Writing Analysis: Day One

I was such a silly, naïve teacher my first year.  In preparation of teaching The Crucible I had the great idea to do a simulation with my students.  I wanted to play the “telephone” game where you whisper a sentence to a person who repeats it to the next person, who repeats it to the next person, and so forth.  After everyone has heard the sentence the final person announces to the class the sentence he/she has heard.  My intention with this was to highlight how easily and quickly the truth can be distorted.  “This is going to be great,” I told myself.  “I’m a great teacher.”  So, wide-eyed and wrinkle-free I approached the day thinking I was the most inventive 22-year-old teacher ever.  Then, five students into the simulation, I heard snickering and began to think maybe a simulation wasn’t the greatest idea.  Then, fifteen students into the simulation when the snickering turned into raucous laughing I knew that asking students to whisper to a peer without any tracing back to the culprit was a horrible idea.

While I have learned not to endorse playing the “telephone” game with your students, I do think that the concept behind the game is an excellent way to teach how to write analysis.  Just like the extension and natural development that happens when playing telephone, the writing of analysis should grow from sentence to sentence while being systematically linked to the original idea.  However, writing analysis isn’t that easy for students.

Students can be given an anticipation guide for a text, comprehension instruction for a text, and then some sort of assistance on how to analyze a text and yet they will still struggle.  With all that assistance it is no surprise that they struggle even more to write analysis.  In writing they are asked to not only analyze a text but be able to clearly communicate their analysis.  That’s tough stuff.

The best way to improve upon analyzing is to write.  It is relatively easy for a student to offer a nugget of insight to the class discussion or answer a pointed question.  It is very difficult for them to compose their analysis into sentence form.  The more they practice writing out their analysis the stronger their reading and writing will become.  It holds students accountable and requires them to be an active participant in their learning, not someone who sits idly by during a discussion or defers to their peers when working on a close reading assignment.

This week I will be posting on ways to help your students develop their analysis in piece of writing.  However, it was hard to structure the posts because so much of what students are analyzing is dependent on the prompt, the text, the type of writing, etc.  So I begin this week with the white flag raised:  you will need to modify, modify, modify these ideas to make them more aligned with your needs.  My hope is that this will provide a few ways to engage the students in the analysis process, making their writing more rich and fluid.

Image from zigazou76

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