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.

Teaching Critical Skills in Legal Studies

by Sonya Lebsack, Legal Studies
I have discovered, to my surprise, in the past few years, that most of my students—including those doing otherwise excellent work — struggle to read a chapter or article and state (in a paragraph or in person) what the author’s “project” is and what the stakes of that project are…As a result, I focus my efforts on teaching this underserved area of focus.

It Said What? Reading Critically for Bias and Point of View

by Amy Lerman, Political Science
Each group had read their own article as a reasonably complete account of “the way it had happened.” When they began to see the differences between the pieces, though, they were struck by how disparate each account was from the others. In particular, the students were surprised by how even those that were technically “unbiased,” “academic” or “scientific” were unintentionally framed in certain ways.

An Epic in Miniature: Collaborations on a Thesis

by Lael Gold, Comparative Literature
Despite in-class instruction and a detailed handout on the subject of thesis and essay construction, the first batch of essays from students in my comparative literature course on literary depictions of woman warriors shared some fundamental shortcomings…I aimed at remedying [their] writing problems in a manner that would simultaneously deepen our engagement with the work presently under consideration, the fantastical Renaissance crusader epic Jerusalem Delivered.

Writers into Readers

by Charles Scott Combs, Film Studies
Though I teach Roland Barthes’ “Death of the Author” as an illustrious example of how criticism broadens our regard of fictional works, the essay threatens to plunge class thought and discussion into an abyss…The problem I face is the temptation students have to read Barthes’ criticism (and the majority of criticism in general)…as an overly-simplified polytheism of reader pleasure.

Charting the plot of ‘La noche boca arriba’

by Mary Becker Quinn, Spanish and Portuguese
“Reading and Literary Analysis” (Spanish 25) is the first literature class required in the Spanish department. Because it is a course organized by genre, the students’ command of literary form is essential. Equally essential, therefore, is the instructor’s ability to demonstrate why such knowledge is vital to the study of literature.

From Description to Analysis

by Andrea Zemgulys, English
The skill of analytic writing is not only difficult for students to learn, but difficult for the teacher to communicate without suggesting that students douse their work with high-faluting or apparently argumentative words (such as “hence”). My aim is to show students how the thoughtful use of simple language can transform descriptive sentences to analytic ones.

Non-Standard Approaches to Post-modernist Literature

by Kate Elkins, Comparative Literature
In presenting a very “postmodern” novel, I wondered what approach to take to ensure that students did not become frustrated. One of the challenges in teaching composition classes is that students bring to the classroom a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. Few will go on to study literature, and many embark on the study of literature with a fair amount of skepticism. I therefore hesitated to approach the work using a standard “literary approach.”