Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 19, 2008


Filed under: Critical Literacy--Johnson/Freedman — Joyce @ 9:53 pm

Just wanted to mention a few things about the J/F that stuck out to me.

 Oppression in discourse: how incredibly pertinent I found this. It was like reading something that was written FOR me. I’ve been struggling with finding my “conversational tone” in discussion, and I now have a language to express my issues.

“Sometimes, students talk in ways that intimidate their peers,” says Reeves, and I think it’s important that she says the students, “are not thinking of oppressing others through their mannerisms” (138-9). Positively on the mark. Oppression isn’t always intentional. 

Another portion of the reading mentioned how:

[S]tudents may realize that they also make erroneous assumptions about others and appear oppressive because of their lack of knowledge and their unexamined behaviors. (Reeves, 123)

Thoughtful moments. I can easily connect this to LUNA, for those who read it. Sarah mentioned that Regan is perceived as a snob, when she sees herself as an outcast. Same world, worlds apart.

I liked this chapter better than the one on identity (though I liked that one also) because it hit me at home. Made the Match.



February 15, 2008


Filed under: Critical Literacy--Johnson/Freedman — Joyce @ 1:51 pm

If there is, in fact, a separate book that I don’t have for that WHAT THEY FOUND Lit Circle, one that I won’t be able to access in time for next week…    I would like to volunteer for the Johnson/Freedman discussion/facilitation.

Or, I’ll gladly do both. Whatever works best.

 Thanks, Joyce

February 11, 2008

It finally happened

Hi All,

Those of you who took AED 541 with me will delight that I have finally experienced the horrible: I sat in a classroom and observed the students attempt to listen to Of Mice and Men on tape.

It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was my first day at Corcoran. The students came into class, and they immediately started going over the plot details from chapter two of the book. As the teacher tried to get them to concentrate, a fight seemed to be going on outside the door in the hallway. I looked over towards the door, but no one else in the room seemed to notice. After an enlightening plot summary of chapter two, the teacher cued up the good old tape player. SSHHHEEEESHSHHEEEEEESHEHEE “of mice and men ssssschapter three static.static.static” The least they could do is give these kids a decent recording. The teacher walked around the room, nudging kids to wake them up and reminding them to follow along. Clearly, none of them were paying attention.
After a few minutes of staring off into space, one girl raised her hand and said “It would help us to pay attention if we could take turns reading out loud.” The teacher gave her an incredibly sympathetic look and said “I know, HUN, but we need to get through this book quickly, we just dont have time hun.” I just wonder what the point is of getting though a book quickly, if none of the students are paying attention.

Also, talk about irrelevant. The only concern for this teacher was getting the students to learn the plot. Sparknotes could teach them that quickly, since she is in such a hurry to finish the book. Now, I am a huge fan of John Steinbeck, but this book is totally irrelevant for these students. If they HAVE to read it, why can’t they employ some critical literacy- Johnson and Freedman would tell this teacher that she should make it matter. If my district told me I had to teach this book, I’d be pulling out everything I could think of to make it interesting to these kids- Lennie and his instability and potential for violence despite his innocence; the culture of irresponsible sex at brothels; the brotherhood despite conflicts and hardships; and, of course, who’s missing from this text; etc. etc. Plot summary doesn’t cut it, and there’s no excuse.


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?


February 6, 2008

Ahh.. Politics. (Freedman and Johnson)

Filed under: Critical Literacy--Johnson/Freedman, Uncategorized — Mandy @ 5:55 pm

Many aspects of this text were useful and many of the ideas reminiscent of what we have been talking about in class. I am a huge proponent of social justice, as I imagine all of us are, so reading this text was especially enjoyable for me. A lot of issues from these chapters seem very timely to discuss in relation to the upcoming election and emphasis on our country’s social problems. At the same time, I am distressed that students/adolescents in the age bracket of 18 and up have incredibly low percentages of participation in the current race for the Presidency. And I have to wonder, are they getting any exposure in high school to many of the issues that they will have to deal with in the near future? Are they simply latching on to their parents’ opinions, without ever considering the consequences, implications, advantages in choosing to blindly participate in those discourses?  I am terrified to think that they are not getting the necessary exposure, and thus, many teachers are not living up to their responsibilities to inform and challenge our students. Am I getting too political? If so, I apologize…I am in that mindset this week!! Further, this text also considers social justice within schools, which I think is often overlooked.

Chapter three discusses using theory with middle-level students, and this directly relates to social justice. I am wondering about everyone’s reaction to this idea, especially because so few teachers at the high school level work with theories. However, I like this idea because I think that the younger kids are when they start to “understand the world’s complexity”, the better off they will be. What do others think of this issue? How can we use theory with our middle level kids without confusing or overwhelming them? This is a challenge I am thinking about as I read this text, but I know it must be done to prepare our kids to be active citizens, workers, voters, parents, professionals.

One of the most critical aspects that I took away from this text was the “pedagogy of possibility” where “schools can be transforming institutions where teachers and students can change themselves and the world” (15). I think this is essential to the work we do as English teachers and fits in nicely with the idea of social justice. How can we transform the lives of our students and the world as a whole, without acknowledging social justice? I don’t think we can. Please consider some of these issues and respond or be prepared to discuss them tomorrow in class with Kari and I. Thanks!!


February 5, 2008

Thoughts on the Johnson and Freedman reading

Filed under: Critical Literacy--Johnson/Freedman — scrollman @ 10:20 pm

The most important concept I took away from the Johnson and Freedman reading this week is that teachers can “become the cultural workers that transform society” (12).    How many of us, as teachers or future teachers, really think about our role in either disrupting or perpetuating the cycle of oppression?  Although I try to keep this thought in the forefront of my mind, it is difficult when there are so many other specific educational tasks at hand.   What Johnson and Freedman point out, however, is that by helping students to develop their critical thinking, critical consciousness, and critical literacy, we help them to become more reflective about society (past, present, and future) and might potentially spur them to take part in social and political action- or at least vote for progressive candidates. 

The type of teaching model that Johnson and Freedman advocate is very consistent with inquiry learning.  If we ask our students deeper types of questions, and encourage them to ask questions of us, and each other, we collectively begin to see how socially constructed this world really is.   Sometimes this can get dangerous, but in a good way.  We’ve all heard the age old student question, “why do I need to know this?”  There really isn’t a good answer to this question.  It’s kind of like asking what the meaning of life is.  The truth is, we don’t have to know anything at all.  There is no absolute authority which dictates what knowledge is necessary and what knowledge isn’t.  People, mostly dead, have created vast conceptual structures, institutions, languages, technologies, economies, religions, cultures, which define the way we think, act, live, and die.  As soon as we come to realize that human beings have the power to shape this world in whatever way they see fit, we (hopefully) begin to ask the most fundamental question of all: to what end should we shape our world (both local and global)?  I am happy to say that whenever this question comes up in my class (and it does come up quite often) my students are surprisingly progressive in their ways of thinking.  Of course they are extremely skeptical about this better world ever becoming a reality, but at least they can imagine what it would be like- which reminds me of a quote (no, not by John Lennon, although Imagine is one of my favorite songs). This quote is by Albert Einstein, and just happens to be hanging on a poster on the wall behind this school computer: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world.”  Once our students begin to open up to possibilities, and imagine that things could have been, can be, and will be different than they are, they begin to take power over their own minds. 


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