Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Writing a syllabus

I'm not much of a planner. I like to see what happens in a classroom and go from there. So sitting down to plan the next 18 weeks is quite a task for me compounded by the fact I have to keep asking myself what do future high school English teachers need to know about Young Adult Literature. It is Wednesday and although I haven't been constantly working on this syllabus I still thought I would have gotten more accomplished by now. I used someone else's syllabus to guide me which was helpful, but then I got to the point where I had to start with me.

I remember when I sat in on this Young Adult Literature class that I watched lesson after lesson hoping that these students would give me a great idea that I could bring back to my own classroom, but that never happened. The lessons they chose to teach didn't seem practical; the lessons also didn't seem to have a point or a purpose. The objectives were in "Edu-Engfish." I remember stressing about how to write objectives that sounded like fancy objectives, but those sentences were pointless until I actually used them. I had to tell the class at the beginning what I wanted them to focus on, and then at the end, I went back to that informal objective I announced to see if we got somewhere. I remember not knowing that was how objectives worked for a long time.

Here are the things that I have brainstormed that seem important to talk about in this class:
  • align objectives and assessment
  • What is young adult literature?
  • Why do you need to "know" young adult lit?
  • Read y.a. lit.
  • explore reader response--a lot--especially aesthetic response
  • explore critical theory
  • Use Think Alouds and use Wilhelm's book as a reference
  • try lots of reader response
  • have a list of reader response and reading strategies that students can pull from and use in their lessons
  • the lessons need to be centered around books they are likely to teach--I would like to see the lessons they teach be centered around books that we read together--Of Mice and Men, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • the lessons needs to include writing, sharing, reader response, and reading strategies
  • we need to think of students as taking a reading apprenticeship from us--not my term, but I love it.
  • discuss the various ways to engage students in reading
  • discuss stages of literary appreciation
  • write a reading autobiography
  • look at Allen's characteristics of effective teachers of language and literacy
  • discuss shared reading, read-alouds, book passes, book talks--go over Beers 7 tips for selling books to students
  • discuss how to facilitate and keep track of independent reading
  • discuss building a classroom environment that encourages reading
  • pair a read aloud with a young adult text
  • think about how to organize discussions--work on listening and using what you hear guide the discussion rather than letting the questions you create guide the discussion
  • actively search and brainstorm and write down, informally, ideas for lessons that you have--share and collaborate with your peers

If anyone reads this, can you add to this. What else should we talk about discuss? If you have taught literature, what do you wish you had known before you started?


Marcia said...

One of the instructors I had as an undergrad asked us to write one page, 3 paragraph, single-spaced responses. Paragraph #1 summarized the text. Paragraph #2 analyzed the text. Paragraph #3 was an affective response. I liked the variety.

Also, Thomas C. Foster has a text that I really liked: How to Read Literature Like a Professor. In it he explains symbolic meanings when the main character goes on a trip, shares a meal, gets wet in the rain or drowns, etc. I think you might get more discussion ideas from this text.

What texts are you talking about when you reference Wilhelm and Beer?

Keri said...

Wilhelm has a book called something like Think Aloud Strategies, You Gotta BE the Book, and Beer's book is When Kids Can't Read.

I think I have heard of the Foster book, and I know I am familiar with that style. Would that be called New Criticism? That's more text-centered, right?

In English Education, especially when you want kids to be readers, a lot of the research says that kids need to find their own personal connections to the book through what Rosenblatt (Literature as Exploration) calls aesthetic response.

I know a big turn-off to reading for the kids at school is when they think that there is a "correct" answer to the text. Earlier in my career, I would hear students say, "Well, I'm not going to read this because I won't understand it. " I think they felt that way because the novel or text always had questions at the end of with correct answers.

I guess my point is, if a teacher focuses on "this is what this means" rather than "what can you, personally, bring to the text" the previous is more teacher-centered, you teach them what the text means and the latter is more student-centered.

I was reading a book edited by Toby Fulwiler called When Literature Teachers Teach Writing and one of the earlier essays is about a guy who had taught for many years and probably taught a lot like Foster and then changed to a more student-centered, writing-centered classroom.

Marcia said...

Keri, Thanks for the references.

I wasn't trying to advocate a "correct reponse," just variety.

For example, if a main character almost drowns and then has an epiphany of some sort. If a student responds and says that they liked the scene where the character almost drowns, then at what age do you push them to say why they like that part (so they do a bit more thinking and analysis of their own opinions?)

I don't know what age "young adults" are, so maybe my questions/comments seem out of place on this post. If so, sorry about that!

Keri said...

I couldn't remember where I heard of that book before, but then I found a paper that Russell handed out to the same class that I am teaching now.

Your response definitely makes me think of think alouds. Do you think they have to be "old enough" to do that sort of thinking? Your comment also makes me think of visualization. I was just reading a book about pushing students to verbalize their visualization of texts as a way to respond.