Collaborative Learning Projects

Approaches to Reading Literature

12/16/13 I’m finally getting around to resurrecting this project online and you can follow the progress at the link above. It will take a while to post all the essays from both runs of the project, but a number of them from the first run are up and you can see how the site will be organized.


Formerly called Excerpts, this collaborative site was developed for an in-house grant from my previous institution’s Education department that encouraged faculty to infuse courses with technology–it was funded by a Links to the Future grant that they had won. The idea was that it would be a teaching site that could be used over and over. I did use it twice, with some changes the second time after lessons learned. I changed the name because the requirement to post excerpts from resources about the works was eliminated from the second use. I felt we were getting too close to violating copyright, even though we cited our sources and kept the excerpts very small.

The main purpose for this project, conducted in a first-year Western Classics course, was to have students learn that literature could support multiple interpretations, and that there are ways of reading that support different interpretations. I wanted to counter the idea that there are correct interpretations of literature, and I wanted students to have a toolbox of reading approaches, or reading lenses, as they were called on the site.

As noted about another web project in the Composition section, sites that I originally published through my dotMac/Mobile Me accounts are no longer available. Like that other project, I will be moving the content from its former site to a Google Sites wiki some time this year, at which time I will make the project title a link to the site.

The first time I did this project, students submitted work to me and I created all the pages. I soon learned that this was less effective than having them do that work. In the second run of the project, students created their own pages and I published them. This was more effective and helped me develop a project in one of my composition courses (American Labor Crises). In groups of five, students chose one work that we were reading during the ten-week term and had to write three essays using three different critical approaches. Every group had to use a Reader-Response approach and could choose two others. I emphasized the Reader-Response approach, because I think it gives new readers the sense that their understanding and point of view is valid in interpretation.