|Day 2 of 31 posts for the Slice of Life Story Challenge hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers, Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, and Beth.|
Head over to the link up for seconds or to serve up your own slice!
Once a week students write about a book they are reading. It is a homework assignment. On Tuesdays students take out their reading journal entries and while students read independently, I confer with individuals or pairs about the writing they did in their reading journals.
Lately the conferences have focused on students' understanding (or misunderstanding) of analysis. This quarter students are creating their own analysis prompts using the question matrix I described in part three of an earlier post. We are practicing analytic writing to develop critical reading and thinking skills and to develop skills that are assessed on our state test.
This year I tweaked the reading journal assignments I've had students do in the past to reflect our shift as a state and a school toward argument and analysis. During the first quarter, students wrote argument; during the second analysis. Here is the handout students pasted in their journals to guide their argument writing and here is the analysis handout for quarter two. This quarter they are creating their own analysis prompts or questions using the guidelines pictured below, but it is not working well.
|I have modeled how to create a prompt in my own reading journal |
where I model the work I ask students to do.
|Grading guidelines shifted from individual goals around focus |
(summary versus argument or analysis) the first
quarter to all three columns
(focus, evidence and quantity) the third quarter.
Too many students are creating prompts for themselves that do not set them up for writing success. Consider these prompts students wrote for themselves:
"Describe how author's use of sequence of events to develop the theme of truth."
"Make a claim about the author's use of structural choices conveys life after loss."
"Compare how the author's use of tone develops the characters change of identity?"
"Describe how the first person point of view illustrates political activism (in the book)."
"Explain how the authors use of theme and place manipulates the character's change of identity." Theme is not device or literary convention. This student, as with others noted above, misunderstands.
These prompts will not set these writers up to successfully analyze scenes from their independent reading books.I see confusion in not only how to set up the analysis but also at the conceptual level.
What is a literary device or convention? When is it appropriate to analyze how an author sequences events? How is character analysis similar to and different from thematic analysis? What is tone exactly? How does point of view give us clues about the author's attitude?
These are questions we need to discuss tomorrow.
Too many cognitive tasks is what I think is going wrong here. It is too difficult for many students to translate their initial understanding of literary conventions and devices into a prompt or question to guide their analytic writing. Bad practice will not get us where we need to be. For tomorrow I called a time out --no reading journal writing is due. Instead, I will rethink the assignment and reteach.
It's time to take advantage of the teachable moment and clear up these misunderstandings.