Knowing Your Students Blogging: A Personal Response

Thematic shifts and Blogging

February 22nd, 2008 FrancoisGuidry

            Over the past five weeks, the entire class has responded to various readings using a blog.  Each of us has shared personal experiences and chosen specific passages to critique and analyze.  Reviewing my posts over the first several weeks of the semester, a few key themes and patterns clearly emerge.  My blog entries have focused exclusively on the question of “valid” textual interpretations and the need to help students tackle traditionally difficult works of literature.  The pattern of analysis used in these posts follows a two-tiered structure.  The first part of each post is a short summary and a theoretical response.  After defining the issue in more general terms, the remainder of each blog entry blends personal experience with the theoretical approaches explored in the reading.

Creating meaning and judging interpretations is a dominant theme throughout my blog posts.  My exploration of the concept begins with a response to Robert Crosman’s Do Readers Make Meaning and his refutation of New Criticism.  Predictably, the response to this article begins as a summary and ends with personal and practical applications.  Using a personal example about literary interpretation allows me to move into teaching experience.  The blog entry from that week emphasizes the confusion over the issue and concludes with an analytical conclusion that “evidence is the key to determining validity”(Week 4).

Although the structure of the response is similar during Week 5, the actual progression of thought regarding textual interpretation slightly changes.  The idea of using the text as the basis for interpretation remains, but there is a new focus on discussion.  Textual support is important, but classroom debate and discussion also enter the equation.  According to my Week 5 posting, “Even more frustrating was the teacher’s decision to move on to another text without any discussion.”  Once again, a personal example is used to expand upon the discussion over “valid” or “invalid” meaning.  This shift in argument is partly a response to Blau’s text and also a result of discussion about interpretation during the class.  Consequently, my view of interpretation moves from strictly textual to one that includes discussion and debate.  This shift is likely a result of direct writing.  When tackling a single subject through repeated writing assignments and analyses, new insights and details are often discovered and integrated into the approach.

The other major theme that is apparent in my blog posts is the concept of difficulty and the strategies students use to negotiate a complex work of literature.  My first response to this topic involved a broad assessment of the problem and the need for students to defer meaning.  As my Week 1 post indicates, my approach to the issue was one-dimensional.  Students should simply skip over difficult material. Framing this argument through my experience as a teacher I state, “I always tell my classes to avoid getting stuck at any one point in a reading” (Week 1).  At this point, there is little depth provided.  This point was clarified and further explained in subsequent postings.

Fortunately, the posts generated a number of comments from other students.  One of the class members, Edith, asked, “If we tell students to just skip over the tough parts and aim for the overall meaning, are we skipping a step in the reasoning process?” (Week 2).  My peers were concerned that my one-dimensional “skip until later” approach was a quick shortcut for difficult texts. Using these comments, I was able to more fully expound upon my argument and define it as only a preliminary strategy for novice readers.  This refinement took place within the “comments” section.  Student interaction was vital in shaping my argument and redefining the technique of deferral.

Clearly, the process of blogging has created some noticeable shifts in my thoughts and responses to teaching literature.  The comments and discussions from other students have proven invaluable to my own growth as a learner and teacher.  The constant need to construct written responses while interacting with both texts and peers forces me to critically evaluate my opinions and interpretations.  It is not sufficient to simply share an experience.  As the changes in my blog posts indicate, integrating textual support and comments is vital to uncovering meaning and shaping my approach to the teaching of literature.

–Francois Guidry

Entry Filed under: Week 6

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ENGL 610:002 // Spring 2008

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