English 3840 Adolescent Literature

Schools typically are hierarchical with instruction being from the top down where student’s thoughts, interests, and inclinations are nearly ignored.  Ira Shor, in her book Critical Teaching and Everyday Life, discusses the Revisionists’ position that “school is a device through which a corporate society reproduces its class-based order” (2).  Under this scenario, curriculum and instruction is designed for the most highly motivated and privileged students thus accomplishing what Shor states as “recreat(ing) a stratified society by socializing each new generation into its place in the established order (2).”  This leads many students to feel disengaged and unrepresented in the curriculum and in the school social and academic environment.  Bowles and Gintis in Schooling in Capitalist America state “that major aspects of educational organization replicate the relationships of dominance and subordinancy in the economic sphere” (125). With this in mind I have decided to use democracy as a guiding principle to choose instructional approaches for my course, focusing on models of instruction that tend to be inclusive, empowering, motivating, and creative.  My definition of adolescent literature will include those novels that incorporate a protagonist that is a young adult who is struggling with issues common to teens. I will also incorporate multiple strategies for students to interact with adolescent literature and offer opportunities for them to study issues that are meaningful to teens. Another component of a democracy is tolerance for diversity so my instructional strategies will be designed to increase understanding and empathy for people of varied backgrounds.

Discussions will develop around issues of power: who has it, how did they get it, and how do they maintain it.  Assignments will focus on making connections to political, economic, historical and cultural information related to power in their community and in the world in order to make them better, more informed global citizens.  It is a thrilling prospect to help future teachers discover the potential that English Education has to empower students, build intimacy, nurture critical thinkers, and cultivate social activists.

This class offers ideas, strategies, and references for teaching an adolescent literature course that features novels with adolescents that are marginalized within the school, the community, and throughout the world. The focus of this class will be literature with protagonists and main characters that are special needs, poor, gay, abused, homeless, overweight/unattractive, a minority, or a bully.  Multicultural Literature will be incorporated into this course in order to address issues of marginalization in the world community.

The writing assignments are designed to encourage self exploration and build community in the classroom as well as improve the complexity and sophistication of student writing. Poetry will be used as a springboard for writing as well as a means to demonstrate the use of imagery, poetic structures, and the efficient use of words. This course will incorporate teaching strategies that help increase motivation and improve the reading and writing skills of struggling students as well as more advanced students.

Bowles, Samuel and Gintis, Herbert. Schooling in Capitalist America . New York: Basic, 1976.

Shor, Ira.  Critical Teaching and Everyday Life.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Click here for Chapter in Book Teaching YA Lit through Differentiated Instruction

Click here for video on The End of the World.  The speaker makes a compelling argument that outlines how the United States is following similar steps to Nazi Germany and other dictatorships. Please be patient as they start with an advertisement–wait it out– this video is worth the wait!!!


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