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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Engagement with literature through writing : examining the ongoing written responses of adolescents Kooy, Mary


This study examined the written responses of seven adolescents to three novels. During the course of two school years, the students recorded their ongoing responses to small sections (ten to fifteen pages) of each novel in a response log. These responses were examined for evidence of patterns, typical responses, individual variations, and the effects of narrative structure. The Purves and Rippere instrument was used to determine response patterns while a new instrument developed by the researcher to accomodate the nature of the preliminary, ongoing responses was implemented to address the remaining three questions. The following general observations were made: 1. No predictable, sequential pattern of response could be found in student response writings. 2. Certain responses predominated: namely, narrational retelling, tentative frameworklng of the content, and analysis of characters and events 3. The written responses were generally characterized by considerable variation in individual responses. 4. Texts bearing distinct narrative features prompted different responses both for individuals and the group as a whole. Conclusions: The effects of writing during the reading of literary texts appears to bring response to a clear, conscious level. Writing in the response log encourages a conscious transaction with the literary text and consequently, readers can engage more actively and knowledgeably in the reading experience. Some broad conclusions and implications emerged from the study: 1. Particularly as they encounter complex literary works, adolescents should be encouraged to engage actively and consciously in their reading of literature by recording their ongoing responses in a log. 2. Teachers ought to promote the development of personal literary responses that require active thinking through testing hypotheses, making connections and interpreting the literary content 3. By purposefully structuring active meaning-making in the study of literature, teachers can determine the student needs and create the context for meaningful discussion. Moreover, by publicly sharing the contents of the response logs, all class members can contribute to and enhance their responses. Using writing to gauge the ongoing literary response allows both students and their teachers to be consciously aware of the "sense-making" strategies employed. As the medium for critical reading, writing promotes tentative, flexible construction of meaning. Furthermore, the instrument developed for analyzing the ongoing student responses in this study provides both a way to consciously examine the content of written responses and exposes alternative responses in order to extend understanding and appreciation of literature.

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