Please note, this replaces your individual book clubs. Let's return to our original question of the semester: how are the novels we read this semester literature? How are theyYoung? How how are they Adult? And, one more thing: what does it tell us, as folks who teach, about what really matters in the ELA classroom?
Respond, as (most) of you have been, to your colleagues thoughtfully.
In 300 words, respond to this week’s Teaching Discussion prompt: This is the only text we are reading this semester that is aimed at the middle-school reader. It is also a graphic novel. Consider our test class and outline how you might teach the text you read this week, consider why it would be great to teach, how it would be hard to teach. Be ready to respond meaningfully (roughly 100-200 words) to at least one other classmate.
My Nephews love graphic novels. It's turned them from tepid readers to avid ones. There is always pushback from somebody about this, folks who say things like "I wish they'd read real books". That's nonsense. Reading is reading. So let's start from that place as you respond to this prompt. Thing of it this way: what is suddenly possible with a graphic novel that is not possible with a novel that is exclusively text? How can using visuals in a classroom--graphic novels, film, television, art, photos--in the ELA classroom help our students become better readers of all “texts?"
Next, consider our class: You are teaching a class of 30 8th graders at Whitman Middle School. The class you are teaching is majority white. There are two students who identify as African-American. Just over ½ of the class are young women.Your classroom is well-equipped. Students have ipads for use in the classroom and all of the students have internet access at home as well as at school. You have a number of students on IEPs ranging from high-functioning spectrum to ADHD mix.
This novel is an example of "genre fiction" (as opposed to literary fiction) in addition to being YA. In your post to the discussion board this week, in 300 words, discuss how the conventions of this genre (fantasy) work with or against the conventions we see in YA. How could reading a novel like Barren Ground connect young people to the kinds of texts typically taught in a high school classroom? How could it connect young readers (or any readers) to our actual world?
Barren Ground is certainly written for a YA audience. I think you will find many of the kinds of themes we've been talking about all semester long (a relationship to authority, like parents, often antagonistic, coming of age/loss of innocence, the experience of "firsts") . However, Barren is also an example of another genre--fantasy. As genre's go, this is a pretty popular one for all ages. Many of you are avid readers of the genre. I have to admit, I'm not really. I could barely get through The Lord of the Rings bbooks.
No, most of my high level nerd cred comes from an unflagging devotion to the original Star Wars. Though I've come to believe that Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie ever made (it wasn't a boy who saved the universe--it was a girl!).
Anyway, I'll be very curious what you have to say about this novel in terms of what fantasy allows you to talk about and connect to with students as readers and writers.
You are working with 11th graders at Bridgewater Raynham. We taught a 9th grade class early on in the semester. Let's use the same profile for the class, but place them in 11th grade--I think that's a good age range for this novel. And, to be clear, there is a lot more going on in it, as you will see, than horror/fantasy.
Our Test Class for the Week: I'm returning to Brockton High, the single largest high school east of the Mississippi that is not in New York or New Jersey. You can check out the information about the high school in general from that post.
I would love to see this novel taught in a College Prep 12th grade class. Their are certain elements of this novel about young adults that I think will resonate with seniors in college (the main characters are that age or a little older) and, also, the subject matter needs a class of more mature students to manage.
Your Prompt: For this prompt, I have a very specific question for you, a two parter. Question 1: what would you do in a classroom, what assignments, structures, class activities, assessments, etc would you design to help your students be better readers of other texts they might encounter in school and beyond? Question 2: What would you do, assignments, structures, etc. to help students develop a meaningful thematic relationship with this specific text, the story and its characters.
You can privilege answering one or the other of the two parts, but I would appreciate it if you at least in passing address both parts of the prompt.
Poetry & the Student Writer
Teaching poetry to young readers and writers can be challenging and also exciting. Your prompt this week asks you to think about how you would engage students with poetry.
This Week’s Prompt: This week you are working with a 12th grade English class that meets the outcomes for the International Baccalaureate Programme. Th IB is sort of like an internationally recognized version of AP. You can read about it here. Some quick facts about Brockton High (from Wikipedia, so, you know, grain of salt) and in general:
And now a word from everyone's favorite giant and many people's beloved poet, Fezzick. . .
WHAT TO DO: One of the ways we help our students be writers and readers is to ask them to write the kinds of texts we are asking them to read. Writing fiction and poetry together can both be a little scary and a little fun. Hopefully this will be both for you.
Compose a quick poem. It doesn't have to rhyme--though it can. It can be a haiku or a limerick or a sonnet. But write a poem based on some of the work we are going to do in class (prompts). Don't be shy. We are all in this together.
THE FIREKEEPER'S DAUGHTER
NOTE: THIS DISCUSSION BOARD POST IS NOT DUE UNTIL 1 NOVEMBER 2022
THE PROMPT: what would a pairing of Mockingbird and Firekeeper's look like in an ELA classroom? In what ways would the books compliment each other? Challenge each other? How could you use that to engage students in both texts?
THE CLASS: our classroom this week is about the grade level when you would read TKAM: a ninth grade class at Sharon High School. If you want to get a sense of the school and its students, you can check out the school’s site. You can check out the demographic stats for the school here as well as stuff about MCAS scores and other performance indicators.
Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird
Respond to this week's teaching scenario. To Kill a Mockingbird is still often taught as the (only) text that discusses race in the secondary education classroom. In your response, to this week's class, write about your experience of reading the text, and then, what you would do as a teacher of this text to problematize this novel as a story that is meant to explore race in the United States.
This week’s scenario is West Bridgewater Middle-Senior high school. West Bridgewater has an enrollment—for both middle and high school—of 606 students. It’s a small school in a small town. Also, Plymouth county is one of the most politically conservative towns in the entire state. That doesn’t necessarily mean any one thing in particular, but the parents of these students live in this county and it’s these households they were raised in.
There is minimal information available about WB high. Here is what I could find:
THE PROMPT: In the glorious age of technology, how can we use media and technology in our classrooms in ways that don’t suck? How can it support good reading and writing? How can it support a student’s “literary” understanding. Using the three “texts” included this week, design a classroom experience for our scenario class
THE CLASS: You are teaching a 9th grade College Prep English class at Bridgewater/Raynham high school. You are working with a class of 35 students: 34 students are white, 1 student is Cape Verdean, 19 are female, 16 are male, one male student is openly gay.
The BR pass rate on the 10th grade MCAS is 84%.
Roughly 85% of the students in your class come from a household where at least one parent has some college education. You have two students in your class whose parents are on the faculty at Bridgewater State University.
You have limited access to technology in the classroom, but your students have access to computers, phones and the internet at home.
You can familiarize yourself with the school here.
A BIT MORE ABOUT WHAT (AND WHY) I'M ASKING YOU TO DO THIS: The challenge this week gives you two ends of a triangle: you’ve got a class (I’m going back to our 9th grade BR college prep class—not so old that middle school is a distant memory, not so smart that they will be so over it, not so young that we have to pretend nobody has sex or does drugs); you’ve got your media—any and all of the recordings accessible via the syllabus. How might you use this media and what texts would you pair with them—that’s the last leg of the magic triangle?
You’ve got a real opportunity to be pretty creative here. You are welcome to talk about any of the texts we’ve covered so far or will cover in class. Or you can go with something else you’d want to teach. Or you can go with a canonical text that might well be included in the framework. Or you can do a little of all three. Additionally, if there is other supplemental media—movies, TV, radio, news items, non-fiction, art-work, dance, whatever—you are welcome to use that.
Why do this? Here is something to think about as you move from being a student to a teacher: you are all English majors. You love literature. Some of you love the pretty heavy stuff--Joyce, Shakespeare, Morrison. Most of you love to read--I mean really love it (I am that person; this is late because I'm trying to finish a novel because I love it so much--it is not Gossip Girl). You will have classrooms filled with students who don't like to read and who don't do it well or often. And, also, you will have students who will go on to college or trade school and they will take, at most, one literature class: one. So the question to ask yourself as a future teacher is what is your actual job as a language arts teacher?
The frameworks stresses learning literary terms and concepts and exposure to literature, capital "L." All that is good. It's important and vital for students to have rich experiences with literature. But don't forget that the most important thing we teach our students is how to read and how to write. Anything. Not write only five paragraph essays. Not read only Shakespeare. I think it can be rough to think about. You've spent your entire college career studying literature, and now I'm telling you that teaching literature is not really the job. The job is literacy instruction. How to make students be good readers of all texts. And so a class that encourages students to apply the critical interpretive skills they would use reading Poe or Faulkner or Joyce is and should be what students do with any text, including the various media they will encounter in life much longer than they'll be in school and with much greater consequence if they do it badly.
As my contribution to the discussion: I have actually paired “Is your Dad Single?” with the stories we read during the first week of class, Girl & 7th grade, with actual rising 8th and 9th graders. I asked students to map out the story of “Is Your Dad Single?”—so what starts the story, what is the rising action, what is the climactic moment, the denouement, the “truth about life.” I ask them to do this graphically. Since that piece is really about deciding on who you want to be in your own life, we look at Girl and 7th grade through that lens—how do the various characters in each figure out who they are? That’s a final writing. Along the way, I have them write about their own stories of figuring themselves out, of 7th grade, etc. I also ask them to identify the “rules” of being a boy—so write 7th Grade as a series of “you” statements, but about boys, based on the story. The work requires listening, reading, note-taking. It requires working alone and in groups. It requires that they be able to prove a point about a text using the text as evidence. It gives them space to reflect personally. I really enjoy the entire sequence. We end with a very fun exercise where they make their own maps of their lives—who they are now, where they want to end up, how they are going to get there. They present that to the whole class. I do it with them. They marvel at the idea that a 50 year old could still possibly have a life plan.
Little Women Redux
Rather than a Teaching Discussion this week . . .
This week we are reading the classic text Little Women. I like to start the semester with this a as first novel for a few reasons, not the least of which being that as young girl, I read and re-read this book (the sequels Little Men and Jo's Boys). It was my Harry Potter. I was obsessed.
But what I think is worthwhile to notice is how many themes, characters, dramas (in the teenager angst kind of drama way) for a book written over 140 years ago are remarkably familiar. One might argue that's what makes it literature with a capital "L". At the same time, as many of you will most likely point out, there are some aspects of the story and characters that we might see as dated (the language, corsets, etc). There are a lot of ways we could explore these timeless and universal themes as well what no longer resonates, but I've opted to encourage you to do so rather creatively.
If you were going to update Little Women, how might you do it? Post to CLASS DISCUSSION BOARD (link is live). In 300 words, provide a synopsis of your 2022 version of the classic Little Women. RESPOND in 200 words to at least one of your colleagues by either building on their update idea and/or suggesting why you think, as a reader or a teacher, this would work as an update (or wouldn’t).
This discussion board space will be the primary place you will post to class. Always be sure to read the post instructions carefully to make sure your post fits the occasion.