The Literature Workshop (Blau) – Chapter 1 & 2 Reflection

The Literature Workshop by Sheridan Blau

The first two chapters of The Literature Workshop use activities and scenarios in order to demonstrate the handicapping that occurs in the traditional model of literature instruction and the possibility of a new model. Often in college,  the literature professor is importing knowledge onto his/her students. Students learn that they cannot understand literature on their own, without the aid of their professors. However, a literature workshop model puts the effort of understanding back on the students. It allows them to struggle with difficult texts and use their own rereading strategies and their classmates to find/form meaning.

One major benefit of the literature workshop is the development of metacognitive awareness in students. Students can explore what they know and what confuses them. Confusion is lauded because it is a pathway to deeper thinking. When students understand what confuses them, they self-confess that simply writing out their questions and rereading allows them to understand the text more. Asking questions allows them to rethink and to hypothesize answers, looking for evidence of their answers in the text. Through rating their understanding, students can become aware of how their understanding of literature grows through rereading and conversation. Students can no longer say, “I don’t understand it!” and quit. They will be able to see the various strategies will increase understanding.

Great philosophy and classroom activities in these first two chapters; however, I think I’m going to skim ahead to the writing chapters in the book in order to answer some more of my own questions about using literature as a springboard for writing.


Posted on June 27, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I love when you say, “…writing out their questions and rereading allows them to understand the text more.” I’ve seen this in action in my classroom. It fits in very nicely with the writing protocols we learned about in our first meeting this spring.

  2. I like the idea that the literature workshop puts students in control of their own learning. It also creates a classroom community of sharing and openness when students are expected to help each other out with learning.

  3. Thanks for this informative summary of the first part of the book, Becky. Those “metacognitive benefits” you mention remind me of another book I’ve heard colleagues laud: Tom Foster’s HOW TO READ LITERATURE LIKE A PROFESSOR. I’ve always wanted to read it but haven’t. It, like the early part of this book, apparently, focuses more on literature analysis than other skills. If you’ve read Foster’s book, I’d love to hear what you think of his approach compared to this book’s at our next reading group meeting. But back to writing ;-). I’ll look forward to hearing (or reading) your opinions on those future chapters you mention. Thanks! ~the other Becky 🙂

    • I’ve read Foster’s book. It’s not quite how Becky’s book sounds. Foster really teaches the themes, motifs, and structures most common to literature. He offers students some shortcuts to finding “hidden” symbols and stuff.

  4. Thank you for sharing today about the additional chapters you have read. I too am interested in taking a look at the book. It seems like literature workshops and circles are all the rage today!

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