Making the abstract visible

Literary analysis often lives entirely in intellectual space. When I talk about analysis, however, I often rely on physical metaphors: put the pieces together, hold a magnifying glass over the text, identify the threads that run through the text.

For my recent unit on The House on Mango Street with 8th graders, I made the abstract visual, particularly the concept of thematic threads. Here’s what I did.

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All students speak: Two-minute rotating partner shareout

English is a discussion-based class.  I want students to interact with what we read and, ultimately, to craft their own interpretations.   The class of my dreams involves discussion, debate, questioning, the great back-and-forth that leaves everyone leaning forward in their seat, their eyes completely alive.

But in almost every class, some students learn to lean back, allowing someone else to grapple with a particular concept or tricky passage.  It’s easier, safer to listen.  Truth be told, I’m like this too.

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