Beyond Comprehension: Analytical Reading & Thinking


Students learn to analyze a narrative, first through film and then through a close reading of a literary text to improve their analytical reading and thinking skills, critical for success in upper-level and post-secondary coursework.

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Why is This Class Important?

Students have often asked me why they need to study literature. Why does a student pursuing a STEM field of study need literary analysis training? Even while working at a STEM High School, I gave the same answer: the thinking skills required in STEM study are similar to literary analysis. Further, ability in all the language arts is essential for understanding and communicating grand ideas in engineering, math, or any discipline they pursue.

In high school English, students are asked to write an essay, critically analyzing a piece of literature. They can struggle because they don’t have any idea where to start. Literary scholars need to be more like food critics or sports announcers! A food critic knows where to start; she understands the importance of balancing flavors, texture, technique, and plating. A movie critic knows where to start; he understands the concepts of acting, lighting, sound, etc. Even a sports announcer understands athletic skill, strategy, and rules of the game. Literary critics need to understand the elements authors use: motif, theme, figurative language, structure, allusion, allegory, and other facets to craft a piece of literature. So, that’s where we start. We teach one of those elements, show an example with a short film clip such as a Pixar short or commercial, and then students apply that knowledge to literature through a close reading of the text. It’s micro-analysis that packs an academic punch!

A SNAPSHOT OF A WEEK’S LESSONS (student workload ranges from 1.5-2 hours per week):
  • We begin with explicit teaching on an element of literature (this is a video lesson by Mrs. Lemons)
  • Students watch short film clips that utilize the element they just learned
  • Students complete an interactive activity in response to the examples on film (sorting, answering questions, etc.)
  • Students closely read a text (a poem, short story, song, etc.)
  • Students complete interactive activities in response to the examples on film
  • Through a video lesson by Mrs. Lemons, students learn how to structure a written response
  • Students submit a paragraph response, demonstrating their analysis of the literature (Google Docs is used). This is published on the Lemons-Aid website, and students get used to writing for a read audience.
Complete Literary Analysis Content:
  • Structure (plot elements and the order of stories)
  • Structure (the Hero’s Journey, adventure stories, epistolary, and journalistic)
  • Narrators (1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, omniscient, reliable, unreliable, etc.)
  • Symbolism
  • Motif & Theme
  • Theme
  • Suspense & Irony
  • Characterization (development of a character, round, flat, dynamic, static)
  • Characterization (types: archetypes, foils, underdogs, etc.)
  • Characterization (types: protagonists & antagonists)
  • Conflict
  • Figurative Language & Style Elements

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