Teaching Literature

american literature

british literature

multicultural/women's/world literature

lesson plans/course syllabi



young adult literature

literary genres/mythology



critical lenses

story response/writing



professional development


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How to use this site



Goals for teaching literature: What does it mean to teach literature?


Understanding students’ individual differences: Who are our kids?


Planning and Organizing Literature Instruction: How Do I Decide What to Teach?


Using Drama to Foster Interpretation: How Can I Help Students Read Better?


Leading Classroom Discussions of Literature: How Do I Get Them to Talk about Literature?


Writing about literature: How do I get them to write about literature?


Using narratives in the classroom: What’s the use of story?


Teaching text and task-specific strategies: How does the shape of a text change the shape of my teaching?


Teaching the Classics: Do I Have To Teach the Canon, And If So, How Do I Do It?


Multiple Perspectives to Engage Students with Literature: What are Different Ways of Seeing?


Teaching Media Literacy: What else is a text and how do I teach it?


Assessing and Evaluating Students’ Learning: How do I know what they’ve learned?


Text Selection, Censorship, Creating an Ethical Classroom Environment. and Teacher Professionalism: How do I Stay in Control, Out of Trouble, and Continue to Develop as A Teacher?

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Aligning Course Curriculum Goals and Course/Unit Objectives to Curriculum Standards

In formulating your unit or course learning objectives, you also need to relate them to local school district, state, or national standards. Many schools' English curriculums are organized around standards derived from district, state, or national standards. These standards attempt to articulate what students should be able to do and know at different grade levels. For example, in California, 11 th and 12 th grade students are expected to have achieved the following standards related to literature instruction:

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis

Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature that reflect and enhance their studies of history and social science. They conduct in-depth analyses of recurrent themes. The selections in Recommended Readings in Literature, Grades Nine Through Twelve illustrate the quality and complexity of the materials to be read by students.

Structural Features of Literature

3.1 Analyze characteristics of subgenres (e.g., satire, parody, allegory, pastoral) that are used in poetry, prose, plays, novels, short stories, essays, and other basic genres.

Narrative Analysis of Grade-Level-Appropriate Text

3.2 Analyze the way in which the theme or meaning of a selection represents a view or comment on life, using textual evidence to support the claim.

3.3. Analyze the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author's style, and the "sound" of language achieve specific rhetorical or aesthetic purposes or both.

3.4. Analyze ways in which poets use imagery, personification, figures of speech, and sounds to evoke readers' emotions.

3.5. Analyze recognized works of American literature representing a variety of genres and traditions:

a. Trace the development of American literature from the colonial period forward.

b. Contrast the major periods, themes, styles, and trends and describe how works by members of different cultures relate to one another in each period.

c. Evaluate the philosophical, political, religious, ethical, and social influences of the historical period that shaped the characters, plots, and settings.

3.6 Analyze the way in which authors through the centuries have used archetypes drawn from myth and tradition in literature, film, political speeches, and religious writings (e.g., how the archetypes of banishment from an ideal world may be used to interpret Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth).

3.7 Analyze recognized works of world literature from a variety of authors:

a. Contrast the major literary forms, techniques, and characteristics of the major literary periods (e.g., Homeric Greece, medieval, romantic, neoclassic, modern).

b. Relate literary works and authors to the major themes and issues of their eras.

c. Evaluate the philosophical, political, religious, ethical, and social influences of the historical period that shaped the characters, plots, and, settings.

Literary Criticism

3.8 Analyze the clarity and consistency of political assumptions in a selection of literary works or essays on a topic (e.g., suffrage, women's role in organized labor). (Political approach)

3.9 Analyze the philosophical arguments presented in literary works to determine whether the authors' positions have contributed to the quality of each work and the credibility of the characters. (Philosophical approach)


In some cases, state standards specify certain content that needs to be mastered, for example, that students should know certain literary critical concepts or texts. One problem with content-based standards is that they can homogenize or “standardize” the curriculum in ways that limit teachers' autonomy. Another problem with content-based standards is that they tend to perpetuate a transmission model of instruction in which teachers primary impart and test for content knowledge. In contrast, other states define standards more in terms of general competencies, thought processes, or strategies based on a constructivist curriculum model. Students are evaluated based on performance assessments what they can do and know.

Standards formulated in terms of performance allow for more teacher autonomy in terms of teaching their own specific content. By evaluating students according to performance, students are having to apply what they learn to demonstrate their ability to, for example, critically analyze texts to be included in an anthology.

The National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association Standards related to literature instruction include:

1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).


In planning classroom activities, you may need to align your course for your activities with these standards.

Go to the web page and click on “state standards.” Click on your own state's web-page link and then find standards related to literature instruction. How would you characterize the overall focus of the standards related to literature instruction in terms of the models of instruction? Select just one of the literature standards and describe how your response activity addresses that standard.


In suggesting ways to develop Webquests, Bernie Dodge (2002) describes a number of these different types of tasks that are employed in Webquests, but could be employed in any instruction:

- retelling tasks —involve recounting, summarizing, or distilling aspects of a text through think-alouds (see next chapter) or through computer presentations or art work.

- compilation tasks —involve acquiring information from different texts or related readings and transforming it into a useful resource for others in the form of a web site of relevant links or a historical review of a period related to a text.

- mystery tasks— involve creating a puzzle or detective story that requires a student to sift through clues or information to solve the puzzle or mystery. One example of an activity involving mystery tasks is “Who Killed William Robinson,” developed by Ruth Sandwell and John Lutz, University of British Columbia. This simulation based on an actual historical person, William Robinson, a Black American who was murdered in British Columbia in 1868. An Aboriginal man named Tshuanhusset, also called Tom, was charged with the murder, convicted and hanged, but a closer look at the evidence challenges the guilty verdict. Students need to sift through various clues to determine who may have been the murderer. http://web.uvic.ca/history-robinson/

- journalistic tasks —involve students in investigating some aspects of a text or related historical events in preparation for a simulated news report, program, or documentary.

- design tasks —involve developing a plan or product related to a text—a map of the novel or a floor plan of the house in a novel.

- creative product tasks —involve creating a story, poem, play, song, drama production, art work, game, or poster based on the text (see next chapter).

- consensus building tasks —involves reconciling differences of opinions or perspectives either portrayed in a text or between readers' conflicting interpretations.

- persuasion tasks —involve building a case for one's position to present to others, as in a mock trial, tasks that may be combined with consensus-building tasks.


You also incorporate a range of what Howard Gardner (1983; 1993; 2000) defines as seven different, optional “intelligences.”


Logical-Mathematical Intelligence --consists of the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.

Linguistic Intelligence --involves having a mastery of language. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language as a means to remember information.

Visual/Spatial Intelligence --gives one the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited to visual domains--Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed in blind children.

Musical Intelligence --encompasses the capability to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but it is not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.)

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence --is the ability to use one's mental abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges the popular belief that mental and physical activity are unrelated.

The Personal Intelligences --includes interpersonal feelings and intentions of others--and intrapersonal intelligence--the ability to understand one's own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures, they are often linked together.

These seven intelligences are not separate phenomena, but continually interact with each other. However, certain students develop particular skills associated with certain of these intelligences. For example, they have developed talents as artists, musicians, athletes, or socially-adept peers. Unfortunately, English teachers often emphasize the “linguistic intelligence” while not tapping into these other intelligences.


Defining Learning Objectives for Specific Activities: Where am I going?"

As with developing objectives for a unit or course, you are also defining learning objectives for each of the specific, daily activities you include in your unit or course designed to address the question: Where am I going?"

Specificity of objectives . Based on the idea of “backwards” planning—starting with how you will assess your students' learning, it is also important that you formulate your objectives in terms of specific interpretive strategies or critical approaches you want students to learn.


The following are some statements of objective based on the interpretive strategies and approaches described in Chapter 10.

- Emotions: students will identify the emotions they experience and reasons for those emotions associated with different characters or text worlds.

- Defining narrative development : Students will define the causal relationships between unfolding story events, as well as predict story outcomes based on knowledge of prototypical genre storylines

- Character actions as social practices : Students will infer characters' social practices based on inferences about patterns in characters' actions.

- Constructing social and cultural worlds . Students will explain or judge characters' actions in terms of the purposes, roles, rules, beliefs, traditions or history operating in social world or cultures.

- Elaborating on connections to other texts . Students will reflect and elaborate on connections between the current text and similar images, characters, storylines, or themes from previous texts.

- Positioning/stances . Students will define how they are being positioned to respond according to certain invited stances and negotiate or resist those stances.

- Voices/language/discourses . Students will identify characters' uses of different voices and social languages in terms of the discourses and ideological stances operating in the text.

- Applying a rhetorical approach . Students will discern the relationships between the perspectives and

agendas of the text's author, speaker/narrator, character audience, implied audience, and actual audience/reader.

- Applying a semiotic approach . Students will identify the signs and images operating in a text and the underlying codes shaping the cultural meanings of those signs and images.

- Applying a poststructuralist approach . Students will critically analyze the category systems operating in a text and how these systems shape characters' perceptions of self and others.

- Applying a psychological approach . Students will critically analyze the underlying psychological

forces shaping characters' actions, feelings, and desires.

- Applying an archetypal approach . Students will critically analyze the archetypal use of symbolism,

character prototypes, narrative patterns, and themes related to underlying cultural values.

- Applying analysis of gender, class, race approach . Students will critically analyze the portrayals of

characters' social practices and cultural worlds as reflecting ideological assumptions about gender, class, and race.


Designing Units

In designing units, you are going beyond planning for individual activities to organize your activities according to some coherent, overall topic, theme, issue, genre, archetypes, historical/literary period, or production. During your student teaching, you may be employing a number of different units lasting from a couple of days to several weeks. It is important to prepare these units in advance of student teaching when you have the time to conduct research and pull together relevant resources. You can also discuss you units with your cooperating teachers in terms of how they are integrated into that teacher's curriculum.

Different organizational structures for units . You first need to define a central focus around which you organize your specific daily activities in terms of a topic, theme, issue, genre, production/writing, archetype, literary period. There are advantages and disadvantages to these optional structures to consider in selecting your central focus. In many cases, units combine different aspects of these alternatives; there is no pure prototypical example for each of these different approaches.

- Topics . Organizing your unit around a topic such as power, evil, suburbia, the family, etc., means that you are finding texts that portray these different topics. For example, you may select a series of texts that portray mother/daughter relationships, as in The Bean Trees or A Yellow Raft in Blue Water. Students may then compare or contrast the different portrayals of the same topic across different texts.

It is important to select topics about which students have some familiarity or interest, or that may engage them. You may also want to have students study how certain topics are represented in literature and/or the media. For example, students may examine how the family is represented in 19 th century literature compared to 20 th century representations. Or, how the rural, small-town social worlds are represented in 20 th century American literature.

One advantage of a topics approach is that topics do not imply the kind of value or cultural orientation associated with a thematic or issue unit. Students may construct their own value stance related to a topic, for example, defining different attitudes towards the topic of mother/daughter relationships. However, without that additional value orientation, students may lack motivation to be engaged in a topic.

- Themes . You may also organize your unit around certain themes portrayed in texts. A frequently used theme is that of individualism or conformity to society—the extent to which characters must conform to or resist societal norms. As we just noted, one advantage of thematic units is that students may become engaged with related attitudes or values associated with a theme. One disadvantage of thematic units is that they can readily become too didactic, in which you attempt to have students “learn” certain thematic lessons—the importance of not conforming to society or the need to be courageous.

This problem of didacticism relates to how you organize your unit. You can organize your unit in both a “top-down” deductive manner, providing students with theoretical perspectives or frames for them to apply in a deductive manner. You can also organize your unit in a “bottom-up” inductive manner, encouraging students to make their own connections and applications. To avoid the didactic tendency of thematic unit, you can move more to an inductive approach, allowing students to make their own interpretations and connections that may different from any presupposed central thematic focus.

- Issues . You can also organize your units are issues, for example, the issue of gender and power—the degree to which women may have to assume subordinate roles in a culture. One advantage of an issue is that students may adopt different, competing perspective about an issue, tensions that may create interest in that issue. One disadvantage of studying issues is that students may bring often rigidly defined stances on issues such as gun control or school vouchers, which may not allow for further development or consideration of alternative perspectives.

You may have students identify their own issues portrayed in a text. For example, students may identify the issue of social pressure from peers to adopt certain practices valued by the group, but perceived as problematic by certain group members. They could then explore this issue of social peer pressure in Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War or Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie .

- Genres . You may also organize your unit around studying a particular genre—short story, novel, ballad, rap, drama, memoir, biography, poetry, film noir, or hybrid combinations or mixtures of genres evident in a multi-genre approach to writing instruction (Romano, 2000). (For discussion of genres in film/television, see Chapter X). In studying a particular genre, students examine similar features of that genre in terms of prototypical settings, characters, storylines, and themes, as well as shared literary techniques.

One advantage of a genre approach is that students learn a larger literacy practice of making generalizations about similarities between different texts based on certain genre features. For example, have read a number of different autobiographical essays, students may then identify similar features common to those essays. One disadvantage of a genre approach is that is leads readily into pigeonholing or categorizing texts as representing certain genre features without critically analyzing those texts. Moreover, such reductionist genre approaches can also reify a formalist approach to English instruction—overemphasizing the study of formal structures without examining other aspects of texts. For example, it may be assumed that all short stories have “rising action,” “conflict,” and “resolution,” when in fact there are many stories that do not follow that formal structure.

In organizing genre units, you need to work deductively to provide certain frameworks or concepts about genre features, while, at the same time, allowing students to make their own inductive connections between texts. In describing her use of two science fiction novels, Illustrated Man and Ender's Game in her student teaching, Alice Sherman, notes how she had students study aliens as to help students understand the role of aliens in the novels:

We looked at aliens and alien bodies and we viewed some clips and I made some worksheets up on you know, lets talk about the alien bodies and mouths. Are they wet aliens or are they dry aliens? Do they have big parts on their bodies or do they have little parts on their bodies, um, and I had them designing their own alien and that was kind of funny…There were a lot of them were making aliens of some of their teachers which I you know told them they should if they wanted to, gave them all sorts of aliens to make fun of, and we…I brought in a bunch of movies that I had pre-screened, or showed some clips from that I spent about 1/2 an hour just showing them clips of different aliens. They got into it, and “Why is his head big.” They were pretty aware, too; we were watching Alien with Sigourney Weaver, the first one. This kid shouted out, actually, I think I was being observed this day, and we watched the Alien and she had the multiple teeth in her mouth and then this big tongue, proboscis thing shot out and this kid's, “Phallic symbol!” I thought oh, oh.

- Production/writing of genres. You may also organize a unit around producing or writing certain genres, integrating reading and writing instruction. Students need to have opportunities to create their own genre texts based on their study of genre. For example, after studying the genre of rap, they create their own raps. In studying texts, students may then focus on techniques being employed with an eye towards producing such texts. In writing texts, they then draw on their genre knowledge in providing feedback to each others' texts.

- Archetypes . You can also organize units around mythic or literacy archetypes, drawing on the critical approach of the archetypal approach discussed in Chapter X. For example, you may organize a unit around the archetype of the Romance quest narrative pattern evident in epic and medieval texts, as well as contemporary journey or travel quests or the Star Wars and Fellowship of the Rings series. As part of this unit, you may focus on the initial initiation of the hero in preparation for the quest, linking the hero's initiation to adolescents' own experiences of initiation in their own lives.

One advantage of archetypal approaches is that students may enjoy studying what are larger mythic aspects underlying a range of different texts associated with their own lives. If, for example, they understand that initiation rites as portrayed in literature also pervade their own experiences. One disadvantage of archetypal units is that they may lead to the same pigeonholing as with genre units. Moreover, unless students are familiar with a lot of literature, they may not be able to make generalizations about certain archetypical patterns in that literature.

- Literary periods . You may also create units based on certain literary periods, for example, the Romantic or Victorian period in British literature or the Harlem Renaissance in American literature. In studying these periods, you can incorporate background historical events or cultural attitudes shaping texts, as well as similarities between literature, art, music, and popular media. For example, Coleridge's and Byron's art work reflect much of the spiritual and political romantic perspectives found in their poetry. One advantage of such units is that you can study writers' work as shaped by their historical and cultural contexts. One disadvantage is that it may simply become matter of covering a lot of historical information or facts about features of the period without fostering critical response to the literature itself.

- Historical/regional/cultural worlds . You may also organize units around certain historical, regional, or cultural worlds, for example, the short story literature of the American South—stories by William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Reynolds Price, Bobbie Joe Mason, and others whose stories portrayed the world of the “Old South” and “New South.” Or, you could organize a unit around the historical period of Puritan America based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories and The Crucible (See the following unit which links The Crucible to the McCarthy period http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/cruc/cructg.html )

In her student teaching, Jessica Brend did a unit on beat poetry that focused on the world of the 1950s and 1960s:

We talked about people like Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, sort of their disillusionment with the system and how they tried to rebel against it and the ways they went about trying to do that. Talking about their fascination with traveling and I think the students really relate to that and they saw the sorts of issues of wanting to sort of go on your own and throw caution to the wind, and so I think they really could relate to it in that sense, but at the same time, there's sort of that weird, ironic tone underneath. It's a fact that here's something that rebelling against the system, and here I've made it a part of the system by teaching it in my curriculum. So its kind of a dichotomy there but I think it was worthwhile to just show them that, you know, they're not the only people who want to swear in poems if nothing else. We watched a clip from So I Married an Axe Murderer it talked about what is the beat generation and what are our stereotypes of it and how does it live on in today's culture, you know, what are the references to it. We talked about where the word beat came from, I showed them the Oxford English Dictionary 's definition of it and we sort of unpacked it and tried to figure out where these things came from and what that meant, about this culture's generation, and we talked just in general what does it mean to define a generation? And who has the authority to do that? You know what would their generation be? If the beat generation was the ‘60s, what is their generation of, you know, the people growing up now in the ‘90s and the 2000. And so I think that was really fun for them to think about. They talked a lot about consumerism as a part in that too. So we got into some pretty heavy cultural issues that went outside of, you know, the actual text but it was very much a part of the issues and conflicts and the whole history behind the text.


Initial interest rousers . In designing units, you need to begin with an interest rouser activity that hooks students into the topic, issue, theme, genre, etc. By initially engaging them with texts, material, or phenomena you will be studying, you are providing them with an experience that enhance their interest and lead them to perceive the value or worth of the unit. For example, in doing a poetry unit, rather than beginning with a discussion of “what is poetry,” students may begin by bringing in and sharing favorite poems.

Providing variety/choice . In planning your unit, you also want to include a variety of different types of experiences in order to avoid redundancy and repetition. You can create variety by incorporating a range of different tools discussed in the next chapter: drama, videos/DVD's, different forms of discussion, art-work, creative writing, hypermedia, etc. You may also build in choices between use of these different tools; again, students are more likely to be motivated to participate when they are given options. For example, rather than writing a final report, students may have the option of creating a hypermedia production.

Final projects . You should also include a culminating final project that serves to draw together the different, disparate elements of the unit. This final project should provide students with an opportunity to extend approaches and ideas from the unit to create their own interpretations of texts. For example, in a unit on gender and power, students could analyze the portrayal or representations of gender roles in texts not read in the unit. Again, providing choices for different projects enhances motivation to complete their chosen project.

Units on the web site . Go to the web site and click on the “student units” file. This file contains units developed by preservice teachers. Select two of these units. What do you perceive to be strengths and limitations of these units? How would you revise these units to improve them?


Respecting diversity . Classrooms reflect the larger diversity of society in terms of differences in gender, class, race, and learning orientations. This involves helping students to respect these differences in the group through modeling ways of being respectful.

Barbara Davis (1993) notes some ways of address diversity in the classroom:

Recognize any biases or stereotypes you may have absorbed . Do you interact with students in ways that manifest double standards?

Treat each student as an individual, and respect each student for who he or she is. Each of us has some characteristics in common with others of our gender, race, place of origin, and sociocultural group, but these are outweighed by the many differences among members of any group… Try not to project your experiences with, feelings about, or expectations of an entire group onto any one student. Keep in mind, though, that group identity can be very important for some students.

Rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups . Do you

use both he and she during lectures, discussions, and in writing, and encourage your students to do the same…[and] recognize that your students may come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds?

Do your best to be sensitive to terminology . Terminology changes over time, as ethnic and cultural groups continue to define their identity, their history, and their relationship to the dominant culture….Most Americans of Mexican ancestry prefer Chicano or Latino or Mexican American to Hispanic, hearing in the last the echo of Spanish colonialism. Most Asian Americans are offended by the term Oriental, which connotes British imperialism; and many individuals want to be identified not by a continent but by the nationality of their ancestors.

Get a sense of how students feel about the cultural climate in your classroom . Let students know that you want to hear from them if any aspect of the course is making them uncomfortable.

In facilitating tasks, you want to give them a sense of purpose for doing these tasks in terms of w hat they are expected to produce—the outcome or product. Knowing that, for example, they need to create a poetry anthology along with articulated reasons for including each poem as the final product in a poetry unit shapes students' attention as they move through the unit. Then, when you give students' directions, you can emphasize how each task relates to the overall purpose. For example, in her unit of The Grapes of Wrath , Jennie used some drama activities designed to help them visualize images about the novel, empathy with others' perspectives, and apply a variety of lenses/perspectives. Her directions for each activity highlighted what she wanted them to learn from separate groups doing different drama activities:

Analogy Strategy: In this activity, your group should enact a personal experience that parallels in some way a scene from the reading. Make sure that you think about the tone, the urgency of the situation, and the emotions conveyed in creating a parallel situation. You will mime your parallel situation. Then, as a class, we will discuss how your enactment connects with the text.

Slide Show: Your group will create a series of “slides” to tell about the major scenes from the chapter. You may add a caption to each of your slides. Be prepared to answer some questions about each of your slides concerning how you decided to depict the particular scene.

Hotseating and Inner Hotseating : In your group, a student will play the role of a character and answer questions as if at a press conference. Another student, standing behind the character, will respond as the “inner self” of the character telling what that character might be really thinking, feeling, and wanting to say.

News Flash : Your group will conduct a brief news flash about what happened in this scene/chapter. You may choose to interview someone from the scene or just give an overview of what happened.

Guided imagery: This activity is similar to the game of Pictionary. In your group, someone

will play the role of the teacher and read a scene. The remaining group members should draw what they picture up on the board when they hear the scene read. You may do

this spontaneously. Drawers, be prepared to explain your drawings.

Dramatic Play: Your group will “enter into character” and act out a scene from your chapter. However, you should incorporate acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters depending on your interpretation of those characters' thoughts and feelings.

Missing Scenes: Your group will create a missing scene or missing scenes that you feel were implied by the story or could have happened. You will act these out for the class and be prepared to have supporting evidence from the text that shows these scenes might have logically occurred.

Revolving Role-Play: In this activity, each group member will choose a character to play from the scene. After acting out that particular scene, everyone will “switch” into a new role and reenact that scene from a new perspective. This activity is similar to the dramatic play activity because you may be creative in acting out imagined conversations and interactions between/among characters.

To help student connect their participation in each activity to the larger purpose, she asked

each group to choose one character or key event to portray through their specific drama activity. Each group then prepared a 3-5 minute presentation to include their dramatic activity as well as a brief explanation of why they chose to focus on that given character or scene/event, and subsequently, what their dramatic activity highlights. The students also had to write in their journals about their experience in their dramatic activity and how it offered new perspectives or made the text more relevant to their personal lives.


Knowing the curriculum framework also helps you determine students' prior experiences with literature and knowledge about literature that they bring to your own student teaching courses. If, for example, you are teaching a 12 th grade course on poetry, it would be useful to know the nature of your students prior experiences with poetry experiences in their 9 th , 10 th , and 11 th grade courses. Or, if you are doing some critical analyses, if would be useful to know what exposure they have had to different types of critical analyses.

- School resources . In planning your instruction, ideally before you begin your student teaching, you need to determine what resources are available in the school. For example, if you are going to teach a single text to an entire class, you need to know if there are class sets of that text in the bookroom. You also need to examine the literature anthologies available and whether or how you may use those anthologies. Literature anthologies have become increasingly adventurous and user-friendly, and many publishers have created a wealth of supplementary material including related web sites, books on-line, reading guides, and art transparencies. Many textbooks also include short non-fiction pieces that are thematically related to the literature that is anthologized. On the other hand, recognize that you, and not the textbook, should drive the curriculum. Think of the textbook as a rich repository of source materials, and then determine how you might best use that book to serve your students' needs.

You also need to scope out the types of technology tools available for student use—whether students need to go to computer labs (and when those labs are available) or whether they can use laptops, the software tools on the school computers, and student access to the Web. You also need to determine school policies regarding student access to Web-based e-mail, chat rooms, blogs, and Web sites, to determine, for example, how and whether you can create a classroom blog.



- Classroom contexts . Your different classes will vary according to their demographic make-up, social dynamics, history, attitudes, interests, knowledge, experience, reading ability, or engagement with your activities. Two different groups of students at the same grade level may be totally different due to the make-up or size of the group, the ability levels of students, or even the time of day. Your period one of American literature at 8:00 may lethargic and disengaged, while your period two of the same course and same texts may be lively and engaged.

How can you shift your plans in ways that address these variations in class attitudes and engagement? You first need to determine reasons for these attitudes and differences in engagement, beyond just the fact that there are differences in the make-up of the students in the class. It may also be the case that students do not have strong social relationships with each other given a lack of a sense of classroom community. It may be that students are resistant to sharing their responses because such sharing is perceived as not being cool. Or, females and/or students of color may have been intimidated by some domineering males in the class to not share their responses. Or, it may be the case that the majority of students in a class have had classes based on teacher recitation discussions and lack prior experience sharing their responses in small or large group discussions. Or, it may be that a particular group of students develops a higher level of engagement with a text given differences in prior experiences or knowledge or their reactions to how you framed responses to that text. One group may be highly engaged with a feminist approach, while another group may not.

Once you have some sense of reasons for these differences in attitudes and engagement, you can then make some adjustments in your plans. If students lack a sense of classroom community, you could do some additional group process activities that serve to bolster classroom community. If students are intimidated about sharing their responses because they feel intimidated by other students in the class, you could meet privately with these other students and share your concerns with them. You could also hold a “class meeting” and share your own perceptions of this issue and have them brainstorm in a non-judgmental manner how to address this issue. Of, if students are not engaged with a text, you could devise activities that may enhance that engagement. Any approach that you use needs to address the unique issues and circumstances of your classrooms. What's important is that, rather than sticking tenaciously to your original plans, you need to make these mid-stream adjustments to address these issues and circumstances.


Co-planning with students . Another, and perhaps the most effective way to vary your planning with your students, is to involve them in the planning process so that they have some input into the planning process—something that you would be more likely to do in your regular teaching rather than in student teaching. For some areas of the curriculum, particularly those addressing mandated standards, you will formulate the curriculum yourself, while in other areas, you may provide students with some input and choice (Finders & Hynds, 2003). By providing students with choices, you are enhancing their motivation to complete an activity because they were involved in planning that activity and therefore some sense of obligation to complete the activity. You may for example, give students choices in formulating the topics, themes, or inquiry-questions that serve as the basis for projects or reports, in selecting texts for analysis in these projects or reports, or the presentational format they employ in presenting their project or report. It is also important to provide students with some guidance for making their choices by specifying the parameters for different options.

Activity . Based on your observations during your pre-student teaching of the classes you will be teaching, in a journal entry, describe the make-up of the different classes you will be teaching, including different periods of the same course. Note differences in terms of class size, grade/ability levels, gender/race/disability demographics, perceived attitudes, social climate, level of discussion participation, and teacher interactions. Then, based on your data, decide on how you will vary your instruction to accommodate for differences between the different classes or course sections.


In reflecting on his teaching of Catcher in the Rye in student teaching, Chris Johnson noted the ways in which he accommodated to his students' background reading experience.

I asked, who's read a novel? Not many hands went up and they, I guess most of them had read one. Some had read one of those adolescent novels, but I don't think any of them, well some of them, I'm sure had read, in fact I know one in particular that is a reader of paperbacks, and she read quite a few but a loot of them hadn't really read any “adult” novels before. So, I took it real slow. We did maybe two or three chapters a day, no more than 10 or 20 pages per day, and I uh, had study questions for each chapter that I made sure they had to and they could really skim through that . I didn't make the questions too challenging because I didn't want them to get hung up on questions, have that interrupt the reading. What I did to settle the questions and I tried to direct them towards um, specific things in the novel that I just wanted to make sure they noted. Why they were in there. What did they represent. So when we went into discussion they already had the details down.

After we had finished reading the book, I wanted them to focus on Holden and his struggle with growing up, saving sexuality, and the death of his brother, basically all the issues he had gone through. So I did a group activity where I gave them a list of 5 essay questions and they picked one of them to put on the test. I broke them up into groups of about 4 or 5 kids in each group, and each group had to take an essay question, and had to discuss it and they each had a role. One person was the recorder, one person was the facilitator and so each group had to discuss the essay questions and come up with a way that they would answer the question on a test to present their findings to the class. Um, I was a little nervous about it, because they were in-depth questions. I mean, they were college-level questions. And I thought, oh boy they're really going to bang their heads against these ones, but I was really pleasantly surprised that they all, all the groups came up with real solid answers and I was going around as they were working on them and helping out here and there, but I really didn't have to do as much as I thought I would do, I just had to nudge them along, so that really showed me that they had been listening and paying attention and it wasn't just two or three kids that did a lot of participation in the discussions who understood what was going on but they really most of them you know had been listening to what we're talking about. I was real happy with that.

Respecting diversity . Classrooms reflect the larger diversity of society in terms of differences in gender, class, race, and learning orientations. This involves helping students to respect these differences in the group through modeling ways of being respectful.

Barbara Davis (1993) notes some ways of address diversity in the classroom:

Recognize any biases or stereotypes you may have absorbed . Do you interact with students in ways that manifest double standards?

Treat each student as an individual, and respect each student for who he or she is. Each of us has some characteristics in common with others of our gender, race, place of origin, and sociocultural group, but these are outweighed by the many differences among members of any group… Try not to project your experiences with, feelings about, or expectations of an entire group onto any one student. Keep in mind, though, that group identity can be very important for some students.

Rectify any language patterns or case examples that exclude or demean any groups . Do you

use both he and she during lectures, discussions, and in writing, and encourage your students to do the same…[and] recognize that your students may come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds?

Do your best to be sensitive to terminology . Terminology changes over time, as ethnic and cultural groups continue to define their identity, their history, and their relationship to the dominant culture….Most Americans of Mexican ancestry prefer Chicano or Latino or Mexican American to Hispanic, hearing in the last the echo of Spanish colonialism. Most Asian Americans are offended by the term Oriental, which connotes British imperialism; and many individuals want to be identified not by a continent but by the nationality of their ancestors.

Get a sense of how students feel about the cultural climate in your classroom . Let students know that you want to hear from them if any aspect of the course is making them uncomfortable.


Webquests .  As a teacher, you can design webquests-interactive, inquiry-based activities that which students address some issue, question, topic, or theme by examining a series of web-based sites.   In learning to address their issue or question using web-based resources, students are learning how to use the web as a learning tool.  They are also learning how to reflect on and extend the material they acquire from the web.   And, in many cases, they are assuming the perspective of a role-a song writer, detective, movie producer, scientist, city planner, etc., who must address a problem or issue or who must produce a final product. 


In B. J. Dodge's model,  http://webquest.sdsu.edu/designsteps/index.html   webquests consist of:

- an introduction: describes the overall activity, the purpose for the activity, and student's role

- task/outcome: describes the overall final outcome or product-formulating a solution to a problem or a position, or creating a product-an ad, song, story, final report, etc. 

- activities linked to web-sites: specific step-by-step activities that are linked to web-sites that provide relevant material. 

- guidance: help for students in how to organize their material to achieve the final outcome or report. 

- assessment: a specific rubric for assessing their work.

- summary: a summary of what they learned from completing the webquest

You can create Webquests using a design tool such as Filamentality http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil/



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