Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 23, 2008

Filed under: Reeves — ebrazee @ 7:25 pm

As the facilitator for the chapter 6 reading from Reeves, I’d like to post a few questions for tomorrow’s discussion.

Valisha expressed interest in characters as positive role models, whom she could learn from, and events that related to real-life. How can we help her make connections with with not-so-obvious positive characters? (E.g. the medicine man in No Witchcraft for Sale).

Is it always/never necessary to give background/history on books from another era? Should researching this info be up to our students? Valisha did not comprehend the importance of the medicine man’s refusal to name the ‘drug’ he used- a big part of her also missing him as a postive character.

Some of Valisha’s teachers let things slide because they knew she was a Mom. One alternative to reading a book that is never offered to her (to my surprise) is listening to a book on tape of the assigned reading. Do you think this would be a good replacement for students (pressed for time, with other obligations) like Valisha? Any students at all?

Valisha states she doesn’t enjoy reading about slavery and how black people [were] treated. Her pain may be more profound in a classroom where she is a minority. How do we/should we approach reading a novel that may be painful or enraging to students of a certain race or background?



April 22, 2008

Warning: Explicit Instruction

Filed under: Reeves — sostrom @ 10:51 pm

In Reeves, Chapter 7, we meet Joel.  Reeves describes Joel as “Everystudent” (196).  She explains that Joel “virtually stopped reading in middle school” and was (at the end of 10th grade) experiencing increasing “difficulty comprehending his textbooks” (196).  As the chapter continues, we find that Joel’s reading comprehension problems stem from, among other things, “inadequate background knowledge, and […]knowledge of how to negotiate a writer’s use of literary techniques” (227). 

In other words, Joel may know how to read, but he doesn’t know how to comprehend what he reads.  He needs explicit instruction in reading strategies.  There are plenty of trade books that address how to teach reading, but the one that I found most helpful is Mosaic of Thought by EllinKeene and Susan Zimmerman.  The authors delineate seven reading strategies in a clear and very accessible way.  However, the main point is that reading needs to be taught.  We need to actively and explicitly teach our students how to connect with the text, use the context, question what they read, activate their prior knowledge, synthesize, reread, identify the most important ideas, etc., in order to provide them with the tools we expect them to use.

For example, Joel describes his problem with reading Stephen King’s Cujo: “It’s just he goes on from one thing, you start reading, and it’s like switch to a different thing, and I just kinda got lost about what was going on” (201).  Reeves writes that Joel “was not experienced in suspending information that he did not fully understand” (202).  This reading strategy could be modeled using a picture book and a think aloud, and then practiced, supported and honed through explicit instruction rather than the assumption that once a kid learns how to read, they need no further lessons.

As facilitator of this chapter, I’d like to post some other questions for response:

  • How can we motivate students like Joel who seem to view reading as something they only do at school to read at home?
  • What post-elementary school memories do you have of teaching or being taught to read?  What worked/didn’t work for you?
  • Do you think Joel is really “Everystudent” as Reeves says?
  • Joel feels he is successful in understanding Othello because of the audio tapes he and his classmates listen to.  What are your thoughts on audio tapes – root of all evil or helpful instructional tool?
  • Reeves characterizes Joel as a the type of student who teachers “never quite get to the core of their thinking and never quite figure out how we can provide it in a form they can recoginze and use” (196).  I think this is a realistic and frustrating aspect of teaching.  Have other experienced this struggle to connect and understand a student?  How do you meet the needs of a student whose needs you can’t determine?

Looking forward to our discussion here and in class Thursday.


ps/ Reeves says that Iago dies at the end of Othello, but as I recall he is only wounded.  Can someone verify this either way? 🙂

April 2, 2008

Thoughts on Duke

Filed under: Reeves — katefrazer @ 3:17 pm

After reading all Reeves has to say about Duke, he seems like a pretty interesting guy.  He also seems like a tough case for us English teachers.  It is obvious that he is motivated and wants to have be successful and have a career, but all of this motivation and drive is towards music not towards reading or all things school related.  My immediate thoughts when I  just started this chapter were, have Duke read song lyrics, biographies of rappers, technical information on music.  However, this is obviously too easy of an answer, and my quick fix for this non-reader was ruled out as I read that Duke said, “Readin’ the music always bored me,” (71).  What do we do with our students like Duke? 

As information about Duke continued through his interaction with Reeves,  I felt both better and worse about his situation.  He does write creatively, and it appears as if one of his multiple English teachers is trying to reach him through this angle.  He also loved Of Mice and Men because of his mom.  What if other people did the same thing for him?  What if someone talked about a book that genuinely interested them and maybe even showed him the movie?  Would that work with another book as it did with this one?  I think it’s at least worth trying.  On the other hand, I was perplexed by Duke’s issues with books not turning out the way he wanted them to, and that this really turned him off reading.  He made a good argument, but readers have no control over what the author has written.  If we want books to represent real life, they aren’t always going to turn out the way we want.  Reeves discusses how Duke was never taught to truly read a text which included important components like arguing with the text, something Duke would love to do, but never thought possible.  If Duke was encouraged to do this now, maybe he would feel more connected with the text and feel some of the power he does with his own writing. 

There is so much to discuss about Duke’s current schooling situation and what to do to encourage him.  I have a few other points that I feel are great discussion jump offs.  Duke says, “But you gotta work to read,” (98).  Sometimes I don’t think about how challenging reading can be for some people because I always loved to read.  What is the best way to address this issue?  Reading can be hard.  I would probably start by agreeing and talking from there.  One last thing.  I have very mixed feelings on books on tape, but I’m wondering if someone who is so motivated by hearing and listening, like Duke, would benefit from them.  I’m am interested to hear what others have to say. 

April 1, 2008

Rosa the reader: reflections on chapter five in Reeves

Filed under: Reeves — scrollman @ 2:55 pm

In chapter five of Reeves, we meet Rosa: a devourer of romance and mystery novels, and a budding writer: the kind of student who we would die to have in an English class, but ironically, the kind of student who is not succeeding within the traditional academic environment.  Rosa loves to read, but unfortunately, the books she reads are not valued by the ELA establishment.  Rosa loves to write, but her teachers are neither creative nor willing enough to use Rosa’s flowering literacy to help her improve.

The essential point in this chapter is that it is a high crime (the biggest of violations!) to diminish or devalue in any way, shape, or form, a students love of reading.  Rather, we should look for ways to broaden, enlighten, and expand upon this love in the most conscious and sensitive ways we can.  What a tragedy it is that English class becomes the class where students learn to hate books; or learn that the books they love are “trash”.  I keep thinking about what Ray Bradbury said last week about love.  Really, there is nothing more basic and important than loving what you do.   Why do teachers forget that inspiring students to love what they do in class is not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself.  

From a pedagogical perspective, students will learn more if they are passionate about what they are doing. This somewhat obvious and redundant point is sorely missed by most of the educational establishment.  A more subtle point is that a student’s love, such as Rosa’s love of Romance novels, can sometimes serve a purpose which trumps abstract notions of education and the literary canon.  Rosa reads Romance novels not only for pleasure, but because they provide her with a means of coping with and feeling better about the world around her.  Reading in this sense is not only an intellectual activity,  but an emotional one as well. 

For Rosa, books are an extension of herself, and any rejection of them cannot help but become personal.   Conversely, the way to help Rosa, and students like her, is through an acceptance and acknowledgement of her interests, which in essence becomes an acceptance and acknowledgement for her as a human being.  As Reeves mentions, in the case of Rosa, “emotional support is a necessary prerequisite to learning”(141); and in Rosa’s own words, “If…someone that is real close to you is not involved, then you’re not gonna really learn anything” (141).  In other words, kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  From my own experience, this has always been true, regardless of the many other factors which will determine a student’s success.   But caring must be proved through outward demonstrations of respect. Caring means being interested enough to ask the many questions that Reeves asked of Rosa; questions that revealed the complexity and sophistication of Rosa’s reading interests, and which shed light on how those interests could help her to develop in both a literary and a personal sense.


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