Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 7, 2008

Life Skills 101: Critical Thinking

Filed under: Critical Literacy--Johnson/Freedman — kariredmond @ 4:08 am


            Part of the reason that many of us become teachers, or in my case study to become a teacher, is because of our passion for learning and our desire to help shape the lives of our students.  This dedication to the teaching process, as well as the commitment to bettering students’ abilities to navigate life is something that we all share in this class.  That sappiness aside, I think that something we also share is the ability to develop ideas critically and use the five aspects of the development of these ideas: “Cause and effect/Connections”, “Point of View/Perspective”, “Evidence”, “Suppose/ Wondering”, and “Debate” (Johnson & Freedman, 3). 

            So… as a critical thinker I wonder, how did I learn to critically think? Was it something that I was born with, or an ability that my parents helped me to develop? More likely, it was learned early on in my education and I have developed better critical thinking over several years of being an avid reader and attentive student.  Asking questions should always be encouraged in a classroom, and can help students connect with the characters in YA novels.  Johnson and Freedman use the idea of social justice to teach critical thinking in the reading of YA Literature.  Our responsibility as teachers is to place relevant works of literature in the hands of our students so that they may develop these ideas of right and wrong, just and unjust, or equality of inequality. 

            In Chapter 3 the authors examine literary theory and its relevance to teaching critical thinking. In our class discussions we have brought up issues regarding the teaching of literary theory and its importance at the middle school level.  Sure, I feel that teaching perspective and narrator recognition is important, but I can also see how these are the ideas that teachers are often spending weeks upon weeks drilling into student’s heads.  I am not sure how cognitive a 7th grader can really be when regarding texts.  They offer a few different types of critical theory in Chapter 3, which one do you feel would be most effective in a middle school classroom? How long would you spend teaching this for each text?

            For our discussion tomorrow I just ask a few questions to relate what we are reading in the text to the works of literature we are working with: How can a student gain a better social conscience or ideas about social justice from reading True Diary of a Part Time Indian and American Born Chinese? We know why these text matter (along the same lines of Jonathan’s post), but how would you explain that to your students? How important is literary theory?


1 Comment »

  1. Kari,

    As an undergrad, I read Ellin Keene and Susan Zimmerman’s book about reading strategies, MOSAIC OF THOUGHT. I realized that I was unconsciously using many of these strategies (making connections, asking questions, rereading, etc.) and was struck with the question, “How did I learn to do this?”

    I think that these strategies work because they are natural to some degree. I also think that as teachers, we need to provide explicit instruction with regard to these strategies. By this I mean that we should not only question students as they read and encourage them to question themselves, but also explicitly state that questioning will improve their comprehension, retention and critical thought about what they read. Making it clear for students what they are doing and why they are doing it will help them to seamlessly integrate these skills into their reading.


    Comment by sostrom — February 7, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

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