice with just plain ol’ active reading skills–annotating, responding in the margins, etc. I think both lessons would be important in a writing-about-literature course.
2. How will I incorporate technology?
This has be perhaps the most fun to consider, as I plan this course. I’m playing around with a couple of digital assignment ideas:
Amazon Book Review: this is a real-world writing assignment that is rooted in genre analysis. It is medium-stakes, I’d say, because students are writing a relatively short amount of text, but for a “real” audience. It asks students to consider ways in which they engage with writing about literature in digital environments, and also asks them to face the new rhetorical challenges that writing online brings. The one thing I can’t decide about this is whether to put it at the beginning of the semester (as a warm-up activity) or at the end (as a bit higher-stakes activity).
Book Blog: this will be a class-collaboration, where each student will be asked to contribute a response to a book of their choice to add to our course texts. This also begins with genre analysis, as we will consider, as a class, what makes a “good” book blog. This could also incorporate elements of argument/persuasive writing, giving students the task of persuading readers to read their chosen text.
3. How about assessment?
Of course, the main vehicle for assessment in any writing course is student-generated text. However, I’m thinking more seriously about incorporating self-assessment into the mix. Not only is it a vehicle for reflection, but it also will help students think through the process of looking at their own writing and considering how or whether it met the desired criteria, which is a skill all writers must develop.
Ah, the planning continues…