Staging the Exchange: Learning to Read and Write Beyond Similarity and Opposition

by Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, Rhetoric
[A]sked to write an essay that deals with more than one primary text, [students’] tendency is … to either illustrate the ways in which the texts make equivalent arguments, or to pit one text/author against the other… I realized that I needed to do more to teach students what it means to bring two texts “into conversation.”

Elusive Allusions: Discovering Kafka in Coetzee

by Sarah Mangin, English
We spent a few minutes venting about our most memorable Kafkaesque ordeals, from S.A.T. testing nightmares to transcript requests … By cultivating a collaborative environment for thinking about literary allusiveness, our class found opportunities to make these references first familiar and then potent.

X-Axis, Y-Axis, and Zzzz’s: Plotting Narrative at 8 AM

by Wendy Xin, English
How, I wondered, might one instill an understanding of composition useful to engineering, political science, history, biology, literature, and math majors alike, when the nature of assigned readings across disciplines varied so widely? And how would the class find pleasure in engaging metacritically with the concept of narrative at 8 a.m., a time when most of us aren’t even used to experiencing narrative?

Providing Skills, Not Summaries: Improving Reading Comprehension in Political Theory

by Mark Fisher, Political Science
This…made me think quite differently about the GSI’s role in section…While our first impulse is often to try and “translate” the lecture into an idiom they are more comfortable with, this experience convinced me that the greatest service we can perform for students is to teach them the skills needed to speak our language.

References without Referents (Or, How My Class Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Thomas Pynchon)

by Sarah Chihaya, Comparative Literature
How could I possibly communicate the intertextual quality central to the novel’s style to my students, when most of them didn’t have the exhaustive literary and historical background that Pynchon’s proliferating cultural references — which swing wildly from erudite literary digs, to Sixties-specific pop cultural allusions, to puerile humor — seem to demand?

Reading Theory with Courage: One Way to Teach Critical Reading Skills

by Ermine Fidan Elcioglu, Sociology
In the beginning of the course, I argued that “reading” was not the same as “critically reading” something. I distributed a worksheet that enumerated the questions I wanted students to be actively thinking about when they read a text…In order to practice this skill, I devoted every other section to critically reading a carefully selected paragraph or set of paragraphs from the assigned readings.

Free in Theory: Teaching Gender in Historical Perspective

by Gina Zupsich, French
For my students, gender was, and had always been, a personal choice. The queer literature we were studying was fantasy indeed to students in a post-feminist world on an LGTBQ-friendly campus….If we were to understand the radical messages of our texts, I realized that I would have to put these theories into historical perspective and in living color.

Teaching Critical Reading

Instructors often don’t realize that they have learned to read in very different ways from their students. If you want critical engagement with the texts in your class, you need to help students learn concrete analytical reading practices.