Saturday, November 15, 2014

Answering Literary Analysis Questions

When we made the shift to Common Core, one of the biggest changes to my daily ELA practice was moving from my traditional line of open-ended questions to more of a literary analysis question. This was a tough move for both me and my students because the questions were more complex, requiring a closer reading of the text and a deeper analysis of its elements and devices.  Overall, I think the change is for the best, but I won't lie... there have certainly been some bumps and bruises along the way!!

One strategy for answer these types of questions has been "S.P.I.T. Out a Great Answer!" I put this together over the summer and first posted about it here. Now that we are few months into the school year and have had some good practice with answering these types of questions, I want to share with you how it's been going.

So, as I've mentioned before, we use the Holt Literature series. I love this series... I really do. I didn't really love it at first, but now that I'm four years in, I'm super happy with it. First off, the literature is GREAT! Short stories, poems, literary nonfiction, articles, movies... it's got everything! Second, the more PARCC stuff gets released, like sample questions and rubrics, the more I am sure that Holt is doing a fantastic job covering Common Core and my students should be as prepared as can be expected when they take that standardized test for the first time this spring.

To teach elements and devices, I use an Interactive Notebook (read all about that here). With each element or device I teach, we read 4-6 texts where we practice analyzing that specific skill or device. Our analysis is done via our Literary Analysis questions.

And that is where S.P.I.T. comes in... Students can use this strategy to help them organize a better answer. Now, typically, I am not a huge fan of formulaic writing, but when teaching some of the heavier types of writing, much of which is new to my 6th graders (like literary analysis or argument writing) I find that exposing them to a formula allows EVERY kid an entry point.

Here is an example...

This shows a student's answer before I modeled S.P.I.T.

And this is the revised answer that came after teaching S.P.I.T.

Ahh! So much better, right?!

I'm loving how this has been working and I am thinking it's only going to get better!

Any strategies for Literary Analysis that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Teaching!!

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