Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections on Creating the Online Reading Guide

In the comments of this blog post, please write a short reflection about what you observed about writing, learning, literature, audience, communication, reading, teaching, and anything else that you would like to say about creating this collaborative document. (I've enabled anonymous comments if you'd rather comment that way).

Write whatever you'd like, but if you need some questions, one of these may help:

  1. How was this assignment different from others you've done before?
  2. What did you like about this assignment? What worked well? What could use work?
  3. What did you learn that you surprised you? What did you discover? What was illuminated about reading or writing? What were your thoughts about this assignment at the beginning of the semester and how have they changed throughout the course of this work?
  4. How did this assignment help you to think about writing and reading in a new way? Or if it didn't, say more about that. 
  5. What did you think about the author visit? What happened that made you think about the book, about writing, or about writers in a new way?
  6. What did you learn about collaborative writing? About writing or editing in general?
  7. If someone else was doing a similar assignment (creating a collaborative online reader's guide in a college course) what advice would you give them?
  8. Any feedback at all on this assignment would be appreciated. 

14 comments:

  1. For me, this assignment felt different from others that I've done before because of the broad impact of the final product. The reading guide, once finished, was to be published on the internet for the public, which made me think more seriously about how I wanted myself to come across as an author.

    Another difference between this project and others I've done in the past was that the reading guide is strictly about reading the book and reporting back to the class. My personal analysis of the text did not have as much of a place in this particular assignment as it has in most of my past writing for an English class.

    I was surprised at how easy it was for me to read my section of the I-Hotel and create a streamlined overview of the important events in the section.

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  2. This assignment was a good way to make us read a specific section of the novel very closely and very critically. I Hotel was well-suited for this kind of assignment due to the way it was divided into individual novellas. This way, we could really analyze and focus on this one section; by being required to write out a readers guide that other people would be using, I really had to make sure I understood the order of events, the characters and the way they related to each other, and the symbolism and historical references.

    My advice to any other students doing a similar assignment would be to consider what you would want a readers guide to provide you if you were going to be using it in one of your own English classes.

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  3. At first, I thought that creating my section of the Reading Guide would be fairly easy. However, as I worked on my section and as I presented in class, I realized just how much there was to say. Maybe it was partly because this book is so much symbolism, themes, storylines, and historical events, but as I was examining my section of the novel, I realized that there was a lot more to this book than I had originally thought. Though this can probably be said of most well-written books, it still came as a surprise to me that I hadn't even managed to cover all the topics I wanted to touch on by the time the class period ended. Writing the Reading Guide really helped me analyze this novel and go deeper than just the surface. I put a lot of thought into what the author was saying, how she was saying it, and why she was saying it. I probably would not have put as much thought into this novel if it were not for the Reading Guide. Writing the Reading Guide helped me become a better reader because it made me practice critical and analytical reading.

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  5. Overall, I had a great time working on my section of the blog and listening to other students present their sections. The book was a fascinating history of the American Civil Rights Movement from a radically different perspective than what I had read before. Something that I was surprised to learn about myself and the writing process was how difficult it can be to analyze a novella when the topic is something that you haven't had much exposure to the subject in the past.

    My advice for students who are doing something similar in their own writing classes is to learn the historical background of the novel they are reading. It helps a great deal in identifying context and in analysis, when you get to that stage.

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  6. What struck me most while going through the I-Hotel and preparing the book guide was the power of novels to present various historical events. While the ususal books on histroy present the facts in a dry pedantic manner with statistics, I-Hotel depicts the same facts in the form of stories of lives of normal people that the readers can relate to. I-Hotel has allowed me to view literary novels in a completely different light.

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  8. This assingment was differnt than any other I had done in an english class before. Because the book was structured so uniquely it was difficult to follow, making the readers guide a helpful tool for future readers.
    One thing that suprised me about the process of creating the reading guide was how closely I had to read my novella in order to explain the chapters to others. The author often referenced many topics and people in the Asian American community that I was unfamiliar with. The people and pieces of Asian American history that I did not recognize required additional research on my part to understand their contextual usage in my novella. Having the author visit our class was an extremely helpful tool for me, I was actually able to ask her questions directly applicable to my novella and incorporate her answers about questions I had concerning the structure of my section into my portion of the reading guide. If I had one piece of advice for future students and the creation of their own reading guides, it would be to if at all possible correspond with the author.

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  9. The I-Hotel project was definitely something I have never done before and that has its positives and negatives. I personally enjoyed the student run discussions, but because we're students and not professional teachers, meaningful discussion took awhile to come across. However, the discussions we had were very interesting. I-Hotel offers up various themes that range from immigration to love, something that most people in our generation can relate too. Advice I can offer to students doing this assignment is to keep up with the reading, it helps.

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  10. This assignment was very different from most English assignments I've completed. While reading the novel and writing for this reader's guide, I've learned much about Asian American history that I've never covered even in my American studies courses. In terms of writing style, Karen Yamashita's writing style differed greatly from most authors I've read throughout high school. It was refreshing to read and analyze various styles in one novel; each novella presented a challenge in analyzing Karen Yamashita's purpose for structuring each novella.

    Overall, this assignment was an interesting way to engage us, as students, in the novel. If our assignment was just a critical analysis paper, then I doubt I would have learned as much about writing and Asian American history.

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  11. I had never before worked on a collaborative project with an entire class prior to this assignment, and it was an eye-opening experience to have everyone be responsible for one piece of the puzzle. I remember when we started reading this book that we all had trouble juggling the difficulties in understanding the minute details of the book, the historical setting of the book, and simply keeping track of the chronology of the plot and relevant characters. I looked online for reading guides to help with the interpretation of the text, but with no success, as it was only a recently published book and an intimidating one as well. To be able to put together this project was rewarding, and hopefully will serve to better others’ understanding of the novel. While the project is far from comprehensive and “complete,” it was a genuine attempt to extract what Yamashita thought was important, as well as the most resounding quotes that represented the main ideas that were being conveyed.
    Meeting Yamashita herself was critical to putting together the pieces because we finally heard a voice about the novel that wasn’t a narrator, but instead the author herself. She was able to breathe life into the book that we couldn’t derive on our own.
    Overall, this was a unique experience and opportunity, and while challenging, pushed us to higher levels of critical thinking and analysis.

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  12. In all of my educational life, I had been reading the work done by college kids and college professors, in search of primary and secnodary sources. This time, it was my turn to create such a source for students/readers in the future.
    Your thinking changes a little when you are the one creating the "Sparknotes" for a book. You have to ask yourself, "Does this make sense?" "What would readers like to see?" "Am I being clear in the way things are stated?" Putting yourself in someone else's shoes is key.
    Being the student in charge of the author interview, I felt that these questions and concerns mattered even more to me. As the kid who got to speak to the author, I gained a new appreciation for what it was like to create an actual primary source. I had to figure out questions to ask, and I had to be careful not alter any information given to me through her answers.
    I'd say the interview went well. My only regret is not asking more questions, but I was working with a time limit. But hopefully others can learn a lot from what I put together.

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  13. Writing a study guide was a totally new experience for me. I was forced to read the book in a whole new light. I had to simultaneously read the book for my own understand and pick out all the important things I thought others would want to read about in the guide. This lead to me spending an extra amount of time not only reading the book, but looking up every reference I didn't understand, and carefully analyzing certain parts I deemed important.

    All that being said, I believe I-Hotel was a great piece of literature to do this project on. It toyed with different styles of writing, touched upon a large variety of themes, and kept the stories fresh and relatable throughout the different books. The novel itself was very dense, and the only way to successfully get through it would be to break it into smaller pieces and get a through understanding bit by bit. Having my classmates carefully anylze their parts of the text and guide me in understanding them, as well as doing the same at my part helped me really get a good picture of the whole book, rather than seeing it for the few parts I would deem important while reading.

    As a whole, I believe this was a very successful project.I learned a great deal about the book, as well as myself, and the different ways I can analyze literature. There are many different ways to read a single text, each way giving you something different, and seeing all my classmates' methods really enabled me to improve my own.

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  14. 1. How was this assignment different from others you've done before?
    This assignment differed from others just by the format in which we submitted this project. Never have I used blogspot as a format for a classroom project.
    2. What did you like about this assignment? What worked well? What could use work?
    What I liked about this assignment was we got to meet with the author of this story, and try to make future readers of I-Hotel understand this story better and with more depth. What worked well was the format, the breakdown of this book was good in the sense of pure volume and size per person.
    3. What did you learn that you surprised you? What did you discover? What was illuminated about reading or writing? What were your thoughts about this assignment at the beginning of the semester and how have they changed throughout the course of this work?
    What surprised me was the amount of work needed to put into such a book review like sparknotes. Initially, I thought this assignment wouldn’t be so time consuming especially in the understanding the complexity and the interconnectedness these stories share with each other.
    4. What did you think about the author visit? What happened that made you think about the book, about writing, or about writers in a new way?
    I enjoyed it a lot, thought it was something different than writing about some random book. It gave it a more personal touch, knowing that we are analyzing someone’s story that we have met. It showed me that writing can be a lot more creative than just story plot and decription.
    5. If someone else was doing a similar assignment (creating a collaborative online reader's guide in a college course) what advice would you give them?
    Read the story multiple times before even thinking about writing an analysis of the story.

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