I’m a huge believer in the power of the habit. The more a person practices something, the more it gets embedded in the brain. That’s why I put a lot of energy into building the habit of using the right terms when I’m teaching students to analyze text.
And that means that even when students are doing a quick response, a turn-and-talk, or a small group discussion, I want them to frame their comments in a way that strengthens their analytical muscles. If they get used to chatting about their text using language that focuses on analysis, then they will create a habit that will help them when it comes time for major assessments.
There are several ways that I reinforce this process so as to build the habits they need for analyzing text:
Teach students to analyze text during class discussions
At the beginning of a semester, whenever a student responds to a question or adds to the discussion, I will stop and help them reframe it, if need be.
For example, if I ask them about the significance of a quotation that develops some aspect of a character, I’d like them to respond with something like, “the fact that she uses (a particular word) illustrates that she’s not feeling confident.” OR “continues to develop her low self esteem” So, if a student says “it means she’s not confident” I will ask, “how do you know? What technique did the author use to show you that?”
We don’t stop and reframe with every discussion, but by modelling and reframing in the beginning, students soon learn my expectations.
Provide a handout with sentence models for analyzing text
This process isn’t easy for a lot of students, so I give them lots of models and sentence starters that they can mimic when they write assertions about texts.
The handout I use has several patterns that can be applied to a variety of situations, so when they need to talk or write about a text, they can pull out the handout and find a pattern that suits their needs
TIP: photocopy it in a bright color, so students can easily find it in their binders. I do that with any handout that I want my students to use regularly – just don’t overdo it or you’ll defeat the purpose!
Use visual reminders as a reference
Handouts are great, but as we all know, students do lose them. That’s why I decided to create some posters that I could hang around the classroom, ones that students could reference when they are writing or having group discussions where they are analyzing texts.
If they want to make a comment about one, they can take a quick look and frame their statement in a way that makes a strong, analytical assertion about some aspect of the text.
These posters are super versatile, as I can create a huge one from ceiling to floor that is sure to get their attention. Or I can fill a section of the board.
My favorite way to use them, however, is to scatter them throughout the room, so students can easily see them wherever they are sitting.
I put my posters in clusters of four: one has the pattern, one has nouns that focus on technique, one has analytical verbs, and the final one has a sentence starter.
These clusters can be used at learning stations too: I group students and at each station, they brainstorm assertions for their text using the words and pattern displayed there.
After all of this “habit-building”my students are getting much better at writing strong assertions when they are analyzing literature – and my classroom looks quite nice with these lovely posters on the wall!
Let me know if you have any questions!