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Paperback The Literature Workshop : Teaching Texts and Their Readers Book

ISBN: 0867095407

ISBN13: 9780867095401

The Literature Workshop : Teaching Texts and Their Readers

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Book Overview

In this groundbreaking book, Sheridan Blau introduces the literature workshop as the most effective approach to solving many of the classic instructional problems.

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A Literature Pedagogy Informed by Writing Process Theory

The Literature Workshop (2003) presents and demonstrates a literature pedagogy informed by writing process pedagogy: The emphases are that reading, like writing, is a process and that students need to be producers of interpretations of literary texts--and that they can be. Sheridan Blau describes the key common problems that students run into, such as assuming they can't understand difficult texts after only reading them once. And he gives--and demonstrates in several chapters through innovate "transcriptions" of reading workshops--ways to convince students that they can and should reread and create interpretations. Blau expresses his ideas with great clarity and insight. I will definitely be using this material in my own literature classes, even photocopying some pages for my students to read. Both Peter Elbow and Gerald Graff give this book glowing reviews on the back cover. The text is geared for those who teach introductory literature classes in college or secondary schools.

Now I get it!

This book gives you ways to "show" not "tell" your students about reading, writing, and comprehension. It gives you the means to set up an assignment so that students say "oh, now I get it" because they are figuring out why it works. Essentially, this book is a complilation of teacher workshops along with commentary from Blau. The commentary includes the 'why' and 'how' for the activity, examples, discussion excerpts (about the activity) from classrooms as well as workshops,and the importance of its inclusion in the book. This is a highly motivating manual! This book enabled me to teach my students that rereading is an essential tool for academic success by helping them to 'figure out' that each reading of a text/writing about a text produces more meaning and deeper comprehension. Awesome.

The single most helpful text for teachers of literature

This text addresses what six years of graduate education did not: a way to combine the best in pedagogical theory with classroom practices that engage students and encourage their own encounters with literature. It seems to me that Blau's thesis centers on finding a way to help students learn for themselves, to create their own knowledge by interacting honestly with the text, instead of memorizing the keys of the teacher's honest interactions with the text, or, worse, imitating a critical approach to a text with a shallow-at-best understanding of the reasons those theories matter. *Note: this is not to say that Blau is an advocate of "anything goes" student interpretations--the opposite is true, I think. Instead, Blau argues that the best way to encourage students to find text-supported interpretations is by inviting students to interact with the texts, rather than, necessarily, with the teacher. Blau does an incredible job of laying out the theory that informs and educates his own practices while showing the reader step-by-step how he conducts classes that deal with the most important questions for high school/undergraduate students who may have little interest in or experience with studying literature. Blau's explanations of and workshops on what's worth saying about literature, what makes an interpretation valid, etc. will not be new to some, but they are cogent and concise. And they deal with the things that seem very important to me when teaching those resistant to literature. This book is the most effective I've yet seen at helping teachers find practical ways to encourage the classroom conflict that can help students see how literature can and does affect their ability to reason and to discover the best and worst of themselves and humanity. Blau's explanation of literature as a discipline worth intellectual work goes a long way to helping students treat the subject with some respect and interest. Indeed, I somehow missed quite a few of these discussions in the classroom; I learned a lot from this text. I'm hoping my students will learn more as a result.

A perfect blend of theory and practice

Very few books are published on the art of teaching high school or undergraduate literature. If you teach at one of these levels, you can relate. You might find a new book, attend a workshop, or search on the web for some new ideas, but the majority of what you find is aimed at middle level English reading workshops or how to teach reading comprehension. On the flip side, if you're looking for something meatier, what you may find are dense books on critical theory. It's tough to find material that finds the balance between the two. Blau uses his many years of classroom and workshop experience to demonstrate many approaches to the teaching of literature. He includes transcripts of lessons, theoretical approaches, and simple anedotal evidence to inspire your own creativity. There are a number of "canned" plans--step by step ideas for you to begin to explore his methods. But these are beautifully written in such a way as to help you apply the method to a different piece of literature, or to inspire you to adapt it for your needs. The first few chapters lead you through a lesson plan, then follow up with ideas for adaptation. There are also a few chapters on how to assess your students' understanding, and, most helpfully, the entire book challenges you to consider what should be most important in teaching your students to read challenging texts. If you're a high school English teacher in need of fresh ideas for next week or in need of an outline of how to plan the next semester of your lit. class, buy this book. When I finished it, I felt as though I'd sat through an actual workshop of Blau's. It's the most dog-eared book in my enormous collection of texts.

Best book on teaching literature I've ever read (and I've read plenty)

Sheridan Blau takes the principles of reader response theory and demonstrates how one can use exercises in the English classroom (College English I and above) and truly bring literature alive and bridge the gap between literature and students. This is no mean feat in the technocratic age. You don't need electronic geegaws like CD-ROM's and WEBct and the heaps of garbage foisted on English teachers and professors these days to jack up the price of textbooks. You need yourself as a champion of literature and a respect for the experience of your students and from there anything is possible. If you are a lit teacher or professor that spouts the latest post-modern MLA jargon, maybe this book can lighten you up; if it doesn't, go elsewhere.
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