It's summer vacation, so I am sitting around doing absolutely nothing - said no teacher ever. I am tired just thinking about everything I am doing this summer - two graduate classes, two technology certifications, and an NCTE book study, to name a few.
For the book study, we are reading Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives by Jennifer Buehler. Now, I just finished up school yesterday (we had Saturday checkout), and our activities for the book study start today. Why no break? Because I am a teacher. And I strive to be the best possible teacher I can be. I don't need no stinkin' break! And of course, I will be sharing on my blog, as well.
Week 1: MAKE
This week we’re going to create a curated list of YA novels with rationales for why they are complex texts. These lists may prove useful if you choose to use any of these novels in your class and are asked to justify your selection. Please share the title, author, and a few sentences explaining why a YA text of your choosing should be considered complex.
My response: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Initially, I was not going to list this book, but I reconsidered. This book addresses topics and themes that are relevant to today’s youth. A young African American male is murdered by a police officer, an event witnessed by the story’s protagonist. The content invites natural discussion and real-world connections.
Week 1: TALK
How do you use YA literature in the classroom, and where does it fit in the larger context of all we’re meant to do in ELA?
Due to a change in teaching assignments this past year, my focus on YA lit was put on the backburner. I moved from teaching eighth grade English to seventh and eighth grade AVID. Although AVID still incorporates reading and writing, I spent this year figuring out how to teach the class and bond with students who lost a beloved teacher to another position on another campus, some of whom resented me for coming in and leaving my classes and students behind.
Personally, I did not discover young adult literature until sometime around 2007 or 2008. I know that most of the Twilight series had been published. I was teaching seventh grade at the time, and my girls were devouring the series. They wanted to talk to me about constantly, so I borrowed the set from a student to be able to reciprocate their discussions.
I hate Twilight. Despise. Loathe. I found Belle to be a repugnant role model for young girls. To this day, I am quite vocal about my grievances with the series. It did, however, set me on a path of reading young adult literature in search of something worthy to share with my students.
I abused my library card and read everything I could get my hands on. I recommended reads to my students, many of whom would go to the local library to find a book our school library did not carry. I started building a classroom library, thanks to a state literacy grant.
I tend to showcase books in a display and talk about what I am reading, encouraging students to use my classroom library. This has been pretty successful, but I have not been able to reach every student in this manner.
During practice state testing situations, I will watch kids and try to determine what they might like to read. When they finish, I will bring them books from my shelves and see if I have hit on anything they might enjoy (I often do, which really surprises me).
Our middle school canon consists of young adult books. I have taught The Outsiders, The Westing Game, The Giver, Homecoming, Redwall, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, and A Wrinkle in Time. In reflection, my book and my mood probably had more to do with my students enjoying any of these books than my lessons did. For example, I dislike A Wrinkle in Time (a little less than I despite Twilight). I openly shared my frustration with my students regarding plot points, which may have been more entertaining for my kids than the story itself.
For next year, I am considering having my AVID kids participate in independent reading activities with novels. As part of their college-readiness skills, I think they should know how to actively read novels in a particular time frame. I am in the early stages of this thinking and am not quite sure what to have my students do with those readings yet. I am hoping that throughout this book study and its discussions, I can create a meaningful reading environment for my students that carries over into their personal lives.