How to teach literature to students

How to teach literature to students
How to teach literature to students

Teaching a university literature class for the first time can be overwhelming. However, if you prepare yourself properly, doing such a course can become exciting and fun. To teach a literature course to students, you will need to put in place strategies that work for them, find methods to have a positive learning environment, develop a teaching method that is right for you, and put together a course curriculum. that meets the requirements of your department.


Part 1 of 4: teaching at university

Teach Literature to College Students Step 1

Step 1. Motivate your students to read by taking quizzes

One of the biggest challenges facing those who teach literature courses at university is getting students to come to class with some background research. One of the ways you can get them to read their texts before going to class, to be ready to discuss it, is to quiz each day about what books to read.

  • You can choose to create short answer quizzes or opt for quizzes that will be used to assess what they know against the text in question. Share these quizzes before each class. You could even include them in class discussions, such as asking your students to share their answers with each other.
  • Be sure to award enough points for the quizzes as well as the answers. If, for example, the quizzes you give for the entire semester only count for 5% of the final grade, some of your students might find that they are not worth investing too much of their time and resources in it. efforts. Instead, consider making quiz scores worth between 20% and 30% of the total score.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 2

Step 2. Have the students come to class prepared with questions

Another way to motivate students to read assigned texts is to have them prepare questions about what they have read and bring them to class. You can then use their questions to initiate ongoing discussions.

  • For example, you could ask your students to contribute three discussion topics per class and also invite them to ask questions at random. You could then collect the questions asked during a lesson and award points to the students who provided the answers.
  • Be sure to explain to your students how to write a good topic for discussion before asking them to come up with questions. Explain that good discussion topics should be open-ended questions. They should not in fact give rise to a simple Yes or No as an answer. They should not have a single answer either, like the question What is the name of the person who visited Mrs Dalloway? A good topic for discussion would be What is the meaning of the lines in Shakespeare's Cymbeline that Ms. Dalloway is reading? Do these lines seem to matter to other people besides her? Why or why not ?
Teach Literature to College Students Step 3

Step 3. Give students the opportunity to participate in lessons

If you teach a class, be sure to allow students an opportunity to participate every 10 minutes. This should allow them to ask questions, answer or discuss about the topic. The following techniques are just a few that you could use.

  • Ask rhetorical questions. As you read for example Mrs Dalloway, you can ask the students What is the purpose of internal dialogue?
  • Ask students who have had a similar experience to share this with their classmate. As you read Mrs. Dalloway, you might want to encourage your students to identify what they have in common with Clarissa or another of the characters in the book.
  • Have students paraphrase a concept discussed. If you are presenting a theoretical concept that sheds light on what you are reading, then you could ask your students to form groups of two or a few people, and then try to phrase the concept in their own words.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 4

Step 4. Formulate theories

Students should try their hand at literary theory. If your department has a private course that will introduce them to literary theory, you could ask your students to include it in their presentations or essays. If there is no dedicated course for this, you will need to provide your students with some instruction to help them understand the concept and get them to use literary theory.

For example, you could ask your students to find discussion topics that incorporate a specific type of literary theory. It could be Marxist theory, feminism, or psycho-criticism. On the other hand, you could assign different types of literary theories to your students, either alone or in groups, and ask them to analyze the text using this

Teach Literature to College Students Step 5

Step 5. Discuss specific passages with your students

In-depth reading is essential in university literature, which is why you should be sure to allow sufficient time for this. Pick one passage per lesson or invite one of the students to choose one, then focus on it for 15-20 minutes.

  • For example, you could invite one of the students to read their favorite passage in front of the whole room at each session and ask the others to discuss this excerpt.
  • You can also ask the rest of the students to identify other excerpts from the text that relate to the part that the chosen one has just read, which will allow you to deepen the discussion.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 6

Step 6. Turn discussions into written homework

There may be passages that are too complicated for your students to respond immediately. When this happens, you always have the option of asking your students to do a free essay in order to come up with ideas.

  • If, for example, you notice that your students have difficulty commenting on an excerpt or you see that the discussion is limited to only a few of them, give them 5 to 10 minutes to write freely about it. passage.
  • Don't try to fill the silence by talking. Be aware that there will be times when your students remain silent, but this will often mean that they are having difficulty grasping a concept or question. Let them struggle for a while in silence instead of providing them with the answers.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 7

Step 7. Complete group work

There are some students who will not be comfortable speaking in class or at least not from the start. As such, it can help to do some group activities so that all students have an opportunity to participate in class discussions. Organizing group work and establishing cooperative learning in your classroom can also benefit learners by giving them the opportunity to learn from their peers.

  • You could start some of your lessons by dividing students into groups and giving each lot a question about today's reading. You could also ask them to focus on a specific passage or chapter and come up with ideas or questions that can be used in group discussions.
  • If, for example, you are reading Mrs Dalloway, you should start the lesson by asking your students How does author Virginia Woolf make the transition from one character's point of view to another? Find an example in the text to support your answer.

Part 2 of 4: Create a positive work environment

Teach Literature to College Students Step 8

Step 1. Scaffold to teach complicated skills

We talk about scaffolding when we teach students something that is slightly beyond their skills, while also assisting them in the learning process. Students should master the skill in question after using it a number of times, after which you can stop giving them help.

For example, you could initiate in-depth reading by having your students do it for a given passage in a lesson, then giving them the opportunity to do it again on other occasions. You could then ask them to do an in-depth reading of an out-of-class passage and write a summary about it

Teach Literature to College Students Step 9

Step 2. Implement ongoing strategies and skills

Students will often observe you and copy the skills you practice in the course. For this reason, it is crucial that you use the type of skill that you want them to learn.

For example, you could show your students what a good quiz is through the questions you ask them in class. You could also show them an example of good writing by showing them a text you wrote when you were a student

Teach Literature to College Students Step 10

Step 3. Ask questions

Asking questions will help your students relate what they have read to their own experiences or knowledge. It is especially important to ask questions that will help your learners relate their own lives to the texts they are reading. So be sure to ask students interesting questions to help them find a good way to participate in the discussion.

  • Focus on open-ended questions, rather than ones that call for answers like yes or no. Ask questions that start with How and Why. When asking questions that can be answered in one or more words, at least be sure to get students to say more with the questions beginning with How and Why.
  • For example, if you have just finished reading Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, you might ask your students How does Mrs Woolf tell the story? or What does this format reveal about how we tell our own lives?
Teach Literature to College Students Step 11

Step 4. Use visual aids

Using films, pictures, and other visual aids can be of great benefit to those of your students who need to see to understand. Regardless of your preferred teaching method, you should consider using visual aids in some way or another in your lessons. These can be materials based on new technologies, like a PowerPoint, or more traditional visual aids like doodles or notes that you will put on the whiteboard.

  • For example, making a PowerPoint that addresses complicated concepts using pictures may help some of your students gain some understanding of the book that a simple reading might not have given them.
  • Films can also serve as useful visual aids. You could use a movie to complement a convoluted scene described in the book, or to compare it after you have finished reading a book with your students.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 12

Step 5. Encourage the students

To create a positive environment in your literature class, you will need to encourage your students who contribute to the discussions. This can be a simple Please bring up this point which you would make after a learner has finished commenting or asking a question. You could also choose to bring more personal lines. In this case you could say for example I asked myself the same question when I read the book for the first time.

  • Also thank the students for their participation at the end of each class. You could say for example I really enjoyed our discussion today. Thank you all for participating by bringing such great ideas.
  • Avoid criticizing your students' interpretation or denying them a voice if they say something confusing. If one of your students gives confusing answers, you can ask them to clarify them by saying something like This is an interesting point of view. Why do you say that ? or so It seems that you are grappling with a complicated concept. Do you want the topic to be better discussed for the rest of the course?
  • Avoid emphasizing the quality of a given question. Saying that you think a question is good might cause other students to think theirs are not good. For that, you have to try to avoid this kind of recognition. Instead, stick to remarks that will encourage them. You even have the option of using non-verbal encouragement, such as smiling, raising your thumb, or nodding your head.

Part 3 of 4: Develop your strategy

Teach Literature to College Students Step 13

Step 1. Work with a mentor

In some departments, you may be assigned a mentor to help you during your first classes. If your department does not assign you one, then you might consider choosing a mentor on your own. Choose someone who you think is best suited to help you develop good teaching skills.

If, for example, you are a medievalist, you could ask another medieval specialist in your department to be your mentor. A good mentor, however, does not have to have the same intellectual interests as you. You could simply choose someone who you think will be a good mentor because of their background or their personality

Teach Literature to College Students Step 14

Step 2. Develop your pedagogical knowledge

You can improve your pedagogical knowledge and find suitable methods for teaching literature by attending conferences and reading articles that focus on the teaching of literature. Try reading magazines or watching presentations that relate to the texts you are teaching about.

For example, if you are doing a course on Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, you can read articles on the most effective teaching strategies for teaching about this text. On the other hand, if you attend a lecture by a given author, you can try to participate in the interventions in relation to the pedagogy that shows how to teach one of his texts

Teach Literature to College Students Step 15

Step 3. Get inspired by your favorite teachers

Think back to the professors who gave you your best literature classes in college for ideas for teaching strategies. You might ask yourself the following questions.

  • What teaching methods did your favorite teachers used to use in class?
  • What did you like about these teaching methods?
  • How did these methods help you understand and discuss complicated texts?
  • If so, what would you change about these methods if you were to use them for your own lessons?
Teach Literature to College Students Step 16

Step 4. Identify your strengths

Based on your previous teaching experiences, you might already get a sense of what areas you are good at when it comes to teaching a course. For example, you could be very good at giving PowerPoint presentations, initiating discussions in the room, or arousing students' interest in group work.

List the strengths you have in teaching, as well as other skills that you think could help you have effective teaching strategies

Teach Literature to College Students Step 17

Step 5. Ask your colleagues for suggestions

These more experienced teachers are excellent resource people who can teach you about teaching strategies and help you come up with ideas for lesson plans. Whether you are a graduate assistant new to teaching or a full professor, you can learn something new from a more experienced colleague in your department.

  • Try to arrange a meeting with one of your department colleagues who also teaches literature.Ask him to make suggestions, to tell you what he thinks of your methods, to provide you with resources that might help you, or to give you ideas in general.
  • Apply to take other literature classes to see how other teachers encourage discussion.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 18

Step 6. Write down your teaching philosophy

The latter defines your goals and values ​​as a teacher. Creating such a philosophy will even help you develop teaching skills, which is why it is a good idea to state it, even if you don't need to. Most teaching philosophies include:

  • your ideas about learning and teaching,
  • a description of the teaching strategies you use,
  • an explanation of why you teach the way you do.

Part 4 of 4: Prepare a lesson

Teach Literature to College Students Step 19

Step 1. Know the requirements of your department

Your department may have specific guidelines for the course you are teaching, which is why it is important to read them before you start preparing for the course you are going to teach. For example, you might need to study certain texts, give a certain type of homework or tackle particular concepts.

Ask the head of department or another superior if you have the opportunity to take a look at the syllabus of other professors to get an idea of ​​how you should present your course. Use this syllabus to determine how you can meet the department's requirements for this course

Teach Literature to College Students Step 20

Step 2. Consider choosing a theme

If you are doing a private tutoring on behalf of your department, you might have a topic right from the start. However, you can still add a more focused theme. If the course you have been assigned does not have a specific topic, then it may be easier for you to choose texts to read and to assign homework if you choose a certain topic. Among the common themes of literature are:

  • French or African literature,
  • studies by writers like Shakespeare, Molière or Voltaire,
  • family,
  • Food,
  • genre,
  • mythology,
  • urban or rural literature,
  • symbolism,
  • periods such as the 20th century, the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment,
  • types of literature, such as novels, poetry, drama or short stories,
  • dystopia or utopia,
  • women writers.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 21

Step 3. Make a list of texts and books to study

After you have chosen a topic, you can begin to make a list of the books that you could study in your class. This list can include many more books than you can objectively study, just keep in mind that you can narrow it down later.

  • You also have the option to ask your colleagues for suggestions on this. Someone who has taught for a long time might be able to suggest texts that are perfect for the course you are going to teach.
  • If, for example, you are doing a course that focuses on female writers, you might include works by Sylvia Plath, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, and Toni Morrison on your list.
Teach Literature to College Students Step 22

Step 4. Set up a reading program

When you have decided on the books you are going to use for your course, you will need to develop a reading program. To get started, you need to decide in the order in which you would like your students to read the books. You can then assign the portion of text you will read per week.

Take into account the length of the texts when making your reading program. If it is books or other long texts, you will need to divide the readings into more manageable sections. For short excerpts, such as short stories or poems, you could read it all in one lesson

Teach Literature to College Students Step 23

Step 5. Choose homework

In most literature courses, students are required to write at least one essay, but you can add other types of homework to it. You can ask them, for example, to make presentations, lead discussions, take quizzes or even give them an exam.

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