Topic | Literature discussions (high school)

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  • ErinD
    Participant

    I take a read-and-discuss approach to literature in my homeschool (mostly) but I am having a hard time getting anything out of my boys during discussion time. I don’t really like to ask leading questions; I want to know what THEY get out of a book or what they think of it. But lately, all I’m getting is whether they like it or not, and how far through the book they are. They really have nothing to say beyond that.

    I know I could look up free lit guides online to give me ideas of questions to ask, but that’s not really what I’m after. I’m pretty sure those types of questions would be met with blank stares.

    I guess I am wondering if it’s *okay* that they don’t really want to talk about all their books. They both write good essays about literature, they can identify literary elements and we study short stories and poetry during the year. *I* never discuss books with anyone, unless there is something particularly interesting that I want to share. They definitely will not need literary analysis skills for college (trades). So does it matter?

    Some books lend themselves well to discussion, like Animal Farm or The Hiding Place, and I had more luck with those two. But some books are just entertainment, so what is there to discuss? I don’t want to ruin it for them by forcing them to tell me about them.

    Thoughts?

    Monica
    Participant

    I have to laugh because this is exactly how my boys are.

    For my oldest, who is now 17, we were fortunate to have a co-op that had a literary analysis and writing class for high schoolers.  He did that for three years.  If that was not available, I would look for or start a book club for high schoolers.  While I understand and respect that teenage boys often don’t like to discuss literature (especially with parents), I think the opportunity to look more deeply into literature is a valuable experience.

    I can’t imagine, for example, reading To Kill a Mockingbird in high school without further discussion about race, class and social inequality, justice, etc.  When my son read Jane Eyre, there were many opportunities to discuss relationships, moral and religious beliefs, and class.  Again, these are things he would not have talked about, may have even glossed over, but gave him a deeper appreciation for the book and a broader knowledge of life, morality, and relationships.

    I’ll be watching for something in the next few years for my now 13YO.  Because he is not as much of a book lover, I think finding an appropriate fit for him will be even more challenging.

    Melanie32
    Participant

    Hi Erin! I’ve been wanting to reply to your question but have just now found the time to sit down at the computer for a few minutes. I read new posts on my phone but hate to respond on my phone. 🙂

    Anyhowdy, I wouldn’t push it if it were me. I figure everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the most important thing for me is that my kids enjoy their books and form relationships with them. Not everyone is cut out for lit analysis, especially not all teenage boys ;-). I know my son wasn’t! He gave me good narrations and wrote wonderful narrations but hated literary analysis so I just didn’t force the issue.

     

    ErinD
    Participant

    Thanks so much, Melanie! That is the conclusion I had come to on my own, but it’s nice to hear someone else say it and feel validated. If I force discussion, they just hate it, and yes, sometimes you just like a book and leave it at that. I have noticed though, that my oldest son (now 17) has really improved in his ability to talk about literature since he started high school. I used to ask him questions and he would be a blank stare and now he actually sometimes has things to say (not all the time). So, there is something to be said for practice and maturity.

    missceegee
    Participant

    We have utilized Center for Lit Socratic discussion classes for our 15 yo son who doesn’t enjoy reading.  It’s been a good balance for us.  Read and narrate or occasionally use Study.com to better understand some aspect and a once a month (once per book) 2 hour discussion class where they do an in depth literary analysis together along with some online forum discussion.  Right now he’s taking their American Lit course.  He does the discussion only portion, but they offer writing sections, too

    I know they have materials for home use, too, but we’ve not utilized those.

    Claire
    Participant

    Erin, I vote “yes, it’s enough” because of the end goals you have set and the great work they do. Literary analysis is like beating a dead horse for those of us who love it too. If that makes sense? It’s also highly subjective and takes forever to be interesting at (notice I didn’t say good, I said interesting meaning that you’re at a level of expertise people want to listen to you wax on elgoqently) lol.

    ErinD
    Participant

    Thanks! Yes, I agree. One can get “interesting” at it, for sure!

    missceegee
    Participant

    To quote Monica above

    I can’t imagine, for example, reading To Kill a Mockingbird in high school without further discussion about race, class and social inequality, justice, etc.  When my son read Jane Eyre, there were many opportunities to discuss relationships, moral and religious beliefs, and class.  Again, these are things he would not have talked about, may have even glossed over, but gave him a deeper appreciation for the book and a broader knowledge of life, morality, and relationships.

    I agree with this statement completely.  In no way do I think every book needs dissecting, but there are some that you will get much much more out of by digging a little deeper. IMO Socratic discussion is a pretty painless way to go about that on your own or in a group setting and I have to say our experience has been good, not just interesting. For us it is not beating a dead horse.   I’ll also add that my sophomore in college found Socratic discussion and the literary analysis we did at home of huge benefit in English and humanities courses. Again we didn’t do this with every book, but for the college bound or those unsure yet wanting their kids prepared just in case (my 15 yo) – some experience with this is very helpful before it’s “required”. Free reading at my house is just that with nothing else required unless they bring it up   That’s definitely important to keep imo, especially for kids who don’t like reading like my son

    I should amend my earlier statement to say I have used Socratic principles and questions learned from Center for Lit in our co-op Shakespeare studies very effectively.  I’ve simply not applied them to other works we study on our own.

    missceegee
    Participant

    A bit more info about Socratic discussion that may or may not be of interest. https://www.centerforlit.com/blog/2018/3/26/on-getting-the-right-answers-to-socratic-questions

    Paula Spicer
    Participant

    Not to take away from the original thread, but could I get more info on the centerforlit.  I’ve looked over the website and its a little pricey but may be worth it.  My daughter is starting dual enrollment in fall and has never had a “real” literature program, and I’m kind of worried that she will struggle (she’s 14).

    Should I just start with the seminar first and then try some of their classes?  I saw that some people were able to take free classes over the summer, but couldn’t find anything on their website about that.

    missceegee
    Participant

    Paula, for the classes, I like that the lit analysis is tackled as a group in one two hour session per book and the teachers are great at guiding the discussion, IMO.  My teens have each done one year of the junior high discussion and the American Lit high school class and my 18 yo did one year of the writing with American Lit.  My 11 year old bookworm/writer has done one year of discussion with writing. For my 15 yo son who is NOT a bookworm, he may do one more year at some point, but he hs a good grasp to not be thrown for a loop should he choose to go to college even if we don’t do another year. For my 11 yo, she LOVES the discussions about the Lit and it has helped her writing, too.

    I know center for Lit has offered some free summer courses, but we’ve never been free at that time.  They are very responsive via email.  I know you can do only one semester if you want. Don’t miss class one teaching the method with picture books.

    Their Teaching the Classics teaches you how to have a Socratic discussion & do the analysis together.  It can be a great resource if you want to go on your own. They offer Ready Readers that have more info for different titles to help you lead, too. I’m not familiar personally with them though.

    Hope that helps.

    Paula Spicer
    Participant

    It does, thank you.  I think I will contact them and ask their advice on whether to sign her up for fall or not.  With her starting her first college English class, I don’t want to pile to much on her, but this looks like something we would be interested in.

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