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Teaching Close Reading through Short Composition/Revision

A black and white image of WEB Du Bois

This lesson teaches close reading by having students compose, and then analyze, openings to biographical narratives about “great Americans.”

Digital/Physical Library Scavenger Hunt

Library bookshelves

For the first time in my admittedly short teaching career, I created and oversaw a library scavenger hunt for my class this semester. As critics of the activity have argued, the library scavenger hunt is at risk of purposelessness, particularly if it’s not designed with clear pedagogical or research goals in mind.

A Structured Approach to Teaching the OED as a Close Reading Tool

a person in a black shirt holding up a book. On the left-hand side of the book is a yellow page that read "step one" in white font. On the right-hand site is a white page with the word "one" written in large brown font.

Using a structured worksheet, students explore a word of interest from one of the course readings through the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online. The worksheet asks them to consider how the definition(s) of the word can help inform their textual analysis/close reading of a text.

Google Images and Book Covers - Tracking Cultural Change

Various covers of the novel Lolita

Images on book covers, blurbs or reviews on dust jackets, and publishers’ summaries all provide constructed argumentation about the text within that is designed to provoke an emotional and analytic response.

Distributed Peer Review

When students can review their peers' attempts at an assignment before it's time for their own attempt, they inevitably critique other students' work and incorporate the best writing strategies into their own

When students can review their peers' attempts at an assignment before it's time for their own attempt, they inevitably critique other students' work and incorporate the best writing strategies into their own.

Step-by-step Guide to Blogging Close Readings

Students sign up to blog for a given class day, chosing a short passage

This assignment was designed to get students to practice their close reading skills in a short, condensed format of a blog post.  Students sign up to blog for a given class day, chosing a short passage from the assigned reading for that day.

Banned Books Virtual Read-Out

Students videotape themselves reading 2-minute-long passages from a banned book of their choice. They then upload their readings to the Virtual Read-Out Youtube channel, sharing them nationally.

Using Juxta to Compare Editions

Manuscript Revision

This lesson plan prompts students to use Juxta (collation software) to compare different witnesses or instances of a text.  Students compare multiple versions of a literary work, locating revisions in order to discuss word choice and textual instabilities.  Most useful for literary works with full-text editions available online. 

Creating OED Word Constellations

Magnifying Glass

In this assignment students use the Oxford English Dictionary to make individual mindmaps of the multiple definitions of related words, then the class together creates a constellation of meanings surrounding a seemingly simple topic that becomes more and more complex. 

Generating Consensus on Textual Interpretation Through Circulating Critique

worksheet showing two rounds of exercise

This exercise has groups of three students answer questions about an assigned reading; read and revise other groups' answers; consider other groups' revisions of their first answer; and revise their first answer--all in preparation for class discussion.

Blogging Research from the Oxford English Dictionary

A picture of an open dictionary page with eyeglasses on top.

In two short blog posts, I asked students to choose an interesting or perplexing word to look up in the books we'd just finished reading. After conducting their research, students blogged about their findings and made a quick effort at applying their research to a passage. 

Using Storify to Analyze Poetry

Screenshot of Storify page, with YouTube video of "The Second Coming"

Students often conceptualize poems as monolithic objects from the past.  This lesson plan helps encourage them to visualize and conceptualize the content and influence of a poem in different registers.

Close Reading YouTube and Cultural Archives

A pencil and notebook ready to take notes; a laptop screen playing a video of kittens.

Start close-reading on day one by using YouTube videos and considering their archives.

Using TV Tropes to Teach Narrative Devices

Using the wiki TV Tropes encourages students to think about how issues arise across media

Incorporating TV Tropes (a wiki that catalogues narrative devices used across a variety of media) into your discussion of literary devices and encouraging students to talk about how narrative techniques across different genres and forms of media can assist in making these concepts intelligible and "real" to them. 

Translating an Essay Into an Infographic

Students create infographic focusing on the interrelation of ideas

For this assignment students use Photoshop to create a visual depiction or information graphic (infographic) of an essay. This infographic will focus on the interrelation and visual communication of ideas rather than statistics (as in traditional/popular infographics). 

Mapping Poetic Word Choice to Discover Literary Themes

Creating a mindmap of key words can yield a list of important themes

The assignment allows students to discuss their literary close-reading essays with each other, while also attempting to coordinate those close-readings with larger thematic issues discussed in class. The idea is to use individual words to learn more about global concerns in a literary text.

Google Mapping Travel Narratives: Lolita

Students use Google mapping software to track the characters' journey jo

This assignment asks students to engage in an uncommon form of literary analysis, where the goal is to determine the significance of location and travel in the novel. The entire class collaborates in creating a Google map of all of the places that Humbert Humbert travels to in Lolita.

Editing Poetry: Manuscript to Printed Page

Manuscripts offer an opportunity to discuss editorial decisions.

Students work on transcribing an Emily Dickenson poem from manuscript form into print. Their transcriptions are then compared with each other and with several printed editions of the same poem and used to discuss editorial decisions.

Close Reading Through Interactive Storytelling

students create games based on scenes or passages from a novel

In this assignment, my students used a game-authoring platform called ARIS (Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling) to create augmented reality games based on scenes or passages from novels studied in our course.

Workshopping Student Claims for Close Reading

Students' various thesis statements of a particular passage are compared

Students are given a passage to close read and asked to compose a short analysis paper.  After submitting the paper, all claims/thesis statements are compiled anonymously and discussed in an in-class workshop.


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