Young Adult Lit/Crit

May 12, 2008

My seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — ebrazee @ 1:54 pm

I loved getting to find and read titles for my seminar.  Teen pregnancy has always been around me and my school, and been something I am scared and worried about for my future students. As I found shocking stats to go with my seminar, my passion for presenting this topic increased.

All the books I found are awesome, and I can’t wait to read those that I didn’t get a chance to before my seminar. I focused on finding books with different characters from all walks of life, as well as books narated by boys and girls. Some books, most notably, Annie’s Baby, are suitabe for middle school readers, and others, like November Blues, would be best for juniors and seniors. It was disappointing to not be able to find many books that deal with abortion. I guess that’s still a taboo in YA lit! Or perhaps I’ll just write a book about that!

I also found that books on parenting and pregnant teens are written in a variety of styles, from diary-entry, to prose, to first person by males and females. The books with boy narrators were just as valuable as those by girls, and since pregnancy is more of a girls’ issue, but parenting is certainly both, the boy POV books are going to be crucial to pull in the male readers in a classroom.

I think it’s important for teachers to have books about pregnant and parenting teens in their classrooms (at least!) if not teach them, becuase a book on a shelf may be the open door a student needs to feel comfortable talking about a touchy subject with a teacher.

For me, the most fun part of the seminar was coming up with the questions and activities for the students. My participants also had great suggestions of further questions.



Feedback for Jess’ Sex Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — ebrazee @ 1:42 pm

Jess’ seminar on sex and sexuality in YA lit was an eye opener. She had books with hetero- and homo- sedxual couples, and books that told the good and bad sides of teen sex. I’ve never read Judy Blume’s FOREVER but I am definately going to now! I was surprised that this book, which shows positive and loving sides of sex, was written in the 70s.

Jess had articles that discussed the importance of including literature with sex themes because teens are “doing it”. Jess also led a discussion with me and the other participants on the difference between a sex talk in a health class and one in an ELA classroom. Questions about emotions, birth control and the blurred line between sex under the influence and rape are things that can be more openly discussed in an ELA classroom, and especially when we read books about them.

I thought her activity using song lyrics to show the 3 different narrators’ views from A BAD BOY was awesome and students would definatly enjoy the creative part and getting to use a favorite song. Her debate activity centered around the date rape in INEXCUSABLE is perfect for older students and bringing difficult questions to ask to the forefront.

In all, I really enjoyed Jess’ seminar, and not just because it was close to my topic! She presented well and knew a lot about the books she brought in. Like she said, it’s a hot topic in YA lit and it can’t be ignored. Thank you, Jess, for presenting this topic to us!


May 9, 2008

My Seminar Feedback

Filed under: seminar feedback — katefrazer @ 5:00 pm

I loved doing the reading for my seminar.  I found some amazing books, almost all of which I have bought for my classroom, and many are already out with my students.  Since the focus of my seminar was mystery novels that would interest boys, I spent a good amount of time focusing on boys as readers and analyzing texts to find specific ones that worked for these boy readers.  I was really looking for engaging mysteries that would push my students beyond the cookie cutter books that many of them love.  I also worked to find common themes in mystery novels to really examine how to write a mystery novel. 

I would love to do the same kind of work with mysteries that I think girls would really be interested in.  While I’m sure that many of my girls will enjoy reading the books I focused on, I would like to find some that are of specific female intrigue.  It would be very informative to have my student compare mystery novels of boy interest and of girl interest to see what characteristics make up each category and apply this information to the gender stereotypes that they are all too familiar with.   

Overall, I most valued finding books that I could share with my students that I know would interest them and also push them to examine the ideas in the novels.  I really wanted to find books that dealt with real middle school level issues.  I was able to find a few short series and I was very pleased to find characters that showed realistic growth as the series continued.  I also found the extension activities I created valuable.  I really want to try them out with my students next year.  I would love to do work with mysteries and have my students read a whole variety of them and do different activities with them.  I would also love to present much of the information I have to my students and have them add books and activities that they find valuable and worthy of their time to what I am providing them. 

Josh’s Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — katefrazer @ 4:38 pm

First of all, I want to say how much I enjoyed Josh’s seminar on Wednesday night.  Performing arts is such a great topic!  I found it really interesting that Josh, Erin, Raph, and I all had some connection to performing arts, even though they were all extremely different.  It really showed that this topic can reach kids with a wide variety of interests.  Josh did a nice job engaging us in discussion of all of these different types of performing art. 

All of the books that Josh talked about seemed great.  I was especially intrigued by Lemonade Mouth.  I’m planning on seeing if my school library has a copy.  I was also pleased to recognize a few of the titles from my own classroom library.  I kept thinking about the books Josh shared with us at school today.  My students and I started our drama unit.  All of my classes were ridiculously excited.  These novels would definitely catch my students attention, especially right now when we are “acting” in class.  Each of the novels that Josh brought focused on performing arts, but dealt with social issues as well.  The issues that the novels deal with, while still being about a high interest topic for kids, makes them important and great resources to open discussions with students. 

I was impressed with the extension activities Josh included in his folder.  He had a great range of activities that allowed students to be creative and use their own talents.  One assignment he included was to create a soundtrack for a novel and the rationale behind the songs and timing they chose.  I am thinking about using this idea with my students next year.  They would have fun and be thinking critically.  Josh also had an adaption activity in which students work on converting stories to script format.  I have done something similar with my kids and it was worked extremely well.  I was pleased to be able to share my own success with this idea during the seminar!

I enjoyed the conversation our group.  I think this would be a great topic to jump into with kids. Great seminar, Josh!

May 8, 2008

Jon’s Music Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — sostrom @ 9:54 am

I was fortunate enough to be a part of Jon’s seminar on YA Music Lit last night.  What a perfect way to end the class.  Jon’s seminar was upbeat and demonstrated the intrinsic value of music to young people in particular.  Through his three focus texts, King Dork, Heavy Metal and You and Hip Hop High School, Jon pointed out how music can help students form identity, cope with difficult situations, release bottled-up emotions and feel part of a community.  While King Dork sounded like a funny book about forming a band (and forming identity), Heavy Metal and You (a love story) and Hip Hop High School (a triumphant surpassing of the low expectations many people have for urban, African American youth)  have both made it to the top of my summer reading list. 

Jon’s folder included three interesting articles which outlined successful integration of music into traditional poetry curriculum.  What I found the most striking was AnJeanette C. Alexander-Smith’s comment from her article in English Journal titled “Feeling the Rhythm of the Critically Conscious Mind” in which she wrote, “I found that incorporating urban adolescents’ discourse [hip-hop] into my instruction increased students’ engagement” (58).  Alexander-Smith explains how she moved between hip-hop lyrics (from artists such as DMX, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Common and others), to spoken word or slam poetry (by poets such as Suheir Hammad and Jessica Care Moore), to jazz lyrics (particularly Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit”).  In doing so, Alexander-Smith’s students were engaging in critical literary, political and artistic analysis of the texts.  I think it is important that we view this article of further proof of what we know, and what Jon reiterated in his seminar rationale when he wrote: “I discovered long ago that interest was the only motivating factor in getting my students to read.”

In addition, Jon’s seminar really pointed out the power of YA lit over adult lit.  Jon reflected on his former practice of buying books from the music section of the book store for his students, and emphasized the importance of story that is more present in YA music lit.  To this end, his seminar really resonated with our work overall in this course.  YA lit is directed at our students, which doesn’t make it un-literary or overly simplified.  It makes is a perfect match for our students – appropriate and engaging. 

Thank you, Jon, for introducing us to so many wonderful books and impressing upon us the importance of meeting our students where THEY are (not where WE are).


Feedback for Jess

Filed under: seminar feedback — allison @ 9:25 am

Last night I attended Jess’ seminar on sex and sexual content in young adult literature. Jess did a great job of putting this together and keeping us interested for the whole session.

The most compelling aspect of Jess’ seminar was her focus on the difference between sex in the health class and sex in the ELA class. In the ELA class, topics of sex should be more critical: issues of rape, date rape, what’s ok and what’s not, and the emotions involved in sex. The final topic was discussed at length. Jess pointed out that most health classes do not include this aspect. In one of the articles she gave us, a girl wrote that if she had learned about these emotions from reading Judy Blume’s Forever before having sex, she might have held off. It seems like sex can be messy for high school students. Jess’ seminar showed us how we could show students the truth about sex, and maybe help them out before they get themselves in too deep.

Jess had several books of interest, but I left wanting to read two in particular. The first is Forever by Judy Blume. It is considered revolutionary and has been banned in many arenas. Hence, an essential read. The second is Rainbow Party by Paul Ruditis. I’d like to read this book because it’s based on a true story. I think it’s a shocking practice that has really caught on in the past few years. It sounds like a good book to recommend to students who may be engaging in dangerous sexual practices in high school.

The extension assignments that Jess created for her seminar were also a strong point. These assignments were completely removed from the typical essays and book reports that are so common and worn out in English classrooms. She suggested persuasive writing, a debate, and a musical assignment. I felt that the last two were particularly strong. A debate is a great way for students to develop their speaking and listening skills in the ELA classroom- two easily overlooked NYS standards.

The final aspect of Jess’ seminar that I would like to address is her engagement with critical literacy. While we did not discuss critical lenses directly, her entire topic embraced the principals of critical literacy. Through this seminar topic, she is encouraging English teachers to take up a difficult and uncomfortable topic, but one that is very relevant to teens. She is asking us to speak honestly with them, and encourage them to look at the issue critically by investigating controversial practices. In a way, this is cultural criticism, which is the lens that I would employ with this topic. Of course, many other lenses would be applicable: feminist, afro, marxist, etc. (What are our social expectations? How are women viewed differently when it comes to sex? How are they oversexualized? How does the music industry sexualize african americans? How do the economically disadvantaged feel the consequences of unsafe sex more than others?) The list goes on. I believe these lenses would be a very compelling way to approach this topic in a classroom.

Great Job Jess! Thanks for getting me thinking about this topic!


May 7, 2008

A Reflection on my “Sex” Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — jexter1 @ 7:49 pm

Today I presented my seminar on The Subjects of Sex & Sexual Content in YA Literature, and discovered more about myself as a “teacher,” learner, and communicator. This research project, so to speak, is an excellent way to explore several areas of education: extension activities, critically reading professional/journal articles, reading different styles of writing and genres (fiction, sci-fi, free verse poetry), and public speaking. All of the aforementioned strategies and practices should be part of the teacher-life and student-life. I discovered from my seminar, especially the research and formation of my extension activities, how crucial it is to let students choose what they read and write about (within reason, of course), be interactive, and use multiple lens’ and resources in the discovery of their points of view.

I particularly enjoyed sharing my extension activities and the texts that I brought with me. I got the impression that the text selection and variety in genres were my top strengths of the seminar. With so many books to choose from, educators, parents, and librarians must realize the prevalence sex has in teen lives. As I emphasized several times in my seminar, it is not about what adults are comfortable with, it is about what young adults/teens are interested in and doing.

Lastly, without a doubt, I would use the extension activities I proposed in my seminar. Each activity has the underlying theme of sex and critical thought on the topic, but also asks for the reader to utilize writing skills. My activities include a persuasive essay/speech that supports or opposes the censorship of Judy Blume’s FOREVER and then is read in front of a sister English class. After being read, the English class votes on who has the best opposing argument and who has the best supporting argument. The second activity, on Chris Lynch’s INEXCUSABLE, is a class debate that I assign half to be on the side of Kier, a boy accused of date raping a girl, and the other half on Gigi’s side, the victim. The final activity incorporates music and lyrics. Students find songs that could be the themes for each of the three girls’ stories in A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL, by Tanya Lee Stone. After finding songs, the students must write one addition entry for each girls’ story in the voices of the girls AND in the style of the author (free verse). This studies poetic structure and could segue into a unit/lesson on poetry. The first 2 activities require outside research of news articles, research articles, interviews, etc., so the students all practice their research skills.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for and presenting my seminar piece. The topic is hot, and I do not believe it will ever cool down. Get used to it! 🙂


Kate’s Mysterious Seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — kariredmond @ 12:32 pm

After attending Kate’s seminar on Mystery YA Novels, with a specific focus on novels for boys, I have really been itching to read a good mystery! On my next stop to B&N I plan on picking up Rat Life for my summer reading “pile” since she did such a great job of selling that book to me… Specifically she discussed how important it was that mysteries weren’t so cookie cutter that it lost the students’ interests (i.e. hardy boys or nancy drew-my personal fave).  She recognizes that her students have intellectual lives and wanted to persue their interests in mystery by providing them with novels of true value, not just standard everyday crap.  Her own passion for the genre of mystery made her a perfect seminar facilator on this subject, and if she grabbed her students’ interest as much as she did mine I am certain each kid in her classroom is reading a mystery novel at this very moment.  In addition to a rich discussion on the genre of mystery and what is offered to kids, she provided us with several very useful activities that I would enjoy utilizing when I have my own classroom. My personal favorite activity was a hands-on one that involved giving students bags with random “clues” and having them write and develop a mystery to go along with these items.  This seems like a great way to get reluctant students involved with a fun, exciting activity and have them completing writing assignments with merit at the same time.

Thanks Kate for a great seminar!


May 6, 2008

Mandy’s seminar

Filed under: seminar feedback — ebrazee @ 8:58 pm

Mandy did a great job with her seminar. Before she presented, it was easy to see that she is passionate about sports and that she did a lot of work on questions about character and actions of famous athletes and coaches alike. I think this will work for sports lovers and non-sports fans alike because of the media attention that these (negative) sports stories receive.

She had a wide range of book topics, from the blonde cheerleader type (from the back cover it sounds like it might be along the lines of the Clique series and therefore appealing to girls who maybe aren’t athletes) to Lance Armstrong’s inspiring story.

One book I wanted to read before her seminar is Raider’s Night, about a football captain who has to decide between going along with the team of standing up for another by standing alone. Mandy used her sports theme from the get-go with her beginning excercise; each student would draw a sports-related question from a deck of cards, and toss a tennis ball from one to another as they shared and answered their question. Clearly she will be an excellent teacher!

Something I learned from her seminar is about the student-only publication, TeenInk. I especially liked Mandy’s options for cross curriculum teaching, from the health benefits of excercise to the statistics of certain athletes. Mandy included a list of critical approaches to the texts. The one I think would be best applied to all of the texts within a class’ lit circles is cultural criticism. As she pointed out, you could discuss not only the culture of a team, or a sport, but how a certain culture (high school teachers, fellow students, a community) treat and react to those on a team.

Overall it was a wonderful seminar and I am eager to check out both Raider’s Night and I Was Not a Blond Cheerleader.


May 4, 2008

Mandy’s Seminar- Game for everyone.

Filed under: seminar feedback — allison @ 8:29 am

Hi everyone,

I wanted to respond to Mandy’s awesome seminar.

First, let me say that sports literature is certainly outside of my comfort zone. I rarely choose a book that has sports as a central component. When we read Crutcher, I always lost interest on the sports subplots. That being said, Mandy’s seminar actually made me excited at the thought of reading sports literature. She made me excited to incorporate sports literature into my future curriculum.

Since I came into the seminar thinking I had not read and did not like sports literature, the most interesting thing about the seminar was discovering my preconcieved notions were incorrect. I learned that I had read sports literature- Crutcher and Alexie, among others- and that sports literature is not just about sports. Its about building character, examining morals, and exploring social issues. And for those reasons, it can be a powerful teaching tool.

There were two books that I really wanted to read after going to Mandy’s seminar:

Peak by Roland Smith. Why do I want to read it? Mountain climbing is cool, and it’s different. Not what you might think of when you consider sports.

Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte. Why? Its about complex issues- rape and steroid use- in high school. Sounds compelling.

Mandy is clearly going to be a great teacher. She showed us her kick off activity, which was to give out table topic cards with questions related to sports on them. She passed around a ball to us, and when we had the ball, we had to answer the question. It was a great way to get thinking about the topic and a great way to facilitate discussion. Everyone got a chance to speak, and we all had a different question to answer. I’m definetely going to remember this for my classroom.

The final thing I would like to address is critical literacy. Critical literacy was definitely a part of Mandy’s seminar. For each of her central books, she had suggestions for critical readings. This included marxist and feminist readings. I was particularly engaged by the possibilities for feminist readings. It seems that our perceptions about females in sports is constantly changing, and I think it would be interesting to hear the insight of high school students.

Overall, Mandy did a great job. Like I said, I can tell that she will be an awesome teacher, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend her seminar.


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