The following post comes to you from Brittany Goza, a teacher in South Carolina. Here's a little bit about her:
Brittany Goza graduated from Columbia College in 2011 and teaches English I and English II in a dropout prevention program called C3 in the School District of Pickens County. Before teaching English, she taught ESOL K-12 in Spartanburg District 1; Brittany has presented literacy based content at two national conventions and partners with two other English teachers in maintaining an educational blog. Brittany also trains teachers on new district technology initiatives. She has always been passionate about learning and reading; young adult literature is her favorite genre. Brittany has a passion for traveling and learning new languages; she speaks Spanish and is taking a group of students to Spain in the spring of 2015! Check out her blog here.
Creating Alter Egos: Project by Brittany Goza
Mrs. Gilstrap recording a flipped lesson.
scale drawing of my alter ego
Reading Scholastic magazine to learn about 3D sculptures.
Mixing our flour/ salt dough.
Working to sculpt her 3D figure.
The picture below is the comic strip that was created after students wrote their dystopian short stories.
To create the comic strip, students completed the following steps:
1.Learn what an alter-ego was.
2. Choose a social issue that their alter-ego could solve.
3. Write a dystopian short stories and create a 3D sculptures of alter ego.
4. Peer edit the dystopian short stories.
5. Create a hand-drawn story board using 6+ panels to tell the dystopian short story in comic book fashion. ***Students were required to have at least 6 captions and 4 word bubbles in order to accurately paraphrase and summarize their short story.
Thanks so much to Brittany for sharing her ideas! It's awesome to collaborate with teachers all over the world, and especially in South Carolina where I went to school and began teaching. I'll be back with more book reviews and lesson plan ideas soon.
Happy New Year! Although I've enjoyed my brief respite from blogging, I'm excited about the upcoming year and upcoming posts!
Recently, I've been getting a flood of emails commenting on posts and requesting materials. Thank you all so much for reading and for taking the time to contact me! Although it sometimes takes me a little while to respond, I do read and respond to each email, so if you don't get a response, please check your junk mail to see if it got filtered (I send them from a gmail address). Feel free to contact me again if you don't hear back from me within a couple of weeks.
One teacher who emailed me recommended The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and mentioned that she plans to teach it with advanced readers this semester. I have heard so many amazing things about that work and had a student do an awesome Prezi book talk on it last spring, but I have yet to read it! It has now been moved to the top of my list (I'm reading Champion, the end of the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, at the moment and LOVING it). The Book Thief will be one I pick up here in the next couple of months.
What are you planning to teach this year? Please leave comments telling about your latest young adult reads and the ways that you are considering incorporating them into your classes. I'm loving the emails that I am receiving, but comments would be an awesome way to share some of your great ideas!
In other news (I've been working on this segue for a while, and it's still the best I've got...), I am pregnant! Strange thing to say on here, I know. I only mention this here (though I will probably write more extensively about it on my writing page) to say that I'm still (at the beginning of my second trimester) struggling to function like a normal human being (hence the long break between posts). Both because I love collaborating with others and because of my own utter exhaustion, I would LOVE to feature some guest posts in the coming months, so if you have an idea that you'd be willing to share with the teaching community, please email me (through the contact tab at the top of the page) and let me know what you'd like to share! Posts with information about how to teach/ discuss specific young adult works are the ones that get the most readership, but I'm happy to share any innovative teaching ideas that you've tried in the classroom!
Please comment below with YA lit titles that you are loving and/ or teaching this year! I know that my school is considering incorporating more YA lit into our curriculum, and many of you are in the same situation at your respective schools. Thank you for reading and for sharing your ideas.
This is the husband back for week two (I must've done okay last week, or the wife is just really desperate...). This week I’m stepping in for Ashley while she participates in the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference in Boston. I am sure that a future post of hers will reflect on her weekend there. Stay tuned.
Last week I wrote about Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. We wrapped up our discussion of it this week and I asked my students for feedback. They were pretty positive about the book, and even the ones who did not enjoy it had some very insightful comments about it.
This week I thought I would look at my experience teaching Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982). This book is a memoir, and I had no idea how my students would respond to it. I feared the worst — complete apathy — but once again I learned that I underestimated my students... even when they did not “like” the book, they still took it seriously and reflected critically on its value and message. So, I was pleasantly surprised and plan to teach the book again in the future.
For some background, Richard Rodriguez is the son of Mexican immigrants, and he was born and raised in the U.S. He grew up in California, studied at Stanford (undergraduate), Columbia (MA), and UC Berkeley where he was a PhD candidate until he stepped away from academia to devote himself to writing. He is most well known as a (somewhat controversial) Chicano intellectual and essayist, the controversy stemming from his opposition to Affirmative Action and bilingual education. He has written several memoirs and essay collections, among them Hunger of Memory, Days of Obligation: An Argument with my Mexican Father (1992), and Brown: The Last Discovery of America (2002). He was a finalist for the Pulitzer for Days of Obligation and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Brown. I find his prose to be deeply moving, raw, and beautiful, and even when I find myself disagreeing with what he says, I am moved by the way he says it.
Hunger of Memory is an excellent book for exploring questions of identity, community, and personal reflection. Rodriguez breaks the memoir into chapters that examine the different “spheres” of his life: public and private (family and school), language (Spanish vs. English), race, religion, social class, profession… With my class, this served the dual purpose of 1) providing an insight into the life experiences of someone growing up in an immigrant, bilingual household, and 2) helping us to reflect on how our own lives are divided between a multitude of spheres and influence. While my students might not have personal experience with being a linguistic minority, the memoir does lead to conversations about linguistic register in informal (private) and formal (public) settings, and it even led to some fascinating discussion on how we (should) present ourselves on social media platforms (that space where public and private get all mixed up!). Also, since my class is made up of many first-generation college students, they could easily relate to Rodriguez’s story.
Our reading and discussion of the book built up to a five page reflective essay. These have been beautifully personal works, and this is an assignment that I will repeat again in the future. I have posted the prompt for this essay below.
In short, if you are looking for a memoir to teach, then I would definitely recommend Hunger of Memory. I think that it would work best with older high school students (juniors or seniors). I believe that it is an excellent text for college students. It is approachable, beautifully written, and organized in a way that lends itself well to class discussion. As a teaser sample, I offer this quote from the book in closing. It expresses a sentiment I'm sure many of us can relate to...
"Despite my best efforts, however, there seemed to be more and more books that I needed to read. At the library I would literally tremble as I came upon whole shelves of books I hadn't read." (65)
This is the husband. I have been asked to contribute a guest post this week, and because I am a supporting husband I will do my best to help out and not to destroy all of the pedagogical credibility that my wife has sought to establish on this site.
Full disclosure: I am not an expert in YA lit, and beyond the Harry Potter series I have read very little of it. My wife is possibly scraping from the bottom of the barrel by resorting to my contributions, but she does always remind me that my sense of humor is exactly the same as that of her freshmen boys. And then she rolls her eyes.
I do teach, though, so I’ve got that going for me. We spent the early years of our marriage teaching high school together (I teach Spanish, she: English). A decade, two continents, three states, and five houses later (and graduate school for both of us somewhere in there) I am now teaching at a small liberal arts college and amassing an impressive array of cardigans and corduroy jackets with elbow patches. You can always judge the erudition of a person by their sweaters and elbow patches. At least that’s what I tell myself.
So, qualifications established, I shall commence my contribution to this blog.
I primarily teach Spanish classes in our World Languages & Cultures department, but one of my favorite courses to teach is our First Year Seminar course for entering students. My course is generically titled “An Intro to Critical Thinking through Chican@ Literature,” and we cover a variety of topics pertinent to the liberal arts all through the lens of Chican@ writings. My students are predominantly white, from the surrounding area, and very often first generation college students. For many, this is their first exposure to Chican@ history and readings, and I have been very pleased with our discussions and interactions in class this fall. I am impressed with how quickly the students have been able to move from relative ignorance on the issue to embracing it as another aspect of the American experience that is unique but not so different from their own lives.
Currently I am teaching Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima (1972), the groundbreaking Chican@ novel that has received significant critical and cultural acclaim in the 40+ years since its first publication. I would like to say that I have some incredibly creative lesson plans that I executed perfectly and I received a standing ovation from my students after each class. That is not the case. What has impressed me has been my students’ insights and discussions.
Since the First Year Seminar course is designed for first semester students at our institution, it is a course that lays much groundwork for the students as to what to expect from their college classes and what is expected of them. With these parameters in mind, I have made it a priority in my class to make students feel comfortable contributing to, participating in, and leading class discussions. I believe that if they can become comfortable with contributing to in-class conversations on a regular basis, then they will be able to get the most out of their college courses. We all know that these are not skills that are limited to a college classroom - they are desired for any level classroom, and are essentially desirable skills for community/civic participation and involvement.
To accomplish these goals of classroom interaction, I have modeled throughout the semester how to approach a text: What are some textual elements we are looking at?; What questions arise?; What questions are you left with?; How does this relate back to our lives? I got us started by leading discussion on the first few chapters and then I passed it over to small groups. They were responsible for creating the questions we would discuss in class and for guiding our approach to that chapter/section. Many times the groups have hit the same points that I would have. Quite often, I have been surprised by their insight into a point that I overlooked. Each time, I feel like the group has taken ownership of the discussion and genuinely wanted the rest of the class to understand the importance of their selected chapters.
This approach may well not work with younger high-school students. I am dealing with 18 year olds and they do have (some) more maturity than 13 year olds. But the moral of the story comes from the fact that I tend to be a control freak in the classroom. I like to micromanage every minute and make sure that I have plenty of activities to fill the class-time; however, I have learned that when I am able to release that desire to control and direct each component of class discussions, and when I hand that responsibility over to my students, I am often amazed by their responses and participation.
So, Bless Me, Ultima is a wonderful book to teach. There was a film adaptation made that just came out on DVD this fall and offers some great text-to-film comparisons. One of the greatest resources is the National Endowment for the Humanities' “The Big Read” pages. It comes complete with a teacher’s guide with sample lesson plans, discussion questions, and useful handouts. There is also a reader’s guide that offers history and context to the novel, and there is an audio guide and short documentary to accompany the novel. All wonderful resources.
Our class has approached the novel through the themes that it raises. Bless Me, Ultima lends itself well to discussions of myths, symbols, place, maturity, religion, critical thinking, and others. We spent a day talking about the place of myths in society and how they function for good and bad within our culture. Place is always a topic that my students can relate to, even though the hills of the Shenandoah Valley are quite different than the Llano of New Mexico. My students often feel very tied to their hometown and so can relate very well to the importance of setting and place in the novel.
Most importantly, I have found that Antonio’s coming-of-age narration is an excellent starting point for discussions on critical thinking and the process of learning. For these reasons, I think that it is an excellent book for students at a transition point in their lives, such as starting or finishing high school or college. Antonio must incorporate new knowledge into his understanding of the world, and this process is one that models critical reflection and intellectual growth.
So, when my wife discovers how I have tarnished the good name of her blog through my own lackluster writing, I may never be invited back to write a guest post again. I hope that the damage done is not irreparable. I promise, your regularly scheduled blogger will be back very soon! In the meantime, give Bless Me, Ultima a look.
Bonus: Below is the trailer for the 2013 film adaptation of Bless Me, Ultima.
K. Ashley Dickson-Ellison is a former high school English teacher (who is now an instructional technology teacher) interested in exploring the integration of trending young adult literature into the English classroom experience. Ashley is also a member of the podcast Unabridged; check out the podcast site below.
Please note: All ideas and opinions are my own and do not represent my current or past employers.
© K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All thoughts and ideas are the author's and do not represent any employer.