Monday, November 26, 2012

Thoughts on Kids Hating Literary Analysis

I was talking to my brother who was asking about how my older son is doing with schoolwork. I told him he does not want to read literature and do literary analysis. My brother was an average student who wound up being a slacker. He is not a role model for public schooling and I am aware we need to be careful who we listen to for advice. He cracked up when I said my son's reaction. But at least my brother is a male and has accurate memories of his teen years, so I wanted to hear his insight.

My brother said that I should let my son read only the Cliff's Notes which is what all the school kids did in his class. "No one actually read the book!"

I confess I did sometimes also read only the Cliff's Notes. I recall not finishing Great Expectations on time so I crammed with the summaries only. I also recall being lost by Othello in college when I was in my mid-20's and reading the Cliff's Notes.

I also recall always reading the short stories as they were easy to bang out.

I was sitting here thinking about how exciting doing homeschool literary analysis with my kids will be. Thinking of my memory of me not loving it as taught in public school and in college mystified me because I was a bookworm and a huge reader. I loved books and reading. Why did I not enjoy literature in English class? Was it that I just did not always like the books my teachers were forcing me to read? Was it my annoyance with the teacher's pets and the butt kissers in the class who the teacher favored? I was burned out of school and I was sick of doing what everyone was telling me to do. (Wow that just sounded like my older son for a minute.)

So the thought occurred to me how can I expect so much of my homeschooled kids when the adult me likes literature and finds the process of literary analysis interesting (and easy) yet the teenager and young adult me hated it?

The bottom line is my kids have to do a certain amount of literature reading and analysis for education requirements for college admissions and for state homeschooling compliance.

I just wished they actually wanted to do it rather than being forced.


dstb said...

Hi Christine,

I'm interested in this literary analysis topic. I had borrowed the Teaching the Classics DVD from a friend over the summer, but didn't get too far. I'll have to give it another go.

Earlier this year, I read a book called Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. I think he wrote it for teachers, but there are things that parents can glean from it. If you don't mind a long comment, here are some of the notes I took:

From Chapter 3:

Teachers are overteaching books.
Readicide Factor: The overteaching of books prevents our students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be – the reading flow.
Readicide Factor: The overanalysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful.
Readicide Factor: The overteaching of academic texts is spilling over and damaging our students’ chances of becoming lifelong readers.

This is the topic I was most concerned about with T. I wanted him to be able to read a book without being constantly told to stop, look up words, put in sticky notes, write down quotes, etc. I think by dissecting a book too much, you suck the life and any learning right out of it. I believe Mr. Gallagher’s point would be that the value of the book is in making connections to today.

From Chapter 4:

Teachers are underteaching books.

Just abandoning students to read is not the answer either, especially for more challenging texts. Gallagher's remedy for readicide in this case involves properly framing the text and reading sections of the text multiple times. Framing may include previewing some of the more difficult vocabulary, providing information on the historic time period of the story and information on the author, and discussing the importance of the book. Gallagher also says there is value in revisiting parts of the text to gain more meaning. This ties in with his “big chunk/little chunk” idea of letting students read large chunks on their own and then have them re-read smaller chunks, searching for more meaning, under the guidance of the teacher.

When I was a student, I know the picking apart each and every line for meaning was what killed a book for me. The most dreaded words: "What do you think the author meant by this?" How the heck do I know? Does anyone really know? Maybe he didn't mean anything by it.

Anyway, I am interested to see how the literary analysis with your boys works out.


Ahermitt said...

Sparknotes is pretty cool too.

But... I hear you.

Just an fyi from someone who did not need to meet NCAA requirements. I let my kids pick every other book they read (during the school year.) They just read, and read, and read, and never analyzed anything. But the practice of non-stop reading (they read a lot... A LOT) prepared them for the CLEP exam Analyzing ad Interpreting Lit. My son passed it easily in grade 11, and my daughter is about to take it... she has Aced the practice tests.

I think the key is in getting them to like reading. If every single book is not in their area of interest, they will shut down in that area.

ChristineMM said...

Sarah, I will write more later. Wanted to add we need to be careful about comparing apples to apples

1 what school,kids do and did elementary to middle to high school vs what my kids did and do, or yours

What my always homeschooled kids did is not what public schools did such as doing lit analysis too early (grade 3,4,5, whatever) ns mine enjoyed books and did not do assignments with them from young age

2 I am talking about lit analysis on the high school level

3 mine read lots of their own choosing and now gear shift to gr 7 co-op class for my younger and grade 9 started the older.

In other words my kids were not boys force fed girly touchy freely books from elem grades and up which is another way to kill a love of learning in a boy

I could go on and on...

ChristineMM said...

A hermit my boys love reading what they choose to read.
Except the new headaches and dizziness....
Dr appt is later this week...
And the kindle fore apps killed the before bed pleasure reading thing we had going for 14 years here...

I hauled s,e paper bound books out of bins and presented them to my kids to pick something to read for fun to try to forget that habit going

But now ds15 is texting right up to bedtime w his new girlfriend ....

Oy vey

Deborah said...

We had literature issues when my son (who had been a 23/7 reader) went to high school. I found this interesting:

because it seemed to describe my son's situation very well. I was in high school in the mid 70' the time it was popular to let kids pick what they wanted to read...I think the only literature we actually studied was the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, supplemented with the R&J movie that had been made shortly before. I'm actually quite glad that I wasn't subjected to formal analysis of literature at that age. I read many books for the sheer mad fun of was only later that I was able to appreciate the books on many levels.

It's interesting to watch a relative who has been assigned "The Fountainhead" for a college class: she's reading it only as a story (as I did when I first read the book) without knowing the author's history or agenda. She wants to talk about it and I have to be careful to not give too much let her have the fun of figuring things out herself.

Michael Ozeryansky said...

Hi Christine,

I grew up in Soviet Union, so you can imagine official reading curricula was heavy-weight. But I can remember myself reading a lot exactly in spite of the official requirements. I discovered literary styles different from Tolstoy's and Dostoevsky's. I also discovered authors and opinions different from the official pro-soviet ones.
So I think this "social" ingredient, appealing to my rebellious nature, was what driven me to read. And I did the analysis work in this way as well - trying to understand contradictions in official literature vs. the "real" one and real life. In some sense, given the situation in SU, it was fun to search for those contradictions :-)

- Michael