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San Diego -- Literary Analysis; Dealing with Dysgraphia

karenanne literary analysis

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#1 KarenAnne

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 09:37 PM

Hi - I am new to these boards but very excited about the whole idea of sharing what I've learned from teaching my daughter and learning from others. I have a PhD in 18th-century British literature, have taught my daughter at home for nine years, would be willing to talk/advise/brainstorm about the teaching of literary analysis, literary history, the history of women's writing (before the modern period), teaching kids about the history of print, the emergence of the professional author, etc.

Note that my approach is not going to be a conventionally classical one. My daughter has Asperger's Syndrome; with it has come many problems in following a traditional curriculum, everything from handwriting trouble to literal thinking, which made (and still make) it almost impossible for her to understand symbolism, metaphorical writing, or the nuances of character development and conflict between characters. But she loves reading classic literature, so I've had to develop a different way of talking about books with her, a more historical, concrete approach that draws on my own academic work with print culture. This is what I'd be happy to share.

My daughter was diagnosed with dysgraphia early on and had terrible, terrible trouble learning to spell. She seemed to be not either a visual or a phonetic speller; on top of this she has fine motor and hand-strength issues. As a result our early years of homeschooling were largely non-textual and I spent long, long hours researching ways to teach that were not pencil-based. I am willing to share information on alternative spelling strategies, non-conventional writing tasks, or just general ways to homeschool a child who is late in writing or who struggles with handwriting physically or developmentally. This seems as though it would be a great topic for a panel discussion of some kind.

#2 missmoe

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Posted 20 January 2010 - 11:22 PM

KarenAnne,

This sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing. I'm looking for others in the Southern CA area to post. Perhaps we could get something together!

#3 KarenAnne

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Posted 23 January 2010 - 01:05 PM

That would be great, and I need whatever happens to include you -- am having the most terrible time with scheduling and sticking to schedule with my middle-school daughter. I am a fairly organized person but she seems to be able to defeat all my efforts, although not from hostility or anything at all negative. I never thought this aspect of it would be so hard. When I see people post about their regulated 8-3 schedules I just cannot imagine how they keep it together!

#4 tcb

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Posted 16 March 2010 - 10:07 AM

Not sure if this question is the sort of advice you are offering but I would really appreciate your thoughts on age appropriate teaching of literary analysis.

I have a dd9 and am not really feeling like I am teaching much in the way of literature. She reads tons and does some reports but I feel at a loss on how to proceed. I wondered if you could give me an idea about what sort of things you would try and introduce/cover at roughly what ages etc.

Thank you so much for any help you can offer. Again sorry if this was not what you were meaning.:)

#5 KarenAnne

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 05:53 PM

Be warned that I am a renegade in these matters; that is, I do not follow a particular curriculum and am guided largely by my daughter's interests.

I did not focus on analysis much at all when my daughter was young (up through around fourth or fifth grade). She was very much plot-driven; her most often used question was, "And then what happened?" She was not at all interested in stepping away from the story enough to ruin the magic of immersion, so I didn't make her. We had casual conversations about what a character would say or do in a certain situation, or how we pictured them in our minds, etc. I have a child who is wildly creative verbally, so when she wrote about books she tended to go off in multiple directions and almost never produced a conventional "book report." She wrote reviews (I'd read her reviews from different sources, including amazon.com, about books I was thinking of buying for her), book jacket copy for imaginary and real books, pretend author bios, letters to favorite authors saying what she had loved about their books, letters from one character to another -- we had a long exchange between characters from the Narnia books. She liked writing alternative endings to fairy tales, and, when she grew older, rewriting a story piece from the point of view of a different character than the narrator or main character in the actual book. A few times we co-wrote satiric versions of picture books or poems. We collected riddles, metaphors, homonyms. We went to book signings by children's authors at our local bookstore and listened to the authors talk about how they got ideas and what it was like to write a book.

She is in eighth grade now, and we're just beginning to do other kinds of analysis because she can bear to tear herself away from total immersion in a fantasy world. She has begun to be interested in how movies are made; previously, this ruined the experience for her just like analyzing how books work did. So now we do things such as: opening a pile of books to read the first sentences to one another, and talking about how the sentence sets the mood and tone of the story; or taking a passage from a story and rewriting it as a thriller, or romance, or journalistic article, etc.; or playing the game Lie-Brary, in which players are given the title and plot summary of a book from a category, and have to write an imaginary first sentence. All the collected sentences are read, along with the real opener, anonymously, and players guess which is the real one. This is great fun, but it also deals indirectly with authorial style, tone, syntax, and conventions (or the breaking of them) in different genres.

One of my plans for the coming months is to have her write a mock booklet giving would-be authors advice about how to write in a certain genre: I think she would have fun listing exaggerated characteristics or stereotypes of spy books, mysteries, tragedies for the stage, etc. Another possible idea would be to have her write a pamphlet for collectors on how to identify a previously undiscovered (but imaginary) manuscript as being by a certain author, one whose work she knows fairly well. I'm thinking of this because she is now saying, "Oh, such and such a writer usually has a sidekick for the hero who does this," or "This writer always starts his books with a nature description," so I think she's ready for it.

When she gets just a bit older, I'm going to have her go on a scavenger hunt through books for convention breakers, moments where authors really surprise her by doing something totally unexpected, where traditional boundaries between genres sometimes get blurred. She's a science fiction lover at the moment, so I can imagine having her go through certain fantasy/science fiction books and try to spot the moment where you first know you're in an alternate universe, for instance.

Because I have a child who is an avid reader and has lots of her own ideas about how to respond to books, I have been loathe to interfere too much or put too much pressure on her to change how she is responding at various developmental moments. High school is early enough to write more formal analysis; and laying the groundwork in earlier years can take many shapes.

Does this help AT ALL? Feel free to PM me if you have other questions or comments.

#6 Kareni

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 08:18 PM

I enjoyed your post very much, KarenAnne. Thanks for sharing some of the things you and your daughter do.

Regards,
Kareni

#7 tcb

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 10:25 AM

What a wonderful, helpful reply KarenAnne. I've read it through several times and will have to read it several more times to take in all the details. It's really set me thinking. Thanks very much.