From the category archives:

Reading

What College Students are Reading

by Dr Davis on February 1, 2016

Quartz has an article about the Open Syllabus Project that uses online syllabi to examine what we are assigning in university.

Plato, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Aristotle overwhelmingly dominate lists in the US, particularly at the top schools.

In the US, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is the most taught work of fiction, with Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a close second. In history titles, George Brown Tindall and David Emory Shi’s textbook, America: A Narrative History, is No. 1, with Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi, a memoir about life as an African-American woman in Jim Crow America, at No. 2. The Communist Manifesto is the third most taught in history, and is the top title in sociology.

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News on Writing and Reading

by Dr Davis on September 2, 2015

“Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write”

No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.

By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.

It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.

I’m not sure I am totally surprised, but I do wonder what kind of shape I would be in if I didn’t write.

Great News for Those Who Read Actual Books
The following is a fairly serious issue, especially for someone–like me–who created iBooks for my literature course.

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader’s serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one’s sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

This is also interesting:

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate.

Regular reading also increases empathy, especially when reading a print book. One study discovered that individuals who read an upsetting short story on an iPad were less empathetic and experienced less transportation and immersion than those who read on paper.

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Why Folks Avoid Literature

by Dr Davis on September 1, 2015

girlwithabook via art inconnuThe authors says it’s all about us. If the readings were interesting, the students would be there.

What can students learn from literature that they cannot learn elsewhere? Why should they bother with it? For understandable reasons, literature professors assume the importance of their subject matter. But students are right to ask these questions. All courses are expensive, in money, time, and opportunity costs.

No, the real literary work is the reader’s experience.

This means the first thing a teacher needs to do is help students have the experience the author is trying to create. There is no point in analyzing the techniques for creating an experience the students have not had.

Students need to have such experiences, and not just be told of their results. It is crucial for them to see how one arrives at the interpretation and lives through that process. Otherwise, why not simply memorize some critic’s interpretation?

Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature

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Metaphors

by Dr Davis on June 30, 2015

Metaphors are not just for literature anymore.

The Guardian has an article on the Glasgow University research work on 13 centuries of metaphors. The map is cool, though the description is limited.

However, you can read the @MappingMetaphor blog and find details. The newest post on fear is interesting.

Indonesian Metaphorical Conceptualizations of Anger: Does Anger Taste Delicious or Disgusting? By Tessa Yuditha

Indonesian also has its own metaphorical expressions. Some of conventional Indonesian metaphors include Dia menjadi kambing hitam dalam kasus itu ‘He became the scapegoat in that case’, Jatuhnya harga saham membuat dia bangkrut ‘The fall in stock price made him bankrupt’ and Kata-katanya membuat aku meledak ‘His words made me blow up’.

The Guardian has an article on educational metaphors. I used this in a class recently and would like to discuss it again more thoroughly. Something that was particularly interesting to me:

“My teacher is an old cow.” What does this mean? How would you respond, as a teacher, if this were said about you?

The New York Times article This is Your Brain on Metaphors is also interesting. It says that your brain sometimes/often interprets metaphorical things literally.

In a remarkable study, Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto and Katie Liljenquist of Northwestern University demonstrated how the brain has trouble distinguishing between being a dirty scoundrel and being in need of a bath. Volunteers were asked to recall either a moral or immoral act in their past.

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Awesome Syllabus

by Dr Davis on February 3, 2015

WH Auden syllabus 6000 pgs

This is a page from W. H. Auden’s one-semester course that he taught in the 1941-1942 school year at University of Michigan. There were 6,000 pages of reading.

I liked what a (non-academic) friend posted as a comment: “I had a professor tell me once that universities all knew the same ‘dirty secret’: that if you can read, you can teach yourself. Reading voraciously is the key. ‘By including such texts across disciplines – classical and modern literature, philosophy, music, anthropology, criticism – Auden seems to have aimed to educate his students deeply and broadly.'”

Image is from the NY Daily News.

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HOF: Proofreading

by Dr Davis on December 29, 2014

Forumite azuzu: Sorry to confuse you! I will make sure i prof-read what i write and make sure it sounds right. You awnsered all my questions and i will see you at class tomorrow.

Forumite chaosbydesign: Prof-read: To read something and imagine it being said in your professor’s voice. The more errors, the more disapproving the voice will be. (This email was read with a very disapproving voice.)

Forumite profreader: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

from the CHE fora

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Holiday Reading

by Dr Davis on December 27, 2014

I have read 35 novels this break. All for fun, which means short, light, and happy-endings. Well, except for one. It wasn’t particularly long or heavy, but the happy ending was incomplete–that is, everything wasn’t happy ever after.

I have now read sufficient numbers of light reads that I am ready to get back into something more substantial.

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CHE Fora HOF Reading

by Dr Davis on December 13, 2014

computer and glasses closerThe Chronicle of Higher Education fora Hall of Fame has given me some interesting post-final-grading entertainment and ideas. As I read, I will continue to post these.

Note: I am reading backwards through the HOF because… because I am reading backwards.

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Fiction Readers Make Better Lovers

by Dr Davis on November 30, 2014

mic dot com people read fictionThe article on Mic.com doesn’t actually say that.

It does, however, say that “Fiction readers make great friends as they tend to be more aware of others’ emotions.”

Brains are changed when people read!

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SCMLA: Close Reading Toolkit

by Dr Davis on October 25, 2014

Jennifer Sapio
Close Reading Interpretive Toolkit: Transforming how we teach close reading

Graduate student at University of Texas at Austin
Tasked to think about traditional large lecture format, try flipped classroom techniques

Close reading interpretive tool
http://laits.utexas.edu/crit

text associated instructions
handout of crit steps

video, 1 minute, background
3D images
students rush to judgment—How does it connect to my life?
But we want the students to go through the process to examine the text in order to discover how a text creates its meanings.
How does a text create its meanings?

“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1867) by Walt Whitman –steampunk?

Steps:
1. Paraphrase
2. Observe –as many observations as possible. They don’t have to justify why they notice something.
Poem is single sentences
1st 4 sentences start with When
shift from quantity to quality (proofs, figures, charts ?mystical, time to time)
3. Contextualize –important, keeping history in mind illuminates
Whitman’s Transcendentalist beliefs
history
4. Analyze—return to observations, justify, which are most important? Which can string together?
Fourfold When helps convey the static quality of the data-stuffed lecture. Tedium, boring, …
Mood shift from quantity to quality
5. Argue—synthesize an interpretation, one argument built on the evidence gathered in previous steps
6. Reflect
Why is it important that the poem is a single eight-line sentence? And what are we to do with the fact that the astronomer received “much applause” from the audience? Do these facts support our interpretation or challenge it? …

Students at UT are able to access with Get started and electronic id.
Everyone else, adapt this process in paper copy. Did paper for two years until site up.
Database of short passages, searchable.
Students are able to keep the passage at the top of the screen on every step.
Can move between the different steps and able to review and submit.

Methodology:
Gave students a pre-test. No content or skills instruction.

Cold reading poem pre-test they had never seen before. Average was 4.59.
Cold reading poem at the end of the semester. Average was 7.02

STEM students felt this was “more accessible and more objective” because before “English seemed frustratingly abstract” Jason Escandell (TA F2012)

Why is contextualize after observe?
Been talking about it for 3 years.
Not tied to the language of the text. We could contextualize at the beginning. Or at the end to add contextual frame.

After observe and before analyze.

Give students opportunity to make observations without any justification.
By placing contextualize between, hoped it would emphasize the difference between observe and analyze.

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