Teaching Literature, and More

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When I teach, I seek to create a community of learners, an environment for asking questions and developing both individual approaches and communal consensus.   I encourage students to become suspicious of clearcut answers  and to entertain multiple perspectives.  Indeed, students are at times disturbed by the lack of certainty, by my refusal, as the purported expert in the room, to pronounce Raskolnikov either mad or evil.  Instead, I focus on helping students develop their abilities to read texts closely, to find textual support for their interpretations, and encourage them to find ways to negotiate conflicting interpretations. 


In-class work includes:

  • whole-group discussion
  • directed group work 
  • in-class writing (minute papers at end of class, writing to prompt discussion at the beginning; in-class writing/discussion close reading exercise by Alfie Guy)
  • explicit instruction in the basics of good analytical writing  


A sample class plan might look like this or like this. 


I see WRITING as a key aspect of a liberal-arts education.  Formal analytical papers are a chance to help students wrestle with the course’s or a text’s main problems, while helping to improve their writing skills (a key tranferable skill of a liberal-arts education!). 

Analytical papers:


Short, low-stakes assignments, geared toward structuring in-class discussion, include:


Other teaching techniques include:


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© Rebecca Pyatkevich 2014