What Methods Encourage Critical Thinking About Literature?


    What Methods Encourage Critical Thinking About Literature?

    In our quest to uncover effective strategies for fostering critical thinking in literature, we've gathered insights from esteemed professors and teachers. From summarizing and questioning research papers to sparking analysis through interactive read-alouds, discover the top four methods they've successfully implemented with their students and peers.

    • Summarize and Question Research Papers
    • Explore Emotional and Rational Responses
    • Provoke Views with Challenging Questions
    • Interactive Read-Alouds Spark Analysis

    Summarize and Question Research Papers

    In our research group, we encourage students to approach existing literature using a few key steps. When they read the abstract of a published journal or conference paper, they should be able to describe in a single line what the work is about. When they read the Introduction section, they should come up with a few questions, the answers to which they expect to find in the rest of the paper. Using this thought exercise to ask questions helps them to understand and maintain interest in reading the rest of the paper.

    Finally, we ask our students to come up with new ideas once they have read and understood the existing research paper. Students typically find this last step daunting; however, once they understand that not every idea generated needs to be an award-winning idea, they ease into this step. Students learn to think about existing literature in unique ways and through different perspectives.

    Sanghamitra Roy
    Sanghamitra RoyProfessor, Utah State University

    Explore Emotional and Rational Responses

    I always encourage my students to explore two questions about any given literary text. In the process of reading, they ask themselves:

    • Why do I feel the way I do as I read this text?
    • Why do I think the way I think as I read this text?

    These two questions enable them to ascertain both the affective and rational impact of a text and also encourage them to think or rethink their own assumptions about a given text and hence also beyond the text.

    These two seemingly simple questions cover the two ways we experience the texts (emotionally and rationally) and help us cover the nature and construction of our own affective and rational responses to literary texts.

    If practiced repeatedly over a semester, the students will not only start reading more carefully but will also feel encouraged to examine and, maybe, alter their modes of receiving and interpreting literary texts.

    Dr. Masood RajaTeacher

    Provoke Views with Challenging Questions

    A frequent way of piquing interest in any topic of discussion is to provide questions that provoke their views. To begin with, I often start with a strong statement that ascribes to one end of the spectrum of views on the topic. If there is support for this view, then I take the position of the devil's advocate and swing questions that are part of the other end of the spectrum. This way, I can provide probing questions on whatever side the students take on any topic.

    Typically, students have diverse views, and I end up providing them with questions, logic, reasons, and sources like books, podcasts, and articles that help them refine their positions. I close such discussions with the quote: 'There is no truth - it's my truth and your truth.' The journey of building one's own truth involves critical thinking on a topic, embellished with logic, facts, and perspective.

    Ankur BhatnagarProfessor of Economics

    Interactive Read-Alouds Spark Analysis

    As a teacher, one of my favorite ways to spark critical thinking during storytime is through interactive read-aloud sessions. I carefully select captivating picture books that align with my students' interests and reading levels, such as "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. During the reading, I pause frequently to ask thought-provoking questions like, "Why do you think the tree gave everything to the boy?" or "How do you think the boy's feelings changed over time?" This encourages my students to make connections, infer meanings, and share their insights about the story.

    After finishing the book, I often use visual aids such as story maps or character diagrams to help students visualize story elements. We engage in creative activities like drawing scenes or rewriting endings, which prompt students to analyze and interpret the text in unique ways. Through collaborative discussions, I strive to cultivate a strong foundation of critical thinking skills early on, enabling my students to progressively refine and expand these abilities as they advance through their education. By modeling critical thinking during these sessions, I aim to nurture a deeper appreciation for literature and empower my students to become thoughtful readers and thinkers, setting them on a path towards lifelong learning and analytical thinking.

    Tina Salmanowitz
    Tina SalmanowitzEducator - Founder of LMU, Little Monsters Universe