close; reading; workshop
Close reading is an in-depth analysis of a text’s features (e.g., syntax, punctuation, tone, and vocabulary) to acquire a comprehensive understanding of a piece of literature. At the National Council of Teachers of English Conference in 2001, Robert Scholes, a retired professor of English at Brown University, voiced his concern about the lack of ability in freshly enrolled college students to engage with the intricacy of texts. Jane Gallop, Professor of English at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, further argues the interdisciplinary benefits of close reading and attests to the consequences of students’ inability to perform intense reading of literature. As a student in the undergraduate department of English at the University of Rhode Island (URI), I notice a similar lack of close reading skills in my peers. My peers struggle to use the text as evidence in their arguments. In addition, I observe that the absence of developed close reading skills limits students’ capability to properly interpret and engage with texts in a multidimensional and dynamic manner. Most importantly, I notice the effects of undeveloped close reading skills on students’ academic success.
I conducted close reading workshops to address the lack of close reading skills in the URI student body. The workshop collected scientific data to test my observation that the URI student body has insufficient close reading skills, and also collected data on the effectiveness of the workshop itself. The objectives of the workshop were to a) measure current close reading skills in the subjects, b) promote the practice of close reading skills, and c) re-measure the students’ close reading abilities after attending the workshop to determine the workshop’s effectiveness. 50+ students attended the workshops. In the workshop, students read a piece of poetry together and then completed a survey to test their comprehension of the text. Afterwards, the students closely read the text with the coordinator and then retook the same survey again to measure any differences in students’ comprehension of the text before and after the close reading workshop.