Welcome to the last Teaching Discussion Board of our semester. Our final text of the semester is Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert.
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 use the information about Brockton High School included for the week we read The Poet X. You can check out the information about the high school in general from that post.
Instead of IB class, which, as I said that week, has a very specific curriculum, 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.
I want to point out, as this is our last novel, that we have managed to go the entire semester with one white cis-gender male writer--nothing against white cis-gender males, though I know how a statement like that can feel that way. What I mean is, as we've discussed all semester, representation matters. And the novels, poems, and nonfiction we've encountered in this semester has, I hope, made clear how that is possible and even welcome. One way I see this? In the discussion of Dread Nation, nobody once even mentioned that our main character was a black woman, nobody said "it might be difficult for a fill-in-the-blank reader to identify with the story." That, to my mind, is progress on all fronts.
Your Prompt: For our last 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 of Little & Lion 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.
A NOTE ABOUT THIS PROMPT: If you are teaching the lesson plan option, for the Final Project, you might consider how you would answer this two-part question as you design your lesson for whatever text you intend to teach.
I'm recycling the Q&A discussion board from last week so that the questions we got last week about the final project remains here.
Your final project is due on 12 May 2020. That's the last day of final exams. You have as late as midnight on that date to turn it in to me via email.
Read with care the requirements for the Final Project. This would be a good place to ask questions and get answers about it. An email to sign up for Final Project conferences starting next week will be emailed to you shortly.
Also, the "talk back" discussion board is still live and working.
Finally, I'll send out a google hangout link on Wednesday evening for folks that want to see my face when they ask me a question.
I mean that in a two ways. One, we are reading Dread Nation this week. Here we have an example of genre within genre. Dread Nation 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. However, DN is also an example of another genre--fantasy/horror. 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've only read one Stephen King novel in my entire life (The Stand--one that is weighing heavily on my mind these days). And 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 book club this week. And I'm equally interested in reading your responses to the challenge I am about to present to you. In the novel Dread Nation, as is the case for us living through Covid right now, school had to change. This summer, if enrollments hold, I'll teach a class about how to teach writing. And as part of that class, I've decided that I need to prepare my students for how to teach writing online for the very real possibility that, in the course of their lifetime, they might actually have to do that. Each week, I've asked you to think about how you would teach a test class a particular reading. But we've always assumed you'd have to do it face-to-face.
But the question is, what if you can't?
So, this week, let's imagine you are teaching during this very pandemic. 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.
But now you are teaching this novel to a class online. I'll make it easier for you: most of your students have computers at home and/or iPads. All of them have phones, of course. And they all have internet. Perhaps it helps for you to imagine you are a student in that class, dealing with all of the issues that you are currently dealing with or would have dealt with as an 11th grader. No imagine a classroom of yous. You can decide the kind of classroom management or synchronous technology you have to use.
Most important to remember is what you want students to get out of this experience as readers. What are the literacy goals and how will you achieve them in this online setting?
These texts as good examples of how YA can teach the skills we hope our students will learn as readers--in general and of literature: As was the case for many of you, these texts were two of my favorites. Reading The Poet X, a text I thought I was not going to like because it was written in verse, was a great experience for me, and might still be my favorite from the semester. However what I valued about these two texts is the rich and detailed storytelling and character development. These two novels felt the most current and literary in that respect as examples of prose YA fiction. In that way, I saw and valued that you saw how one might analyze these texts as literary texts. Additionally, particularly in the case of Monday. The narration posed some challenges to the reader--an example of what I've been saying about how a great YA text teaches students how to be better readers of more difficult texts.
These texts as good examples of the issues and concerns that young people are struggling with today: I also think these two novels, as I'm guessing you figured out by my pairing them, are particularly interesting to me as novels we might include in a high school lit class because of the ways each novel deals with mental disorders. As a teacher right in this moment I am profoundly aware of the scourge that clinical anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental disorders affect how my students learn in a classroom--and, thus, how it affects my teaching and my advising. And it will no doubt affect how you are teachers in your own classrooms sometime soon.
This week, I am asking you to think about these texts in the classroom with student readers. What is it possible to teach them with one or both of these texts? How do you manage sensitive ideas about gender, cultural difference, mental disorders with students who are living all three of these realities?
Our Test Class of the Week
For this week, I'm returning us to our West Bridgewater school, but I'm suggesting these texts would be more appropriate for an 11th grade reader rather than a middle schooler--not so much because of content but because of the ages of our characters as well as the. complexity, as some of you pointed out, of how the narration is structured in Monday.
If you want to refer back to what we know about West Bridgewater, the date of that Class Discussion was 24 February 2020. You can click on the month to the right of this post to find that archived material.
I know that title made you all groan. Live with it. Corona. . .
So this week, unlike most weeks, we are having a whole class discussion not at all about teaching but about the literary qualities of our readings for this week. There are two books in the discussion this week. I know that some of you have read both, but you are not obligated to have done so and are not required to talk about both in this week's post.
Do check the syllabus if you are still wondering which of the two books you should read.
Post a literary analysis/close reading of your book for the week.
The two books we are reading this week have several features in common, which I leave to all of you to discover by reading each other's posts. There are many ways you can think about analyzing these texts--that is to say, any of the myriad ways you would do a close reading of any other novel you might read.
As per usual, post roughly 300 words (though you guys often go way over, which is fine) and respond with thoughtfulness and care to at least one colleague (roughly 100-200 words). Bonus points if you can make a connection to a text you didn't read.
A NOTE ABOUT THIS WEEK'S POSTS: You will perhaps notice that I'm outlining in some detail how you might approach your analysis. I'm doing that in case you are interested in doing Option 3 of the Final Project options, the literary analysis of a text. This week shows you how you might approach your analysis of one of the texts from the semester. It also introduces you to literary scholarship on YA (if you recall the piece on Louisa May Alcott from week two, that is also an example).
At this point, you will have extensive experience and also draft-ready material for any of the three options for the Final Project. Now would be the time to start to consider which of those three options you'd like to pursue based on what you've produced so far in the class.
You know how I often start a response in your book clubs or in the Monday Update with some version of "I wish we could talk more about this face-to-face in class?"
Well, that's what this is.
As part and parcel of a general check-in during the semester, this optional discussion board is a place to return to points either I made or a classmate made or you made during the first little over half of the semester. You are welcome to agree, challenge, or simply comment on any part of any of the discussions we have had and continue to have about YA lit in general or specific texts.
Here are some "for instances:"
Post a question. Get an answer.
Also, on Wednesday, 8 April 2020, I will again hold virtual office hour from 7:00 to 8:30 in the evening. Just prior to the start of the office hour, I will email the class a link to a google hangout. A few people have taken me up on this. I'm grateful to see your faces.