It can be difficult to get students to close read texts, but sometimes more difficult to *teach* students to close read texts. For many of us, the skill is simply something we have been doing for so long that we have no memory of learning to do it ourselves. The fact that it becomes second-nature can make it difficult to gain the critical distance necessary to develop a pedagogical plan. While there are many approaches to teaching close reading (which can and should be used together rather than a unilateral approach), my favorite way to iniate students is to use videoANT the very first week of classes.
My classes use Canvas as an online platform. I introduce students to videoANT in class where we will annotate a video together (usually, if I'm being honest, it's Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" video because there is just *so much* going on). These preliminary annotations are low-stakes and rooted in individual viewing habits--what interests you? Where are you most shocked? What and where is your strongest reaction?. As the quarter progresses, I ask them to return to these preliminary reactions and start fleshing them out into actual analysis. Below, I've included a single Canvas Discussion Board activity I've found sucess with. You will note that the second half is an add-on I use later in the quarter to prepare them for a formal writing assignment:
One of the tools we will be using in this class is "videoANT." I am hoping that we can all be signed up for an account by the end of our first class session together, but if not, please follow this link and both register and familiarize yourself with the website. By Wednesday, April 2nd, post your first annotated video on this discussion page. While you will be required to comment on peers' videos at a later date, you should feel free to do so at any time on these discussion boards.
Here's the video we viewed in class: https://ant2.cehd.umn.edu/mrmgehlcgm
After having gone over Booker and Wolf's articles together, I want you to turn your attention to inhabiting each of these authors' rhetoric. Choose one of your peer's videos to annotate (so don't work on your own video upload), adding one annotation as if you were Booker and one as if you were Wolf. Push yourself to make a comment that is not only consistent with the author's argument, but also with their word choice and tone. These annotations will be due Monday at midnight. Re-upload the link to your newly annotated video as a reply to the original posting.
This second discussion board post is used to scaffold into a formal essay assignment where they might compose a full letter exchange between Mark Wolf and M. Keith Booker about a text of their choosing. With the "Redux" assignment, students are asked to both close read the text and begin to structure an intertextual exchange, applying seemingly disparate sources to a single primary text for analysis.
Overall, I've found this activity to be both fun and effective. Given that this is also from a pop culture class, it also gets them to critically engage pop culture texts from the very beginning.