English 4800 Methods of Teaching Literature

“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”
~C. S. Lewis

Literature has the potential to help students learn about the world, develop a greater sense of empathy, access deep insights about themselves and others, and hone the skills that will make them valuable citizens—globally, nationally and locally. Yet so often, children and teens learn to dislike reading, sometimes as a result of poorly-planned classroom experiences with books that come across as “boring” and disconnected from their lives. How literature is taught is crucial in ensuring that students become lifelong readers, that they learn to love and appreciate the excitement that comes from a really good book.

English 4800 Methods of Teaching Literature is designed to help prospective teachers develop the creative skills necessary to bringing books to life in grades 6-12. It emphasizes a variety of approaches to engage those with different learning styles and encourages the use of technology, graphic novels, art projects, music, games, writing, dance, and drama in creating activities that students get excited about. Drawing on the requirements of the Common Core Standards, this course encourages prospective teachers to find new and creative ways to use the most commonly read books, short stories, plays, essays, and poems in the secondary curriculum (Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc), as well as introducing a variety of lesser-known texts with applications to middle school and high school students. It emphasizes an approach to literature instruction that aims to help secondary students engage with real life issues in meaningful ways, helping them to become agents of change in their homes, schools, and wider communities. It also highlights a multimedia approach to literature instruction, encouraging prospective teachers to use a variety of technologies in their classrooms.


teaching literature to adolescents coverTEXTBOOK
Teaching Literature to Adolescents (2010) by Richard Beach, Deborah Appleman Heinemann, 232 pages.

This book provides a convenient overview to a variety of methods for teaching literature, offering a fresh and innovative approach that will help inform the structure and content of the course. We will also use a variety of supplementary materials, including articles and film.



WEEK ONE: Purposes of Teaching Literature
Read Appleman Chapter 1
This week focuses on why we teach literature, inviting students to begin investigating their own beliefs about the written word and its meaning in human lives.

WEEK TWO: Considering Audience
Read Appleman Chapter 2
It is easy for teachers, especially those just starting, to assume that they “know” who their students are – but students vary greatly from school to school. This week, we will consider issues of diversity and learning styles, as well as the ways in which modern technology and family structures are influencing students and their learning.

WEEK THREE: Choosing Texts
Read Appleman Chapter 3
There are so many potential texts that can work in the middle school or high school classroom! How does a teacher go about deciding what is worth teaching?

WEEK FOUR: Approaching Classical Literature
Read Appleman Chapter 4
Classical literature forms a part of collective culture. While the works deemed part of the “cannon” are always controversial for a variety of reasons, they are an important part of literature instruction, particularly when combined with multicultural texts and young adult novels, creating opportunities for students to link concepts across different genres, cultures and points of view

WEEK FIVE: Approaching Young Adult Literature
Read Appleman Chapter 5
Young adult literature has the ability to speak directly to the issues teenagers face in their lives in meaningful ways. Developing techniques for using these books, including graphic novels, in the literature classroom is essential to engaging students at a variety of reading and comprehension levels.

WEEK SIX: Common Core Standards
Students will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the Common Core Standards, and examine ways in which literature can be taught according to the standards.

WEEK SEVEN: Using Analytical Lenses
Analysis is one of the most important skills students learn from literature. Learn a variety of ways in which lenses can be applied to different texts, radically changing the ways in which they can be used and interpreted.

WEEK EIGHT: Using Popular Media
Read Appleman Chapter Six
Students are already engaged with popular media, so it makes sense for teachers of literature to capitalize on their interests in ways that promote learning and engagement with other literary texts and concepts.

WEEK NINE: Using Drama
Read Appleman Chapter 10
Drama can be a powerful method to unlock meaning in texts, as well as a way to help students express themselves and gain confidence in their own voices.

WEEK TEN: Themed Units
Learn how to create units around particular themes that can be approached from a variety of ways, using texts, films, technology, field trips, visual art, games and other creative methods that engage students in meaningful issues.

WEEK ELEVEN: Writing About Literature
Discover ways to help students write more effectively and creatively about literature, helping them to develop as strong thinkers and communicators.

WEEK TWELVE: Assessment and Feedback
How does a teacher know whether a lesson has been a success? And what are the most effective forms of feedback for creating student motivation to work hard and excel? This week discusses creating assessment criteria and looks at various ways to provide meaningful feedback to student work.

WEEK THIRTEEN: Literature for Different Learning Styles
Different people learn differently – not all most appreciate sitting in a corner and reading a book, although these types of learners are the ones that much of education seems tailored for. This week’s class will investigate ways to engage learners in physical activity, sound, visual art, nature and other ways of knowing that can bring literature to life and extend its study beyond the page.

WEEK FOURTEEN: Leading Effective Discussions
Discussions can be one of the best ways to delve deeply into issues arises in works of literature. After the best discussions, students are still talking as they leave the room! Find out ways to create good classroom chats about books that leave students wanting to learn more.

WEEK FIFTEEN: Merging Literature and Experience
Ideally teachers hope that literature will merge with students’ own experience and help them better define their world and the place they occupy within it.



Philosophy of Teaching Literature (10%)
Write a carefully considered and well-crafted exploration (4-6 pages) of your own beliefs regarding the value of literature for human beings. Draw on the writings of others as well as your own experiences. You will submit this assignment twice. The first draft will be written in the first two weeks of class and will draw substantially on the ideas you already have regarding literature. The final draft, due the last week of class, will incorporate a reflection on how your beliefs about literature have changed over the course of the semester.

Multi-activity Unit Plan (40%)
Using your selected text, plan a three-week unit focusing on issues in the book. Make sure your plan uses a variety of methods to appeal to different learners and to maintain excitement and momentum. These can include art, music, physical activity, discussion, drama, writing, field trips, special guests, films, technology, poetry, graphic novels, festivals, special events, parties, etc. The unit should include an overview of each day of the three week period (fifteen days), two detailed lesson plans, one assignment plan along with a rubric for assessment, and a two-page reflective essay describing your rationale for approaching the text in this particular way.

Teaching Demonstrations (40%)
In groups, present four ten-minute mini-lessons focusing on your chosen text, and using various innovative methods you’ve developed—specifically incorporating 1) Discussion, 2) Multimedia, 3) Writing, 4) Drama. Individually, write a two-page reflection on the experience of teaching, including observations of what went well and what might be improved in the future.

Resource Portfolio (10%)
Compile an electronic, online portfolio of 20 resources you might use in your own classroom that can also serve as a valuable resource to other teachers. Write a brief (one paragraph) description of each resource along with an explanation (one or two paragraphs) of how you envision using it in the classroom. Resources can include literary works, films, videos, games, etc. Include links to the resources.

classic grunge frame


Common Core Standards

Short Film Central

Shorts Bay

Recommended Works of Multicultural Literature for the Secondary Classroom

This I Believe in the Classroom

Great Read-Alouds from the New York Times

PBS Teachers

Teaching Literature

Books and Plays

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Lord of the Flies,  William Golding
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
1984, George Orwell
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang
The Odyssey, Homer
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Night, Elie Wiesel
The Giver, Lois Lowry
The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel DeFoe
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Animal Farm, George Orwell
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
Antigone, Sophocles
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad, Bebe Moore Campbell
Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
Fifth Chinese Daughter, Jade Snow Wong
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
The Horned Toad, Gerald Haslam
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

Short Stories
“The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson
“Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Nightfall,” Isaac Asimov
“Metamorphosis,” Franz Kafka
“There Will Come Soft Rains,” Ray Bradbury
“The Ransom of Red Chief,” O. Henry
“The Telltale Heart,” Edgar Allen Poe
“A Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allen Poe
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” James Thurber
“A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner
“The Most Dangerous Game,” Richard Connell
“Thank You Ma’am,” Langston Hughes
“The Stolen Party,” Liliana Hecker
“Looking for a Rain God,” Bessie Head

“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” Dylan Thomas
“The Raven,” Edgar Allen Poe
“O Captain, My Captain!” Walt Whitman
“Hope is a Thing With Feathers,” Emily Dickinson
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost
“The Weary Blues,” Langston Hughes
“Spring is Like a Perhaps Hand,” e. e. cummings
“The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats
“Sonnett 130,” William Shakespeare
“We Are Many,” Pablo Neruda
“Identity,” Julio Noboa
“Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question,” Diane Burns
“Oranges,” Gary Soto

“Blue Winds Dancing,” Tom Whitecloud
“Of the Coming of John,” W.E.B. DuBois
“Stickeen,” John Muir
“Pamplona in July,” Ernest Hemingway
“How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” Zora Neale Hurston
“Once More to the Lake,” E.B. White
“Bop,” Langston Hughes
“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Maya Angelou
“Aria: A Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood,” Richard Rodriguez
“They All Just Went Away,” Joyce Carol Oates


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becky 2012BECKY DE OLIVEIRA has fifteen years of experience as a communicator across a wide range of media and five years experience as a college teacher. She has worked in radio, advertising and graphic design, and education, and is the general editor of LIFE.info—a Christian lifestyle magazine. Becky has also published three books and numerous articles and stories. She has taught classes in composition, creative writing fiction, creative non-fiction, academic and research writing, and social studies methods for elementary school teachers. Her academic qualifications include master’s degrees in both education and creative writing, and she is currently working on her PhD in English Education at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. She recently spent a week as a speaker at a boarding high school in Montana and looks forward to coaching a Girls on the Run team in the spring of 2013. She loves to read and generally reads about fifty books each year and spent several years running a book discussion group for a local library. She is currently working on a new book and training to run her first full marathon!

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