Question Detail

I have a unique teaching opportunity. I am tasked with teaching an English elective that is 9 weeks in length with 90 minute classes. I was able to choose the content of the elective my district guidelines. The course I have chosen is multicultural literature. I have some freedom for this class. Because this class will likely be students who are reluctant readers, I want to make the class relevant and engaging while still making it challenging. I also would like to make the class more like a book club than a reading and writing class. I don't want it to "feel" like just another English class! In other words, I don't want to worry about having to "assess" whether or not the students actually read the assigned reading, but rather assess the skills of analysis. I also would like to make it a problem or question based class while giving them freedom of choice. How do I accomplish that? All suggestions would be appreciated!

Jun 6, 2014 10:57pm

  • English Language Arts
  • 11
  • Collaboration / Engagement / Planning

4

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    • Jun 8, 2014 7:47am

      I'm curious about the level/grade that you will teach in this class.
      That may somewhat affect the direction you take. Regardless of the level, one valuable strategy to use is the integration of rubrics. Before to begin, come up with a defined target that would illustrate your goal(s) for them through this class. For example, in the context of these book clubs, they may work on questioning/deeper level thinking/character connection. Those targets will have a rubric, say 1-6, connected with it that shows a growth of that skill. These rubrics are charts or displays that you often create yourself, though they do exist all over the web. The point of it is not to take everyone from the 1 to the 6, it's more to help them understand where they started with their skills so they can absorb what they need to do to move forward.

      • Jun 9, 2014 7:56pm

        Hi Amy, I have a fellow staff member who has taught the course. The schedule was shorter for the day, as it was not in a block schedule (which is what it sounds like you may be teaching within). I will contact her and let her know that you have questions regarding the course. If she is still around and has not taken off for a summer vacation, she can probably help.

        • Jun 16, 2014 10:22am

          Amy-

          I would explore the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework when thinking about designing the class so it's super engaging for students. I actually wrote a book that addresses the questions that you are asking. You may want to check it out. You can read the first chapter for free on Amazon to see if it fits what you're looking for: http://www.amazon.com/UDL-Now-Monday-Morning-Implementing-Standards/dp/0989867439

          Best,
          Katie
          www.katienovakudl.com

          • Jul 1, 2014 11:00am

            That sounds a lot like a college class, especially since you will be focusing on the greater skill of analysis rather than those type of "gotcha" questions we often see to test students' attention to detail in secondary English courses. How exciting!

            First, student engagement in a literature course is almost always determined by interest in the reading material. This may be the most important aspect of your course, especially if you are teaching reluctant readers. What cultures can your students relate to? What will they be interested in? There are, of course, great works from or about a wide range of cultures over a long span of time. The key to hooking students, as I'm sure you know, is finding a story that is already alive for them or finding a way to make a work come alive for them. You might consider coming up with a long list of texts and then whittling it down after performing a pre-assessment about student interests on themes. Regardless of the culture, the themes of the piece of literature are really what make it a text any human can relate to.

            Second, if you are to make this a problem or question-based class, I recommend you consider the common thematic elements across all your works. Better yet, consider the implied value of such works in society. If the goal of the course is to engage students both in reading and analysis, then essential questions are, well, essential. How can you get students to think beyond the texts they are reading? Reluctant readers often are reluctant because they see reading as boring or pointless. How can you connect the point of reading to the theme of multicultural literature and help students extend their learning beyond the classroom and therefore extend its relevancy as well?

            When I first read your question I thought of the last class I took in my Writing major in college. The course was "Evolution of Rhetorical Theory" and the three-part question we were tasked to answer was "What is truth; where is it located; what does rhetoric have to do with it?" It was a HUGE question and somewhat intimidating, but I remember that class better than most.

            This sounds like such a fun and interesting project! Good luck. : )