In my sophomore literature class today, I had my students begin preparing for their final literary analysis essay by practicing collaborative learning and four response strategies to a short story by Tim O’Brien “The Things They Carried.” They had read the story and prepared a written response that they brought to class and shared in 7 small teams of about 3 students each. In this response, they wrote about the formal elements of the story, including point-of-view, plot structure, characterization, and figurative language. I then asked them to map out a visual representation of four of the five response strategies I’ll ask them to demonstrate on their final paper for the class: personal, topical, formal, and contextual.
Initially, they created fairly simple response maps or networks of these response strategies.
Then I asked them to return to the story and provide textual evidence that would further support the claims they were making about the response strategies.
Beyond the practice students gained in literary analysis, visual thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork, 7 of the students also had the opportunity (6 times!) to employ their oral presentation skills as tour guides. I will use this teaching and learning strategy in future classes because of the multiple opportunities if affords students to work, communicate, and learn together.