Character Analysis Chart – Free Printable helps teens and tweens keep track of characters, relationships, and influence on the plot with this FREE Character Analysis Chart.
Sabrina Justison’s philosophy of teaching literature to teens and tweens:
Some kids are natural bookworms; some are not. There is no right or wrong answer to the question, “Do you LOVE to read??” But homeschoolers pretty much universally agree that teens and tweens need to read books. Why is it important for our kids to read books – good books, and sometimes even hard books! – and what are ways we can help them engage in the process, gaining rich learning from it…even if they are not naturally bookworms?
Here’s a thought: A book is nothing unread.
Something amazing happens when a reader opens an author’s book. It’s not simply that the author’s words are released from captivity. Instead, much more than that happens.
The author’s words are released and brought into an encounter with the reader. The ideas, experiences, settings, characters and relationships that poured out of the author’s mind and onto the page meet up with all that has been a part of the reader’s life to that point. Anything might happen in such a meeting!
How can we encourage our kids to read classic literature, help them actually get something worthwhile out of it, but also be honest enough to validate any frustrations they feel, and help them move beyond that frustration to something like satisfaction with the experience?
As our kids grow from early readers to late elementary school reading assignments, we focus a lot of attention on READING COMPREHENSION, right? Vocabulary must be mastered. Simple devices like symbolism or personification must be introduced. We have them answer questions to make sure they are following the plot. We have them draw pictures when they are young and write papers when they are older describing characters and their relationships with one another…all so that they will be able to understand what they are reading. And these are all good things – don’t get me wrong!
Comprehending what you read is absolutely vital to success as a student, and even to success in life as an adult. But there is a lot more to reading than comprehension. In fact, comprehension is only the FIRST level of a reader’s grasp of a book.
Reading for Interpretation is another layer, a deeper level of interaction with a book. When we read for interpretation, we are trying to understand the book IN LIGHT OF a particular idea. How different might it be to read Harper Lee’s classic story of the challenge to overcome prejudice in the Great Depression era American south if you were not encouraged to keep the idea of “prejudice and its damage to society” in mind as you read? Sometimes all it takes is a simple mention of an idea on which to focus; teens don’t need to find every single instance of prejudice causing damage, but they may benefit from some gentle direction to keep their eyes open and pay attention when they do encounter it.
Inferential Reading adds another experience and set of skills. When we read for inference, we gain knowledge from the book and then reach a conclusion based on that knowledge. We try to predict what will come next, thinking about cause and effect. We ponder a character’s motives that are not clearly spelled out for us. The conclusion one person reaches may be vastly different from the conclusion reached by another reader.
It needs to be okay for a young person to learn something different from the book than what I learned, as long as he or she can take a reasonable stab at sharing with me HOW that conclusion was reached. Teens should get full credit for using their brains as they read, even if they reach an unusual conclusion!
Reading for Evaluation is yet another type of reading. When we evaluate a book, we determine its worth. This is a highly subjective process, and it can be empowering for students who are NOT natural bookworms when we teach them to evaluate a book and encourage them to articulate their conclusions.
The worth of book can be defined in countless ways. Pick one, and ask your student to evaluate it in light of a particular question. Questions like, “Even if you didn’t like this book, was it filled with vivid descriptions of a time and place you didn’t know much about before?” or “You may not have liked it, but did it give you a new understanding of the roots of Communism in the Soviet Union?” For extra layers of learning, you can give students a couple of different scales and ask them evaluate the book based on the two or three different sets of parameters. Often kids who thought a book was “stupid” will have a new way of thinking open up to them when they are asked to evaluate a book.
The literature guides I’ve written for 7Sisters attempt to lead tweens and teens into new types of reading experiences beyond simple comprehension, building skills for interpretation, inference and evaluation. In my experience with my own kids (some of whom were NOT bookworms!) and with hundreds of teens in our local homeschool community, these guides usher even reluctant readers into new levels of engagement with really good books.
I was thrilled to have Cathy Duffy review my American Literature study guide bundle and earn her glowing endorsement. You can read Cathy’s review here:
For some great info on specific ways to increase your student’s engagement with literature check out these resources on the 7Sisters website:
Over the years, this workshop I’ve taught to homeschool parents on successful ways to teach literature to teens has been really well-received. You can get the full transcript of my teaching on this topic in PDF format.
Printables for summarizing a book or analyzing a character – great for visual learners!
Have you thought about using a few movies as opportunities for literary analysis? Yes, it can be a legitimate way to learn in high school! Here’s how:
Do you have concrete, black-and-white, or literal thinkers who really struggle with moving to the deeper levels of understanding literature? This blog post may help:
Are you unsure about literature study guides altogether…like, isn’t reading good books enough? This episode of The Homeschool High School Podcast will give you a fresh perspective:
Like podcasts? There are SO MANY episodes of The Homeschool High School Podcast just waiting to encourage and equip you for the adventure! Check out the full library of episodes here at The Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network…and see if some of the other awesome podcasts there might also be worth a listen!
If you feel uneasy about the basic requirements for homeschooling through high school, or want to read up on the most common transcript must-haves, Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has been offering current information and helpful data to homeschool families for decade in addition to providing legal defense for homeschoolers. Learn more about homeschooling high school with confidence at HSLDA’s website.
And finally, if you’d like some ideas from a terrific homeschool high school mom whose blog offers WONDERFUL resources, visit my friend Marcy Crabtree at BenAndMe.com.