Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Conversations in Literature
Conversations in Literature -- Workshop

Individual Program

1. Responding
as Readers

2. Envisioning

3. Stepping In

4. Moving Through

5. Rethinking

6. Objectifying
the Text

7. The Stances
in Action

8. Returning to the

Support Materials

HomeEnvisionment BuildingHelpful Hints for Site LeadersLesson BuilderSearch this SiteSite Map


Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection

Ongoing Activity
Additional Reading

Extension: Classroom Connection

You may want to try these activities back in the classroom.

Activity One
  • Select a passage of literature that is rich in description, plot, and character development. It is best to choose a text that features adolescents and their related concerns, so that the students can easily make a personal connection.

    Some novels that might work with your students include:
    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
    Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, by Ignatia Broker
    The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

    A list of books about growing up female is included in this University of Maryland Baltimore County discussion thread.

    Some short stories include:
    "Thank You, M'am" by Langston Hughes
    "Teenage Wasteland" by Anne Tyler
    "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambera

    Some poems include:
    "The Lifeguard" by James Dickey
    "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks
    "Nikki Rosa" by Nikki Giovanni
    "New Clothes" by Julia Alvarez
    "Dear John Wayne" by Louise Erdrich
    "Street Kid" by Duane Niatum

    Family Friend Poems contains an exhaustive list of poetry on the topic of growing up at their site.
    Some dramas include:
    Our Town by Thornton Wilder
    Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Dramatically read the passage aloud or use Reader's Theater for a dramatic class reading experience in which readers take on the role of one of the characters in the text.

    Reader's Theater Online Resources:
    Access tips and scripts for reader's theater
    Reader's theater resources for students and teachers
  • Ask students to personally respond to the literature by drawing a picture of something the passage reminds them of in their own life. This could be a part of the text that is connected to memories, a problem or dilemma, or a person they may know. Ask students to write a short paragraph explaining what the picture represents and how their reading of the literature made them rethink the experience or memory. Students should have the opportunity to share their art and writing in small groups.
  • Talk about the ways in which the text they read helped them think about this event or person. Some questions you might like to ask include:

    What part of the text — plot, theme, a character, a setting — made you remember something that happened to you?

    How was what happened to you different from this part of the text?

    How was it the same?

    If this ever happened to you again, would you do things differently, based on what you read?
Activity Two

Read several fables and/or nursery rhymes, such as "The Tortoise and the Hare," or "Jack and the Bean Stalk." Ask students to explain what advice they can take from the fables and implement it in their own lives. Talk about extending the message into their own lives. For example, in the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare," the message clearly is that what seems obvious at the outset might not always come to pass. When have your students expected something to happen that didn't? How did the outcome make them feel? What other ways might this message influence their lives? Ask students to write their own fable offering their advice for peer readers, using characters and settings that make sense to them today. Encourage students to call upon their personal experiences, conflicts, and challenges in designing and writing their fable.

Online Fairy Tales and Folklore Resources: Activity Three

Brainstorm a list of adolescent conflicts and/or problems, such as peer pressure, teen pregnancy, not receiving the respect they think they deserve, getting into college, etc. Together, generate a list of texts that "speak" to these problems (See online sources for texts in Activity One if you need some reminders.). Ask the students to explain their choices. What lessons might a reader take away from these texts? This list can be posted near the classroom library or on a bulletin board to encourage reading. The teacher may also choose to post the list on the school web site, to share with the school community.

Activity Four

Ask students to select a young adult novel as an independent reading project or for use in literature circles or small book groups, depending upon your preference. Invite students to keep a dialectical journal or reading log that focuses on personal connections to the text. A dialectical journal is a two-column journal where students comment on short passages, phrases, or lines of text. One column features a direct quote from the text and the other column features the students' reactions to the passage from the text. For the purpose of this activity, ask students to only select passages that spark a personal response or reaction based on their own life experiences. Ask them to think about "How is this similar or different from how I have acted in the past or how is this similar or different from my own life. What can I learn from this? How does this change my perspective, if at all?" You may want to model a few passages before asking the students to do this on their own.

It is also helpful to provide a list of open-ended questions for students to work from, such as those included in this Hints on Helping Students page. [click here for a PDF version] You could also use this information to make a bookmark or a class activity sheet. If they feel comfortable about doing so, students could share their dialectical journals with each other.

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