Article about American Born Chinese

Gene Luen Yang's self portrait

Gene Luen Yang’s self portrait

In the May 2014 issue of English Journal, Melissa Schieble discusses how to teach “racial literacy” via Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel. “Racial literacy” is Lani Guinier’s term for a critical stance that “moves citizens to explore race as less about interpersonal injustices and more ‘about the distribution of power’ and resources” (p. 49).

Schieble also proposes a list of questions to help students develop skills in critical visual literacy — in other words, how to read graphic novels as more than just entertainment.

Schieble’s list includes questions that look at “image syntax, shot distance, angles, and color” (p. 50). These questions work just as well when viewing film, sculpture, photography, or any other form of visual art.

These are the types of questions that will make APs happy to see students addressing in your classroom, especially if they see you moving the students from graphic novels to more complex informational texts which must also be read critically.

So find this article and read it, pen and paper at hand for the notes you’ll want to take.


Top-Ten Digital Reading Tools

blog wordleWant to help your students get excited about reading, especially reading independently? Sara Kajder’s April 19 post on her NerdyReader blog gives some pointers for hooking your students via digital tools such as GoodReads and Wordle. As Kajder explains,

It is usually the [reluctant readers] who are the most surprised when we begin using a variety of apps and digital tools to support their work as readers, as the thought of using Vine or Instagram in English class both disrupts their expectations and leads them to rethink the ways in which readers choose texts, make meaning and share their thinking with others.

How many of Kajder’s recommended digital reading tools are you familiar with?


Why We Teach YA – PB

Why We Teach YA:
As teaching professionals, I think we often teach YA because we have our own important memories of being young adolescents in the classroom. Some important experience has led us to the decision to teach. A passion for learning and literature certainly helps in this challenging job. We realize the real possibility of making an academic contribution to these young students and the importance of this influence, both personal and professional on students once they become adults. For me it was the memorable experience of literature and poetry that I discovered and loved but it also stems from feeling excluded in the learning process and being misunderstood by the teaching professional. Personal experience like this is something that we can build on in deciding how to approach the role as teacher and student friend.

Who We Are-PB

Who We Are:

We are individuals who recognize the importance of learning, the process of learning in individual lives and how language and the proper use of English can be of great value to anyone striving to be their best professionally or personally. We wish to show the importance and power of the English language and how through its use, it can affect the cultural, political and racial environment around us. There is a tradition of learning through literature and written response but also I think we are prospective teachers who realize that unlike social media where individuals are detached physically, in the classroom we have the opportunity to communicate on a one on one basis. The important use of dialogue and the exchange of ideas that can be seen not just through words but body language and facial expression is something we want to take advantage of in the process of teaching students. We care about humanity and the idea of justice and liberty, as corny as it may seem in our modern day world of money conscious action. We want to express the idea of caring, kindness and fairness, even if there seems an imbalance of material wealth and opportunity for all. We want to make a real contribution to the lives of young adolescents through the means in which we have been given, the lesson plan and our own interpretation of learning.

Comment 2: Engaging Students in the Active Learning of Language and Understanding of Literature as a Powerful Means of Expression

One thing I noticed when I was observing both 10th and 11th grade high school students was the following: When there were group discussions in the classroom, the students seemed to interact more freely in verbal discussion about an assigned text. They seemed more comfortable expressing their own ideas and opinions and comparing them to the other ideas and opinions of fellow students. Shared common ideas were embraced and opposing ideas were left to be thought about. Another great way of learning and interpreting an assigned text was to relate it to modern day experience through discussion or the acting out of a similar storyline or experience through theatrical means, such as a play or skit. To get the student actively involved in the interpreting of the literature seems the best goal in learning from a text. Written journal writing is invaluable for the student as it gives the student a way to express themselves in the most personal way possible, but the above mentioned classroom learning techniques are also great ways to get the student directly involved in the examination of literature meaning, plot structure and the author’s own personal expression. If students can do their own interpreting of literature it is one important step towards their own personal understanding and use of language as a powerful tool of expression and influence.

Comment 1: When Suggesting Readings for Adolescent Students

When suggesting readings for adolescents I think a teacher must consider a number of factors. Is the book generally accepted by the public as good reading? This is usually how a piece of literature is determined as a good selection. Does the literature promote learning and critical thinking and can it be related to the student’s everday life experience. Of course is should and be proven so in the classroom. The literature should be at the student’s reading level and hold their interest. It should be accessible to all students. The learning of new vocabulary and an examination of the author’s use of language and dialogue should be part of the discussion in the classroom. This will lead to a discussion on the author’s intended meaning expressed through words. An understanding of the author’s own personal history and the era in which they wrote the book is helpful in interpreting the author’s intent through the creative act of written expression.

Other Posts-Images from John Steinbeck’s novels, The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, Images relating to The Raisin in the Sun, literature and film adaption, Goodreads website, note and excerpts-PBS

Images relating to John Steinbeck’s novel, The Pearl

Images relating to John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men

Images relating to: “A Raisin in the Sun,” play by Lorraine Hansberry
(Film and Stage Play Images)

Goodreads website , notes and excerpts from the story, “A Diamond Guitar,” by author Truman Capote (a great adolescent literature read) and link where to purchase a copy.