Literary Analysis Meets Design Thinking

Students analyze text through the build-out of 3D kinetic structures.
This was not your typical English class assignment. But then, this was a course that was all about approaching topics and ideas from fresh new angles.

“The class is a senior English elective entitled ‘Rewriting History,’” says Aaron Snyder, the teacher of the course, as well as a Latin teacher and the faculty head of the Los Padres dorm. “The concept of the class is based on the notion of perspective—the idea that the same story can look very different from a different viewpoint.”

One of the books that the class read was Grendel by John Gardner, a retelling of the Beowulf story from the perspective of the first monster that Beowulf slays. Instead of writing an essay on the book, students were divided up into groups of three or four and asked to represent their analysis of the text through three-dimensional, kinetic build-outs, accompanied by a written component. In the written component, students outlined their interpretation and analysis of the key building blocks of the story and shared an “artist's statement” that offered a defense of their choices and their process in creating their 3D structure.

The students’ work was supported by the materials and resources available in the new Library Project Studio, where they spent a week both inside and outside of class time developing and realizing their creations.

“We were excited to host Aaron Snyder’s class in the Library Project Studio,” said Renee Hawkins, the new director of library services and educational technology. “It’s exactly the kind of work we want to encourage and we hope more classes find ways to take advantage of the space. The final projects represented a range of ideas and approaches to the book. Equally impressive was the level of creativity and collaboration that went into their projects.”

On presentation day, students unveiled a wide range of creations that integrated text from the novel into structures built with a host of multimedia materials, including cardboard, fabrics, wire, paper, clay, and even one that was built using Minecraft, a computer game in which users can design and construct their own virtual landscapes.

Mr. Snyder concluded: “Throughout the project, students were sketching out their reading of the novel, asking questions, going back to the text, trying to dig deeper and deeper in terms of analysis and artistic representation.”

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