Before students can process what they’ve learned, they need to analyze the data. In the classroom, this means getting creative with visual data, graphs, or imagery that helps them evaluate the evidence they’ve collected. This can be anything from building out the timeline of a fictional character’s journey to illustrating statistical data uncovered in research to create an infographic. This technique encourages students to ask questions, look for themes, and sets them up well to distill a classic English literature text.
“Decomposing” is a technical term that comes from computer science but is just as important for succeeding in English and language arts. Decomposing problems describes how computers break down large problems into smaller pieces and work toward solutions. Like computers, students must learn to sort out details and reduce complex ideas to analyze a text. To improve writing skills, students can also break down the works of other writers. Decomposition allows students to break down a sentence from Homer or Hemingway, analyze the structure, and apply what they’ve learned.
As any good writer will tell you, a key part of analyzing a text requires noticing patterns. After students have broken down the text into smaller pieces, they are tasked with taking the examples they have collected and making meaning out of them. One of the ways they do so is by finding patterns: What might Shakespeare’s repeated use of birds mean? What does the presence of the green light mean in The Great Gatsby? I love seeing my students’ eyes light up as they put these pieces together. Together, my students and I apply patterns to everything from our analysis of non-fiction text to our English literature discussions.
This is the skill that best sets up students for real-world problem solving. We all know how important it is to distill complex information into easily digestible content, and that’s what I teach my students with the process of “abstracting.” With this component of computational thinking, students sort out details and reduce complex thoughts. Students that can identify the main idea or theme when reading a text and summarize it concisely while writing can build stronger essays and arguments—an important skill in and out of the classroom.
By using the five computational thinking strategies outlined above, students will have the tools to analyze and write about any text, no matter how complex.
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