Book Review: The Literature Workshop by Sheridan Blau
This book hit the hardest on my burning question for the Institute – and more so the burning question for my next school year: How do I teach writing as a compliment to the literature that I will be teaching in my Sophomore Composition and Literature course? I had been brainstorming a variety of approaches to this, and Blau’s work supported my burgeoning philosophy as well as challenged and revised it. Blau’s audience is college professors who will be working with college students, so his methods will need to be adjusted for 10th graders; however, I now have some undergirding principles and several strategies for my instruction this year.
Blau focuses heavily on strategies that help students think about their thinking while reading literature. He does not want students to feel that they must have a teacher explain what a work of literature means; they should be able to work through confusion and craft meaning for themselves. This is not to say that any meaning goes, but that students will feel more invested in their learning if they have to go through the challenging process of interpreting literature and applying it to themes that are important in their lives.
Although I’ve tried to capture some of Blau’s activities in my blog posts, I’m definitely going to purchase this book to use as a tool for curriculum crafting for the upcoming school year. I’d like to adapt some of his assignments (which he provides directly from his course syllabus) and attempt some of his workshops with my students. The Literature Workshop is certainly an important read for high school and college educators, and it can probably be adapted for lower grades as well.