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I find the groups and even some of the question and answers to be very helpful because they offer a wide variety of interpretation. I love reading responses to Dracula that I have never thought of, or reading someone highlight a section or scene I thought was just trivial but make a connection that really causes it to shine and be poignant within the narrative. It also helps as a teacher to see the common questions students have about a certain work. It helps me prepare lessons if I see over and over again, "what is the theme of this..." or my favorite, "why is Macbeth one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies?" These questions and discussion groups really help me get a plan underway, accounting for and incorporating these questions into my lessons and plans so that I do go over them, clearly and concisely. I guess in short, I find using the discussion groups and the question and answer section of e-notes very helpful for planning and getting a good idea of where my students may struggle if I make up a new unit.
I find the Study Guide section of enotes extremely helpful.
The guides amount to comprehensive and academically sound literary criticism, and they're available with a couple of clicks. The guides are written with high academic standards. They educate as well as help me clarify my thinking. They offer a consensus view that once in a while corrects my thinking and keeps me from making a fool of myself.
The number of works available is fantastic, too. I've found criticism on almost everything I've ever tried to look up.
Of course, the guides are only one source of criticism and are not any kind of final authority--something that doesn't exist. But they are extremely helpful.
The spirit of collaboration and online forums predicated upon discussion and thought, alluded to previously, helps to create a sense of meaning in enotes. I think that this is one way where groups are vitally essential. To be able to compare and amplify ideas and beliefs on different topics posted helps to enhance the community setting and also drives the idea of scholarship through technology. Students, and all learners, are able to gain much when a literature sample is commented upon and discussed in divergent ways. New paths of perceptions are opened, and previous thoughts can endure examination and reflection. This helps to make learning more relevant and enhances the notion that participatory scholarship is how an academic community thrives.
The wide variety of information--group discussions, specific questions and answers, study guides, etexts with modern translations for Shakespearean plays, literary criticisms are extremely helpful in clarification and well as in verification of a student's own ideas. In addition, reading the enotes summaries, character analyses, etc. help a student to generate new ideas and make connections to the text, as well as providing him/her a quick revision of a text he/she has read.
When I read the questions students ask, it gives me new ideas for my own class. Also, I find new ideas in many of the resources. For example, the etext or essential passages. The document exchange is helpful, although I wish it were easier to search. In short, I think that enotes makes me a better teacher and it will continue to give me an opportunity to grow in the works I teach and explore new ones. It also gives me an opportunity to discuss topics and works I love but do not teach.
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