Teaching students to analyze and interpret texts has been a painful thorn in my side, a constant reminder of my need for improvement. In special education, explicit instruction and specific models are important for learners, but the more I tried to help the students, the worse their personal connections and interactions with the texts became overwhelmingly obvious.
Here are some great examples from throughout the years:
This quote proves my position. Even thought the HOW is missing, sometimes this was the best I could get.
In this section you should provide analysis of the issue. One year, a student always wrote this in for his analysis! Of course I smiled every single time I read it.
This impacts the character. I think by now you are getting the gist of my frustration.
What tools did I use for teaching analysis and interpretation?
I tried everything. Modeling, sentence starters, revisions, news events. . .Last year I came-up with the magical: 3-part analysis:
My goal was to get students to look at character or issue, writer’s craft, and real world connections. This worked well for some students and the tool enabled them to provide a more focused, thoughtful analysis of the text. For other students, it became a source of frustration because if they couldn’t see into the text, then it was more challenging to use the tool; however, almost all students were able to at least provide analysis on the level closest to the text: the character. I’m not ready to scrap this model, but this year I want students to have more tools and choices so that they can utilize what makes the most sense with the text.
ESP: My Go-to Analysis for this Year
Over the summer I was lucky enough to participate in an NEH institute where I was introduced to the engaging work of Yohuru Williams. He has written an amazing book that can be implemented in the English and Social studies classroom called Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies. The six strategies immediately make the students active participants in the classroom and furthermore, each strategy inherently engages critical thinking.
The simplest of the strategies is proving to be the most useful for my students. ESP stands for Economic, Social and Political and you can add the c which stands for cultural. The strategy looks at the ESP of any text. In class, we started by analyzing the ESP from photos from my Vietnam trip.
On the second day of class-students were engaged in analyzing texts. The next day, we applied the same strategy to the video “Living in the City” by Stevie Wonder.
The video provides many amazing images that the students were able to immediately respond to using the ESP strategy. The next day, students looked at the lyrics and applied the strategy with text.
Next, we transitioned to a brilliant poem by Allison Joseph, “The Truth about Public Transportation,” which nicely translates into an ESP. Obviously, we did “Hymn” by Sherman Alexie which provided students with a platform to discuss their fears. Finally, this week I want to challenge the students with a poem that hides the ESP in its subtleties. Students will read “Divorced Fathers and Pizza Crusts” by Mark Halliday. While this will be more difficult, I feel the students are ready for the task. Ultimately, my goal is to have students apply this strategy to Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice a little later in the semester.
What strategies have helped your students with analysis and interpretation?