Teachable YA Lit: PLEASE!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by ELA 11 12, Jan 6, 2009.

  1. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Jan 6, 2009

    Quick background:

    My fellow teacher and I teach English 11 in a rural school district. There are 6 sections of ELA 11 with an average of 20 students per section (some have more, some less). Many of the students milk cows before school and immediately after. The bus rides are long and there is little affluence. However, very few students want to fail, so their academic work ethic is high. It's really a great situation.

    Our independent reading curriculum/program is awesome. We use Accelerated Reader where students chose books with a minimum point value of 5 and point value the same. They must choose their own title and complete it every five weeks, or rather they are expected to read two novels independently each quarter (8 per year).

    In addition they are assigned two class novels each quarter.

    So students won't read many of the class novels because they aren't entertaining. It's that simple.

    We've played around with the independent reading requirements by lessening the yearly count, but it doesn't help.

    Our epiphany was that students want books that hook them and are entertaining. They don't mind a challenge, but the show better be worth it.

    So that said, students choose to not read the following:

    The Great Gatsby
    The Scarlet Letter
    The Crucible
    Macbeth

    The will read:

    Speak
    Heaven/The First Part Last
    parts of The Things They Carried

    So we are looking for some YA titles that are teachable. Speak is easy, but loaded with literary devices. Loaded. And it can be taken to deep levels of discussion. Deeper than the obvious "What is right?" or "Why would Melinda make such decisions?"

    Sorry for the long post. But we are at a loss...

    Thanks in advance! :thumb:

    Oh yeah, this article sums up our dilemma:

    http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/winter08_09/mcclay.pdf
     
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  3. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jan 7, 2009

    I read this for a grad class and thought it was quite good:

    Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
    From Publishers Weekly
    In this suspenseful, disturbing debut novel, a high school clique's plans to make over a social outcast go tragically awry. Quotes at the opening of each chapter foretell the disaster to come. Thaddeus R. Steward IV, nicknamed "Young," who is an aspiring writer, narrates the tale. As it opens, Rob Haynes, an out-of-state transfer student with good looks and seemingly unshakable confidence, quickly ascends to alpha male, ousting reigning king of popularity, Lance Ansley. But, as Lance puts it, "[Rob] wasn't happy to have it all, he had to make sure I didn't have anything." By contrast, Rob wants to position Simon Glass, a "textbook geek," so that his peers will vote Simon "Class Favorite." Simon appears to go along with the new clothes and haircut, but he has some ideas of his own. When Simon and Young discover a secret about Rob's past, one of them seeks to use it, the other to protect it. Unfortunately, the novel follows so many characters that readers do not get to know any one of them well. Ronna, Young's girlfriend, provides the most insightful commentary; speaking of Rob's plan to transform Simon, she says, "Instead of making Rob more, doesn't it just make all of us... less?" Such probing questions are overshadowed by the novel's larger events and the sheer number of characters. Still, the thriller plot and breakneck pacing will keep readers hooked and on the lookout for this author's next book. Ages 12-up.
    Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
     
  4. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Jan 8, 2009

    Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson (sp?) is a great YA novel. It is a true YA novel, though -- the age/level is probably 6th-9th. However, it is highly teachable, has a great depth of meaning, and definitely "hooks" students. It deals with issues of bullying, self-respect, Native American culture, justice, and how to survive being eaten by a bear! I highly recommend it.
     
  5. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Jan 8, 2009

    Would they do Shakespeare's comedies rather than his tragedies? Twelfth Night, The Tempest, things like that?
     
  6. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Jan 9, 2009

    That will work well with the upper third, but not enough of the middle and lower will read them.
     
  7. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    Jan 10, 2009

    One of our teachers is going to use Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian! This is a wonderful (fictional) book (inspired by the author's background) of a Spokane Indian boy who attends the local white school rather than the reservation school. It contains some language, references ************ once, notes dangerous drinking habits of adult characters, and contains a death, but it is completely compelling, and I believe students will love it.

    This text has wonderful possibilities for diversity studies, and there are also cartoon pictures included, as it is meant to be the narrator's journal.

    Also, Walter Dean Myers's Monster was a huge hit with my students this year. It's not tough reading, and it's written as a screenplay. It is about a teen who is on trail for murder. There are also journal entries mixed throughout, so it's fun to see if he ever lies in court, and listen as the story slowly unravels. It's a great piece to use to explore film, or issues of decision-making, and another example of diversity studies (black v white, young v mature, man v woman).
     
  8. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Jan 18, 2009

    Thanks, ChangeAgent!

    I have A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Wilcomb on my desk. I haven't opened it yet and may not until I check out your suggestion first...

    I have finished Shattering Glass, Feed and The Burn Journals since my initial post. None of them are what I want to teach but ALL of them are on my shelf of independent reading suggestions for my students.
     
  9. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Jan 19, 2009

    Do you think if they had the right hook, they would read them? For example, the language in Gatsby isn't really all that hard. The kids have trouble getting into the first chapter. But when we start talking about the crazy love triangles and murders and deceit, the kids really start to get into it, especially if they like Jerry Springer or soap operas.

    The first time I taught To Kill a Mockingbird, the kids hated it and thought it was so boring and thought the kids were stupid. Now I do a pre-reading activity where they brainstorm about their childhoods - what they "played", what they were afraid of, where their secret hideout was, etc. Then the kids got really into because, like they said, "We used to do stupid stuff like that when we were kids, too!"

    So, maybe setting up the story so it is a little easier to relate to is one option. Not that you couldn't also add YA novels, as well.
     
  10. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Jan 19, 2009

    Those are really good points. I thought all that too. This is a general statement, but there is no real commitment to reading fluency in our district. So though Gatsby is not difficult, students who struggle catching the flow of a writer close the book and take the zero.

    In the same sense I am struggling to have enough students be entertained with not only the story, but the feeling of enlightenment in the messages in literature.

    I am hoping that if I can have enough novels in my quiver, I will be able to hit that target each year: students read AND be entertained by feeling "smarter" from reading a story they liked.

    Perhaps there's a magic potion out there somewhere?
     
  11. Apple125

    Apple125 Rookie

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    Jan 19, 2009

    I read The Things They Carried in twelfth grade, and I loved it. It's one of the books that touched me and I still think about it. We read it in its entirety. We also read The Great Gatsby (not a favorite), The Maltese Falcon, Johnny Got His Gun (great, great book if you can find it), Fahrenheit 451, Othello, and Hamlet. If they haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird, they definitely should read it, because so many colleges use it as background knowledge. Good luck.
     
  12. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Jan 20, 2009

    Thanks! Keep the suggestions coming...

    I do teach TTC to ELA 11 (that is the focus group for this thread). It works well as I use it to teach writing...O'Brien goes into great detail about how to tell a story and how telling stories heal.

    TKM is part of our ELA 10 curriculum.

    The students do enjoy The Crucible...when they read it...
     

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