On close reading

Close reading shapes how I teach in decisive ways. In order to help students find topics about which to write, I let them read texts closely. Not only do I teach the critical thinking skills discussed above, all of which rely on close reading, but students practise these skills regularly. Before most class meetings, students read at least one new text. I guide their reading in the form of worksheets uploaded to the IVLE workbin two to three days before class. Each sheet provides a clear outline of the aims and objectives for the class concerned, and situates the class in terms of the module while providing context to the readings for the day. The sheet further poses questions concerning the reading and requires students to pose their own questions on it. Thus students are constantly required to engage closely with the texts they read and justify their reading of the texts. This forms the basis of all class meetings, which in turn are linked to their paper assignments. Close reading of sources (whether texts or real-world phenomena being studied) is thus fundamental to my teaching. It serves not only to equip students with the ability to observe closely and ask critical questions, but to produce well-crafted and persuasively argued essays. Far from fetishising close reading, this is merely an acknowledgement of its centrality in the process of independent inquiry.

Here is the entire article. I am not always up on everything and it has come to my attention that close reading went out of fashion as “elitist” and is now coming back in. This is how I should teach the introduction to literature, but I might also want to have creative projects. Perhaps ONE creative project. I used to not believe in these, for various reasons I am sure you can guess at (ask if you are not sure), but I am starting to wonder whether they might not be a good idea.

Axé.

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1 Comment

Filed under Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

One response to “On close reading

  1. Creative assignments are good if they are closely guided. I have two I like (for teaching medieval lit; YMMV): (1) a video that is basically a close reading of a passage done with images and music rather than as an essay (students must explain how the images/music fit the passage they have chosen, which they read aloud as a voice-over); (2) historical fiction, carefully researched, footnoted, and connected to the class reading. I can only do (2) in small classes, because students need a lot of hand-holding to learn to do this kind of research, but they do love it. (1) is easier because most of them are used to shooting video on their cell phones and they can help each other. I once had a very charming animated Lego film illustrating Chaucer’s description of the Wife of Bath!

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