“CRITICAL THINKING IN 
READER RESPONSES” 
Sherry Jones 
Philosophy, Rhetoric, Game Studies 
DWP Presentation 
June 2009 
s...
Challenges I Face in College 
Writing Instruction 
Problems: 
● Students have no desire to learn writing (basic compositio...
Theoretical Framework: 
"Reader Response Theory" 
Rosenblatt's "Reader Response Transactional Theory" 
(1938, 1978) propos...
What is Critical Thinking? 
● Critical thinking means to closely examine the text to find 
meaning beneath the textual sur...
How Reader Responses 
Promote Critical Thinking 
● Writing about literature can encourage students' critical 
thinking, pr...
Designing "Reader Response" 
Writing Assignments 
2 READER RESPONSE APPROACHES: 
1. Self Analysis 
2. On-Line Visual Text ...
Approach #1: Critical 
Analysis (Focus on Quotes) 
● Purpose: To closely examine and break down the text into 
parts, in o...
Writing Prompt #1: Critical 
Analysis of a Quote 
My father was a formidable-looking man with a large stony 
jaw and furio...
Approach #2: Self Analysis 
● Purpose: Ask students to read a text, and then reflect on 
their feelings about the text. 
●...
Writing Prompt #2: Self- 
Analysis 
Read "A Case for Torture" by Mirko 
Bagaric and answer 2 questions in 1 
paragraph: 
1...
Approach #3: Gendered 
Analysis/Multi-Role Analysis 
● Purpose: Ask students to examine a text through a 
particular persp...
Approach #4: Visual Text 
Analysis 
● Purpose: 
● Benefits of using this approach:
EX. 1 - VISUAL TEXT ANALYSIS 
State in 1 paragraph, 4+ sentences, the video's main arguments. Identify 
and explain which ...
PATTERNS OF ORGANIZATION: 
DEFINITION 
Define in 1 paragraph, 4+ 
sentences, the connotative 
meaning of the word "Torture...
Why They Work 
● By critically analyzing the "text," students can 
acquire new vocabulary words, grammar rules, 
sentence ...
Questions? Comments? 
Sherry Jones 
Philosophy, Rhetoric, Game Studies 
sherryjones.edtech@gmail.com 
Twitter @autnes 
Wri...
"Critical Thinking In Reader Responses" (June 2009)
"Critical Thinking In Reader Responses" (June 2009)
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"Critical Thinking In Reader Responses" (June 2009)

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I presented at the Denver Writing Project (DWP) on how to raise the rigor in students' reader responses in English Composition courses.

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  • In other words, though readers utilize socially constructed literary conventions in interpretative processes, meaning is created only when readers associate their own psychological and social experiences with the text. Furthermore, Rosenblatt claims that “an individual will respond uniquely to the same text at different times of their life and in different circumstances. Historical, social and cultural aspects of a reader’s identity also influence the meaning of texts so that readers’ responses also vary by group” (2). Since textual interpretation reflects the interpreter’s personal past and present experiences with the text, it follows that every interpretation is contingent on the interpreter’s identity at a given time. Thus, Reader Response theorists argue that literature education should shift the focus from the text to the reader. Instructors should help students realize that all interpretations are unique, and that there is no universally “correct” interpretation to be derived from the text.  Instructors should design Reader Response assignments 
  • Critical Analysis of the Text (1-3 Quotes/Paraphrases) Self-Analysis (How did the Text make you feel?  What experiences contribute to your feeling about the text?) Gendered Analysis/Multi-Role Analysis (Analyze the Text as a Male and a Female Reader/Analyze the Text as Different Readers) (4 Audience Letter to Caufield Case) Visual Text Analysis (Art and Visual Mediums as Text for Analysis) - "Youtube," (Podcasts) " Editorial Cartoons " Peer Collaboration Analysis (Analyzing Peers' Texts) - "BLOG IT!" "Facebook," "MySpace," "CyWorld," "Twitter," "Twitterfall"   YOU CAN IMPLEMENT THESE APPROACHES FOR IN-CLASS WRITING PROMPTS OR FOR HOMEWORK. 
  • Zhou En-lai ( simplified Chinese : 周恩来 ; traditional Chinese : 周恩來 ; pinyin : Zhōu Ēnlái; Wade-Giles : Chou En-lai) (5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China , serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976. Zhou was instrumental in the Communist Party's rise to power, and subsequently in the development of the Chinese Communist economy and restructuring of Chinese society. A skilled and able diplomat, Zhou served as the Chinese foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Advocating peaceful coexistence with the West, he participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon 's 1972 visit to China . Due to his expertise, Zhou was largely able to survive the purges of high-level Chinese Communist Party officials during the Cultural Revolution . His attempts at mitigating the Red Guard 's damage and his efforts to protect others from their wrath made him immensely popular in the Revolution's later stages. As Mao Zedong 's health began to decline in 1971 and 1972, Zhou and the Gang of Four struggled internally over leadership of China. Zhou's health was also failing however, and he died eight months before Mao on 8 January 1976. The massive public outpouring of grief in Beijing turned to anger towards the Gang of Four, leading to the Tiananmen Incident . Deng Xiaoping , Zhou's ally and successor as Premier, was able to outmaneuver the Gang of Four politically and eventually take Mao's place as Paramount Leader .
  • Zhou En-lai ( simplified Chinese : 周恩来 ; traditional Chinese : 周恩來 ; pinyin : Zhōu Ēnlái; Wade-Giles : Chou En-lai) (5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China , serving from October 1949 until his death in January 1976. Zhou was instrumental in the Communist Party's rise to power, and subsequently in the development of the Chinese Communist economy and restructuring of Chinese society. A skilled and able diplomat, Zhou served as the Chinese foreign minister from 1949 to 1958. Advocating peaceful coexistence with the West, he participated in the 1954 Geneva Conference and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon 's 1972 visit to China . Due to his expertise, Zhou was largely able to survive the purges of high-level Chinese Communist Party officials during the Cultural Revolution . His attempts at mitigating the Red Guard 's damage and his efforts to protect others from their wrath made him immensely popular in the Revolution's later stages. As Mao Zedong 's health began to decline in 1971 and 1972, Zhou and the Gang of Four struggled internally over leadership of China. Zhou's health was also failing however, and he died eight months before Mao on 8 January 1976. The massive public outpouring of grief in Beijing turned to anger towards the Gang of Four, leading to the Tiananmen Incident . Deng Xiaoping , Zhou's ally and successor as Premier, was able to outmaneuver the Gang of Four politically and eventually take Mao's place as Paramount Leader .
  • Use videos with shocking messages.  This type of video grabs students' attention, and in turn encourage them to comment on the video.  Controversial topics are always good for encouraging critical writing and class debates.
  • Use Editorial Cartoons for critical analysis, because editorial cartoons tend to have surface and underneath layers of meaning.  Students must analyze parts of the cartoon in order to understand the whole of cartoon message.
  • This approach also teaches students about different world-views on any topic of interest.  Also, students are receiving feedback from multiple sources (not just from their instructors).  This aid the revising process  Since teachers cannot grade every draft of a student's paper, peer collaboration places the responsibility of evaluation on the students. Essentially, students grade drafts for each other, and receive multiple feedback from their peers about their writing. **Show BLOG IT! entries**
  • "Critical Thinking In Reader Responses" (June 2009)

    1. 1. “CRITICAL THINKING IN READER RESPONSES” Sherry Jones Philosophy, Rhetoric, Game Studies DWP Presentation June 2009 sherryjones.edtech@gmail.com Twitter @autnes source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/katemonkey/122489910/
    2. 2. Challenges I Face in College Writing Instruction Problems: ● Students have no desire to learn writing (basic composition is a required course for them; perceive writing course as irrelevant toward their career goals). ● Most students come from low income backgrounds or from foreign countries, and thus have difficulty relating to or engaging with main stream texts. ● Students tend to lack empathy for serious topics, due to their lack of perspectives.
    3. 3. Theoretical Framework: "Reader Response Theory" Rosenblatt's "Reader Response Transactional Theory" (1938, 1978) proposes that: ● [Literature is] a means of promoting critical thinking and multiple perspectives, [given that] readers bring a wealth of emotions, experiences and knowledge to a reading that, in turn, provoke associations with the words, images and ideas in the text. (Rosenblatt 2)
    4. 4. What is Critical Thinking? ● Critical thinking means to closely examine the text to find meaning beneath the textual surface. Since "meaning" is derived from one's subjective associations with the text, a critical thinker also considers the source of his/her subjective content, and how subjectivity contributes to and contaminates the interpretation of the text.
    5. 5. How Reader Responses Promote Critical Thinking ● Writing about literature can encourage students' critical thinking, provided that students can associate their own psychological and social experiences with the texts. ● Students can develop empathy toward texts if they can relate to the texts. ● All interpretations are unique; there is not a universally "correct interpretation" to be derived from a text. ● GOAL: Instructors should design reader response assignments to help students connect with the texts.
    6. 6. Designing "Reader Response" Writing Assignments 2 READER RESPONSE APPROACHES: 1. Self Analysis 2. On-Line Visual Text Analysis (w Peer Collaboration) WHY DO THEY WORK? ● Each approach asks students to interpret texts as different types of readers, and thus encourage students to critical think about and empathize with different perspectives on serious issues.
    7. 7. Approach #1: Critical Analysis (Focus on Quotes) ● Purpose: To closely examine and break down the text into parts, in order to interpret the relationship between those parts for meaning. ● Benefits of using this approach: Students learn that a text contains surface and underneath layers of meaning.
    8. 8. Writing Prompt #1: Critical Analysis of a Quote My father was a formidable-looking man with a large stony jaw and furious black eyebrows. I think now in retrospect that he much resembled Chou En-lai, although he would not have cherished such a comparison, being particularly proud of the pure samurai blood that ran in the family . . . . [A] boyhood memory came back to me of the time he had struck me several times around the head for 'chattering like an old woman'. (A Family Supper by Kazuo Ishiguro 1)
    9. 9. Approach #2: Self Analysis ● Purpose: Ask students to read a text, and then reflect on their feelings about the text. ● Benefits of using this approach: Students learn that interpretation is based on one's experiences/world-view, and thus interpretation is always subjective. This approach also encourages students to write memoirs. Sample Student Paper #1 Sample Student Paper #2
    10. 10. Writing Prompt #2: Self- Analysis Read "A Case for Torture" by Mirko Bagaric and answer 2 questions in 1 paragraph: 1. Explain how you feel about the text (support your explanation by quoting/paraphrasing the part of the text that makes you feel a certain way) 2. Explain what experiences you have had (in childhood or in present experiences) that contribute to your feeling about the particular issue.
    11. 11. Approach #3: Gendered Analysis/Multi-Role Analysis ● Purpose: Ask students to examine a text through a particular perspective (role-playing in analysis) ● Benefits of using this approach: Students learn that examining the text through different perspectives produce different meanings (Meaning is perspective based). Sample Student Papers
    12. 12. Approach #4: Visual Text Analysis ● Purpose: ● Benefits of using this approach:
    13. 13. EX. 1 - VISUAL TEXT ANALYSIS State in 1 paragraph, 4+ sentences, the video's main arguments. Identify and explain which part(s) of the video supports the main argument. (CAUTION: I am not looking for your opinion, but for your comprehension of the video's message).
    14. 14. EX. 2 - VISUAL TEXT ANALYSIS In 1 paragraph, 4+ sentences, your dominant impression of what happens to the lamp through the 5 senses (sight, taste, smell, hear, touch). Use similes and metaphors to make descriptions vivid.
    15. 15. PATTERNS OF ORGANIZATION: DEFINITION Define in 1 paragraph, 4+ sentences, the connotative meaning of the word "Torture." (It should be easy for you to think of connotations associated with the charged word, since "torture" is currently a hot topic).
    16. 16. Approach #5: On-Line Peer Collaboration Analysis ● Purpose: To collaborate with and critique peers in the writing process (revising and editing) ● Benefits of using this approach: Students learn that interpretation depend on subjectivity (seeing their classmates' posts). Facebook Ning CyWorld Twitter Twitterfall Google Docs Zoho Xtranormal Voki Vuvox Jing Dimd im YouTube
    17. 17. Why They Work ● By critically analyzing the "text," students can acquire new vocabulary words, grammar rules, sentence structures, paragraph structures, textual coherency, fluency, variety, and other compositional rules. ● Students learn to make meaning of the "text" by examining the deeper level of the text through interpretative processes.
    18. 18. Questions? Comments? Sherry Jones Philosophy, Rhetoric, Game Studies sherryjones.edtech@gmail.com Twitter @autnes Writings and Artifacts

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