by Deborah Appleman
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
As the summer wanes, we teachers slowly turn our focus to the beginning of school. For teachers of literature, that often means a trip to the dusty bookroom to decide what texts teachers and students should read together throughout the year. This is, or should be, a complicated decision, a thoughtful calibration of text and context, of who our students are and what kind of reading would serve them best as we encourage their personal and intellectual development. After the obligatory quick count of paperback and perma-bound copies of literary texts, we consider factors of readability, literary merit, and relevance. We re-read state standards and confer with our fellow teachers about our school’s curriculum. This fall, however, there are even more factors to consider as we attempt to make our best pedagogical decisions about what to teach and why.
Continue reading “In Defense of Teaching Troubled Texts in Troubling Times“
By Thomas Courtney
Are your students out of the habit of reading “real” books? I have noticed that although many of my own students are flat-out thrilled to be back in the classroom, some have been dragging their heels when it comes to good, old-fashioned, printed-page literature. It makes sense; after a year and a half (or more) of working on laptops with the newest apps and educational games, it can be a jarring transition back to books, pencils, and paper. While there’s always an element of the reluctant reader syndrome in our classrooms, I and many of my colleagues are finding it particularly difficult this school year to guide our reluctant readers back into a great book.
Continue reading “Four Gateway Books for Reluctant Readers”
By Sharon Kunde
In addition to resting and recharging, the weeks leading up to the New Year are a perfect time for reflecting on our practices as educators. This year, I encourage ELA teachers to consider the diversity of the authors and works represented in their syllabi. Teachers who seek greater diversity when planning an English Language Arts syllabus may face a number of hurdles, including lack of time in an already jam-packed curriculum, difficulty in choosing between an abundance of options, or a lack of knowledge of what options there may be. Below, I explore a list of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth century poems by African American authors that can easily be included in existing secondary classroom syllabi, or that could form the backbone of a more involved unit-long or semester-long course of study.
Continue reading “Diversifying Your ELA Curriculum in 2022”
By Jonna Kuskey
Our high school, like many across the nation, has eliminated its library. To fill this void, our English department has worked intensely over the past several years to obtain books for our classroom libraries by applying for grants, writing numerous Donors Choose projects, asking teachers and friends to donate books, and scouring the bookshelves of secondhand stores. Still, we have a fraction of the books that our old school library housed, so we put our heads together to brainstorm solutions to this problem. We realized we were ignoring the most obvious solution, one that was free, easy, and right under our noses: our local public library.
Continue reading “How to Partner With Your Local Library”
by Kasey Short
All educators help shape their students’ worldview–and self-image–with the narratives they hold space for in their curriculum. As an English teacher, I am especially aware of the stories and perspectives I validate through the books I assign and recommend to my students. This Pride Month, I have been considering how I use literature to broaden my students’ understanding of gender expression and sexuality. Though I teach 8th grade English and so am primarily interested in young adult novels, I’ve accumulated a list of some wonderful LGBTQ+ books across the K-12 range!
Continue reading “20 Books to Celebrate Pride Month”
By Sharon Kunde
The English classroom is a crucial space for us, as teachers, to cultivate anti-racism. In ELA class, students learn which stories and points of view matter—they are taught which voices and narrative styles are legitimate. While strides have been made in the past years and decades to remove racist content from our English curricula, this is not enough to constitute an anti-racist curriculum. In order for our curricula to be truly anti-racist, we must rethink our entire system of literary study.
Continue reading “Cultivating an Anti-Racist English Classroom”
By Cindy Terebush
I recently participated in an online gathering of early learners. Their teacher was reading a book. The children, in little boxes on the computer screen, were making faces at each other, pointing, dancing and performing other feats of imagination. When the session was over, the teacher asked me, “Why am I doing this? They aren’t listening.”
In other areas where children may have less access to technology, teachers are preparing materials and packets that families can get in the mail or pick up at bus stops. Numerous teachers have shared with me that they are convinced that it is a futile effort because most families are overwhelmed and not doing the activities.
Continue reading “Early Learners Need a Home-School Connection”
I confess. I still teach Sherman Alexie’s books. I value the quality of his work and the power it has on adolescent readers too much to give it up. That declaration has created confusion, consternation, and even condemnation by some fellow teachers who heretofore thought I was at least passably “woke.” How can I be a feminist and teach the works of such a serial abuser? You probably still watch Woody Allen movies, they sneer.
Similarly, despite the reasonable reconsideration of the dominance of Shakespeare in literature curricula, I am not swayed by the argument that his plays shouldn’t be taught because they are “triggering.” From my perspective, both the rise of trigger warnings and the #MeToo movement have reshaped and perhaps diminished the landscape of the politics of teaching literature.
Continue reading “Trending in 2020: To Teach or Not to Teach “Triggering” Texts”
English educators are generally familiar with the topic of propaganda, as it is a theme of much of the literature that is emphasized in courses for high school and college students. For many teachers, it may seem as if dystopian young adult novels have become the default genre of a generation. Dystopian literature like Huxley’s Brave New World and other works critique mindless consumption, instant gratification, reliance on technology, and the resulting atrophy of language and critical thinking. When reading this novel, one teacher asks her students to reflect on these questions: “Is life easy for us today? Is it too easy? How do people escape from everyday life? Is it necessary to do so? Why or why not?” (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 24).
Anderson’s young adult novel, Feed is
a popular work that considers the ubiquitous nature of advertising as
propaganda. The novel uses satire, humor, and exaggeration to depict the world
of the future, where the Internet is implanted into your brain as the Feed. As
people grow up, their brains cannot function without the Feed. They attend a classroom run by corporations where
students learn how to use technology, find bargains and decorate a bedroom. Through
education, in this dystopic world, students are trained to be consumers.
Continue reading “Media Literacy: Argument, Persuasion, and Propaganda in English Education”
The proportion of English learners (ELs) in the United States public school system has reached nearly ten percent of all students, and is on a nationwide growth trajectory1. Along with this growth in numbers, ELs tend to experience an opportunity gap, which generally refers to the impact that factors such as students’ English proficiency, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have on their achievement. For example, 79% of English fluent eighth graders scored at the basic or above reading level in 2017, while only 32% of ELs scored at those levels during that same year.2 In addition, ELs have one of the lowest graduation rates among all students on a national level, approximately 63% as compared to 82% of all students3.Gaps such as these have helped lead far too many educators to see ELs as one-dimensional, defined primarily as being lacking in areas such as English proficiency, achievement in content areas, and/or ability to graduate. Recent research4 on teachers’ perceptions of ELs in kindergarten through second grade suggests that classifying students as ELs has a “direct and negative effect on teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills.”
Continue reading “Back to School: Promoting English Learners’ Assets”