Teaching and Learning Strategies for the Thinking Classroom

By Alan Crawford; Wendy Saul et al. | Go to book overview

SECTION 4:
TEACHING IN AND ACROSS
THE DISCIPLINES

In the previous sections of this guidebook we have demonstrated teaching methods applied in a range of different subject areas. In this section the focus is on individual disciplines, and also on interdisciplinary teaching.


1. READING AND WRITING
FOR CRITICAL THINKING IN
LITERATURE STUDY

Of course, by studying literature students gain an appreciation of the forms and history of literature and of the author's craft. But by discussing and interpreting literature, students gain something more. Works of literature bring “slices of life” into the classroom, where students can discuss situations that matter, seen from the outside in and the inside out and described by masters of observation and linguistic craft. They can use works of literature to deepen their understanding of people near and far. As they discuss works with their classmates and hear how others respond to them, they can better understand their classmates and themselves.

In order for literature to contribute to the goal of enhancing students' understanding of human life, active teaching methods must be used. Students rarely gain insights from listening to the teacher's wisdom—they must work for those insights through thinking and discussion. Several teaching methods are especially well-suited for use with works of literature. Some, like Shared Inquiry, Discussion Web, Assigning Roles in Discussions, and Save the Last Word for Me, have already been introduced. Below we will introduce several more: Dramatic Roles, Shifting Perspectives, Dramatic Interpretations, and A Study in Contrasts.


VIGNETTE: LITERARY CRITICISM

Mr. Pulin is introducing some analytical tools to an eighth grade literature class. He has deliberately chosen a simple story for this lesson, because his purpose is to show how even an interesting story can yield interesting insights when looked at closely. Sometimes devices from literary criticism can help students take a closer look. The story used here is the folktale “Jack and the Beanstalk,” which can be found in its entirety in Appendix 2.

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