In its most basic form, literary analysis can be considered an essential stage in a student’s learning and development. It is one of the most vital stages within a student’s development of critical thinking skills and is a must to help children gain a deeper understanding of a text through informed analysis. For students, this provides them with a stronger basis for delving deeper into literature and other writing, a must for older students especially.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the development of literary analysis should be within the fourth level of skill-building, following application and comprehension. This allows students to develop their application and comprehension skills, the ability to both describe and understand content, before requiring them to use further, analytical skills on the text they study.
It may seem to many educators that introducing literary analysis to the classroom is a difficult, and sometimes overwhelming task. With critical thinking performing such a crucial role in students’ academic development, proper guidance and teaching are a must to help them to access more in-depth knowledge and perform to a high level.
So, where to start? If you’re contemplating the best way to guide your students through the process or understand literature, and critical thinking as a whole, these methods just might be the best fit for your classroom.
Read on to find out more about how to implement literary analysis with your students:
1. Pick the topic you want to analyze
In some cases, students may need additional guidance to help them choose a topic, while others may already have an idea of the kind of topics they would like to explore.
For the majority of literary analysis activities, topics can be divided up into their primary elements, which are:
- Literary devices
Encourage your students to pick a topic that they are enthusiastic about initially, as this can provide a smoother introduction to literary analysis. Any of the above elements are suitable for use in exercises surrounding analyzing text and are ideally used with non-fiction writing.
2. Dissect themes
Once a topic has been chosen by your students, they can then take their chosen elements – whether it’s a theme, characters or any of the other topics available – and begin to apply their critical thinking skills.
Students should be encouraged to outline information about their chosen subject, as well as using brainstorming or mind mapping. Specific thinking should also be applied here about their chosen elements.
For lessons introducing critical thinking around a specific topic, the following process offers a practical and easy to follow method to get students involved in literary analysis from the start:
- Begin with a mind map or brainstorm process, allowing students to map out individual aspects of their chosen topic
- Encourage students to make a choice by further focusing their ideas and narrowing down their selection
- Introduce a question designed to test their thinking skills, with a thesis statement such as Why did you choose this topic? or What would you like the explore about this element?
- Students will then be asked to answer the why question, pushing them to apply analysis and critical thinking to their answer rather than simply describing the test they are examining
This final stage, they act of questioning, is a vital part of the literary analysis process. It asks students to think more deeply about their chosen subject matter and offers them an organic way to analyze and even synthesize their response.
At this point, students gain a greater insight – and teachers are able to gain an understanding of the thesis concerning current concepts or modern issues. With this in combination, students can then get a clearer image of how a piece of writing can have real-world application – allowing for better analysis skills over time.
While it may a time-consuming process, the collection of materials to support or answer questions it a vital stage for students. This allows for further close reading of their subject matter. By enabling students further time to support and strengthen their answers through research or reading, they can learn how to develop their more advanced analysis skills further.
For many schools, this use of Google or Wikipedia can be frowned upon when it comes to research or critical thinking. However, this can be a valuable learning opportunity, allowing you to speak with your class about digital citizenship, and ways in which they can find credible, academic information and differentiate it from less reliable sources.
Show your students that when it comes to close reading or the gathering of evidence, there isn’t just a one-dimensional way to learn. In fact, literary analysis can be an engaging and varied task, that carries its own rewards.
Examples of common elements of literary analysis include any of the following:
- Identification of repetitions, patterns and common themes
- Categorization of tone, narrative style and elements with text
- Highlighting foreshadowing, as well as characterization and setting
- Labeling of symbols, metaphors and types of characters
4. Final techniques
As described in Bloom’s Taxonomy, learning happens in stages – and the same applies to writing as it does to literary analysis. Once your students have mastered understanding, applying and reading, they are ready to move on to more complex analytical techniques.
Start by providing students with guidance for an introduction. A point should be introduced in one to two sentences about the topic, and should then be followed with provided evidence to support the main discussion. The reason for this evidence should be to convince a reader of the point of view used within the piece. Students can include evidence in a variety of ways, including the below:
- Quotation: Quotation marks should be utilized when a student is providing unaltered word-for-word evidence from either a primary or secondary source
- Summary: Summaries should be a short restatement of a piece of evidence within their writing, using their own phrasing and words
- Paraphrase: A simple explanation of evidence based on the official source, but not exactly matching it.
Once you reach this stage of teaching, it is crucial that you use your lesson time as a clear reminder to accurately and consistently cite and credit sources, whether primary or secondary. This may be a good time to introduce a conversation on academic honesty and by extension the concept of intellectual property.
These subjects are not only important in the classroom, but also for morel and ethical purposes in the wider world.
A critical stage in the learning process, analysis can be particularly challenging for many students. As such, it’s vital that the teacher is able to help students to better distinguish between what is classified as descriptive writing, and what is analytical writing.
A simple way to compare the two is looking at the questions each type of writing answers. Whereas descriptive writing aims to answer what, where, how and who, analytical writing aims to answer why. Contextualizing analytical writing in this way can be beneficial to students, as it pushes them to consider questions such as Why is this particular point important?, encouraging them to move beyond simply using descriptive writing in their work.
As with any piece of text, a conclusion is an integral part of any piece of analytical writing. A firm conclusion should outline and reiterate the main concepts and ideas of an essay in addition to offering a solution to a real-life problem. In this case, students may choose to provide closure for a topic or explain what they aimed to gain from their analysis.
Most impotently of all, students can utilize the conclusion to state their own reflections and opinions of the analyzing process, allowing for yet more critical thinking. Self-reflection is invaluable as part of the writing process and offers an excellent way to provide great feedback to students.
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