Whether you're taking an English class in high school or registered for a literature class in college, learn steps you can take to succeed in your literature class. Listening, reading, and being prepared for your class can make a dramatic difference in how you understand the books, poetry, and stories for your class. Read more about how to succeed in your literature class.
Time Required: Varies.
- Be on time for your literature class.
Even on the first day of class, you might miss out on important details (and homework assignments) when you're even 5 minutes late for class. In order to discourage tardiness, some teachers refuse to accept homework if you're not there when class starts. Also, literature teachers may ask you to take a short quiz, or write a response paper in the first few minutes of class--just to make sure that you read the required reading!
- Buy the books you need for the class at the beginning of the semester/quarter.
Or, if the books are being provided, be sure you have the book when you need to start your reading. Don't wait until the last minute to start reading the book. Some literature students wait to buy some of their books until half-way through the semester/quarter. Imagine their frustration and panic when they find that there aren't any copies of the required book left on the shelf.
- Be prepared for class.
Be sure you know what the reading assignment is for the day, and read the selection more than once. Also, read through the discussion questions before class.
- Be sure you understand.
If you've read through the assignment and the discussion questions, and you still don't understand what you've read, start thinking about why! If you're having difficulty with the terminology, look up any words you don't understand. If you can't concentrate on the assignment, read the selection out loud.
- Ask questions!
Remember: no matter how stupid you may think your question is, there are probably other students in your class who are wondering the same thing. Ask your teacher; ask your classmate; or ask for help from the Writing/Tutoring Center. If you have questions about assignments, tests, or other graded assignments, ask those questions right away! Don't wait until right before the essay is due, or just as the tests are being passed out.
- Bring a pad of paper and several pens with you to class!
Don't run out of paper, and don't rely on just one pen. The ink could dry up, or the pen could stop working. Even if you take notes on your laptop, be sure that you have paper and pens with you. Your laptop battery could run out; or you could have some other inexplicable electronic fiasco.
- Bring the book you're reading with you to class! In a literature class, your teacher may point out specific quotes or passages that he/she wants you to know. Highlight or mark the lines in the book, so you can easily find them later when you're studying for quizzes and tests, or when you're conducting research for your essay.
- Listen carefully to what your teacher says before, during, and after class.
If you know that your attention is likely to wander, purchase a recorder. Make sure that you test the recorder before class. Also, pack extra batteries and tapes/discs, so you won't miss out on any important details of the class discussion.
- Take lots of notes.
Write down as much as you can while you're in class. Jot down specifics related to tests, essays, and other graded assignments. Be sure to note information related to literary history and the author's biography. Take notes on comparisons the teacher makes between different works of literature. Is he/she alerting you to connections you'll need to understand later? Even if you don't think it's important at the time, write it down. Then, look over your notes after class.
- Study for your literature class on a regular basis.
Review your lecture notes, and listen to the tapes/digital recordings of lectures (many students now use their iPod or other small recording device to record the lecture). Flip back through your books. Re-read class handouts. Start thinking about what you're going to write about for your next essay, exam or writing prompt. Organize your notes.
- Start a study group.
Do you have friends who are taking the same class? Have you talked to students that sit next to you in class? Set a date, time, place, and topic to meet with your study group. Make sure the place isn't too noisy, so you won't be distracted. Study groups can meet in a coffee shop, a restaurant, an empty classroom, or a reserved study room in the library. To make the most from your study group, ask each member to prepare specific information.
- Write your papers and assignments well in advance of your due date(s)!
If you wait until the last minute to start your assignment, you will probably be disappointed with your teacher's assessment of your work.
- Don't rely on a computer to correct your paper.
Word processing programs make your essays look great, but you may have missed grammar and spelling mistakes. Make sure to proof specifically for grammar and spelling errors. Correct your mistakes before they affect your grade. Print out your paper. Proof it. Edit it. Read it out loud. And, then ask a fellow classmate/study partner to read the paper for you.
- Pass your essays/homework assignments in on time!
If you know you are going to be late for a class because of your illness, a family emergency, or other catastrophic episode, let your teacher know as far in advance as possible.
Don't worry about reading and writing about literature. If you complete the required assignments to the accepted level and standards, you should be well on your way to understanding and enjoying your literary experience. If you still don't understand the assignments after you've completed the work, get help!
- Read the required books. Then, read any recommended reading materials. Literature teachers often provide a list of books that you must read, and then offer a list of books and other resources that will help you to understand. Pay attention to those recommendations.
- Write about the books. Brainstorm about the books and literature as you're reading it. Keep a reading log, so you can keep track of characters, quotes, and important episodes. Take note of themes, and pay attention to ideas that you think you might want use for an essay.
- Follow directions. Be sure the assignment fulfills the requirements. Also, be sure you're using a standard font, paper size, and margin size.
- Use proper grammar. Don't invent new spellings or create fragmented sentence structures. Be detailed in your writing, and document your sources.
- Don't cheat! Plagiarism does not pay off. Reading literature is more than just about learning about characters and plots. You're learning to make connections with the past, present and future. You're learning about some of the universal themes and concepts that have inspired writers since the beginning of written history.
What You Need
- Required books for the class.
- Pad of Paper.
- Critical Resources.