Thinking about YA LIt some more…

As I continue to work toward a Writing-About-YA Lit-Course, I have some clear questions that I’m writing through…

1. How will I address Close Reading?

Teaching close reading is something that is a constant subject of conversation among my fellow instructors in the English Department. Everyone agrees that it is important–essential, even–but not everyone agrees on how to go about it. For a Literature course, I am leaning toward incorporating mini-lessons on Wilder’s special topoi for Literary Analysis. I think that list would make a good framework for students to keep returning to as we read a variety of texts. However, I never feel like one can go amiss with a mini-lesson and/or practice with just plain ol’ active reading skills–annotating, responding in the margins, etc. I think both lessons would be important in a writing-about-literature course.

2. How will I incorporate technology?

This has be perhaps the most fun to consider, as I plan this course. I’m playing around with a couple of digital assignment ideas:

Amazon Book Review: this is a real-world writing assignment that is rooted in genre analysis. It is medium-stakes, I’d say, because students are writing a relatively short amount of text, but for a “real” audience. It asks students to consider ways in which they engage with writing about literature in digital environments, and also asks them to face the new rhetorical challenges that writing online brings. The one thing I can’t decide about this is whether to put it at the beginning of the semester (as a warm-up activity) or at the end (as a bit higher-stakes activity).

Book Blog: this will be a class-collaboration, where each student will be asked to contribute a response to a book of their choice to add to our course texts. This also begins with genre analysis, as we will consider, as a class, what makes a “good” book blog. This could also incorporate elements of argument/persuasive writing, giving students the task of persuading readers to read their chosen text.

3. How about assessment?

Of course, the main vehicle for assessment in any writing course is student-generated text. However, I’m thinking more seriously about incorporating self-assessment into the mix. Not only is it a vehicle for reflection, but it also will help students think through the process of looking at their own writing and considering how or whether it met the desired criteria, which is a skill all writers must develop.

Ah, the planning continues…

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4 thoughts on “Thinking about YA LIt some more…

  1. Your book blog assignment sounds interesting! Will students be responding to course texts on this blog or to a book they’re reading outside the class? If outside the class, how will you respond to those students that inevitably argue that they do not read for fun? I like the idea of bringing students’ outside interests into the classroom, but have found that I need to expand my definition of text to include television, movies, and even video games to make this possible for all students. (They were writing character analyses, so it wasn’t a big deal to do so.)

  2. I really like the book review assignment that you described here. I’ve found it a particularly helpful exercised as a graduate student to practice this genre in class and it really seems like an organic and practical continuation of the way you’re discussing genre in the class. I’ve considered doing something like this in a literature class, and I really think it would help make discussions of genre much clearer to have students practice such a distinct one in class.

  3. Hi Nicole, I think that you have some great ideas here. This semester, I am going to use the self-assessment approach to my students’ final project. I am still going to grade their papers in the traditional way, but I am adding a creative project into the mix, to provide an enhanced sense of agency in the learning process. When considering self-assessment, how important is it for students to know the outcomes and objectives of the course and be able to directly relate these outcomes and objectives to their projects? I pose this question because I wonder if students are made aware of these goals throughout the semester, if it would help them “enter the professor’s mind” and gain a deeper sense on the usefulness of the course content, which would inspire them to read the assignments closer considering they have more a stake in their learning.

  4. I really like the idea of self-assessment. I also like peer-assessment in group assignments. I think it is nice to understand how the student reflects upon their own work and writing. Noting how they’ve grown as students and writers over the course of the term, or how their interests have changed, is a great way to gauge what they got out of the course.

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