1. Conducting a case-study analysis of an adolescent. Select an adolescent that you have access to—someone in the school in which you are observing, a relative/sibling, or someone who you know. Interview this adolescent about their perceptions of school; the amount of time they devote to reading, viewing, computer use, game-playing, IMing, etc.; and their reading/viewing preferences or interests, making note of specific titles they mention. You could also ask your participant to respond to a text (You could also ask them to complete an interests survey—see below). (Note: if your instructor and/or institution perceive this as a “research project,” you will need to gain approval for doing a research project and have the student complete a consent form.) Using the student’s answers, discuss relationships between their perceptions of school and their reading and viewing habits. Discuss the appeal of specific titles in terms of the students’ reading/viewing interests. Draw some implications in terms of ways to further develop this students’ reading interests.
2. Reading autobiography. List some books that appealed to you in middle/junior high school, high school, and college. For each title, describe the specific aspects of a book that appealed to you and how that appeal reflected differences in your reading interests, needs, attitudes towards reading, and purposes for reading in middle/junior high school, high school, and college. Then, describe changes in your reading interests, needs, attitudes towards reading, and purposes for reading and how any school experiences influenced those changes. Reflect on the differences between your own current reading interests, needs, attitudes towards reading, and purposes for reading and those of your students.
3. Responses to young adult novels. Read some young adult novels and describe your responses specific aspects of characterization, plot, setting, language use. Predict the degree to which each novel would or would not appeal to early adolescents and reasons these novels would or would not appeal. Then, judge the literary quality of characterization, plot, setting, language use of each novel, citing specific evidence to support your judgments. Contrast the appeal and quality of each book, i.e., the fact that a novel may have high appeal even though you may judge it to have low literary quality, or vise versa.
4. Responses to characterization in young adult novels. Describe the characterization of main and minor characters in some young adult novels. Assess the degree to which these characters are developed through the use of subjective first person versus third person point of view, dialogue, descriptions by other characters, and use of setting/cultural contexts. Predict whether adolescents would be engaged with these characters and reasons for their potential engagement. Compare your analysis of the features of popular characters with those in the following study of popular characters in young adult novels:
Chance, R. (1999). A Portrait of Popularity: An Analysis of Characteristics of Novels from Young Adults' Choices for 1997. ALAN Review, 27(1). Retrieved August 23, 2005 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/fall99/chance.html
5. Book reviews of young adult novels. Based on some young adult novels you have read write some short book reviews to share with other students in your class. Provide a brief summary of the storyline, focusing on those specific aspects of the novel that might appeal to adolescents. Then, provide an overall judgment of the appeal and quality of the novel, noting specific reasons for the appeal and quality. Share you reviews with your peers on a class Website, email, or by posting them on a bulletin board.
6. Comparison of an older versus more recent young adult novel. Read a young adult novel written prior to 1980, analyzing the novel’s language, story development, roles, settings, and implied cultural assumptions. Then contrast this novel with one written after 1995, noting the similarities and differences. Reflect on what you perceive to be changes in the genre over the time period represented in your two novels and how these changes may reflect historical and cultural shifts. If you consider your pre-1980 novel to be a “classic,” what aspects of that novel contribute to making it a “classic.”
7. Analyzing school districts’ book selections. In the local school districts in which you work, obtain a copy of the secondary literature curriculum that specifies the required texts used at each grade level or books recommended for leisure/summer reading. Describe your reactions to these book selections in terms of their potential appeal, literary quality, difficulty level, currency, and other factors that might shape these selections. Consider also the influence of state-wide textbook adoption policies (for example, in Texas and California) as well as the potential threat of censorship (see links in Chapter 13/Censorship link for lists of most frequently censored/banned books). Compare your listing with those from the following 2001 study of the top most required texts for 1982, 1990, and 1997 for grades 9 – 12
Hale, L. A., & Crowe, C. (2001). "I Hate Reading If I Don't Have To":
Results from a Longitudinal Study of High School Students' Reading Interest. ALAN Review, 28(3). Retrieved August 23, 2005 from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v28n3/hale.html
8. Sharing responses to books with adolescents. Set up an online or IM’ing exchange with some adolescents about their responses to young adult novels. Have them share their reasons for liking or not liking certain novels. Share your own reasons with them. Then, compare your reasons with the reasons cited by adolescents, noting similarities and differences. What does this comparison suggest about choosing young adult novels for your students.
For examples of an exchange between university and middle school students, see Carico, K. (1997). Methods Students Write about Young Adult Literature with a Tenth-Grade Learning Strategies Class. ALAN Review, 24(2).)
9. Studying a popular young adult author. Select a popular young adult author. Read information about this author, noting the different books written by this author, and the themes portrayed in these different books, as well as an author’s use of a particular genre. Also note some biographical aspects about the author that may have influenced the themes in these books. Then, prepare a brief presentation or Website about this author to share with your class and/or with students you’re working with.
Lloyd Alexander http://www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest/4802/
Tedd Arnold http://www.geocities.com/~teddarnold/
Natalie Babbitt http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/babbitt.htm
T. A. Barron http://www.tabarron.com/
L. Frank Baum http://www.literarytraveler.com/spring/west/baum.htm
Judy Blume http://www.judyblume.com/
Jan Brett http://www.janbrett.com/
Marc Brown http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/arthur/
Eve Bunting http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/bunting.htm
Eric Carle http://www.eric-carle.com/
Nancy Carlson http://www.nancycarlson.com
Lewis Carroll http://www.lewiscarroll.org/carroll.html
Beverly Cleary http://www.beverlycleary.com/
Brian Cleary http://www.briancleary.com
Susan Cooper www.thelostland.com
Sharon Creech http://www.sharoncreech.com/
Christopher Paul Curtis http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/curtis.htm
Karen Cushman http://www.eduplace.com/rdg/author/cushman/
Debbie Dadey http://www.baileykids.com/authors.htm
Roald Dahl http://www.roalddahl.com/index2.htm
Teri Daniels http://www.TeriDanielsBooks.com/
Marguerite deAngeli http://www.lapeer.lib.mi.us/Library/Exhibits/MdA/Index.html
Tomie DePaola http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/depaola.htm
Sylvia Engdahl http://www.sylviaengdahl.com/
Paul Fleischman http://www.paulfleischman.com/authors/viewclob.asp?key=1&aid=290
Sid Fleischman http://www.carr.org/authco/fleischman.htm
Mem Fox http://www.memfox.net/
Paula Fox http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=9127
Jean Fritz http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/fritz.htm
Charles Ghigna ("Father Goose") http://www.CharlesGhigna.com
Patricia Reilly Giff http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/authors/giff.html
Virginia Hamilton http://www.virginiahamilton.com/
Barbara Haworth-Attard http://www.barbarahaworthattard.com/
Karen Hesse http://tinyurl.com/er8c
Kate Greenaway http://www.speel.demon.co.uk/artists2/greenway.htm
Anna Grossnickle Hines http://www.aghines.com
Will Hobbs http://www.willhobbsauthor.com/
Deborah Hopkinson http://people.whitman.edu/~hopkinda/
Erick Ingraham http://www.erickingraham.com/
Brian Jacques http://www.redwall.org/dave/jacques.html
Marcia Thornton Jones http://www.baileykids.com/authors.htm
Charles Jordan http://www.charles-jordan.com/
Ezra Jack Keats http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/keats/biography.html
Brian Lies http://www.brianlies.com/
Madeleine L'Engle http://www.madeleinelengle.com/
Lois Lenski http://www.mlb.ilstu.edu/ressubj/speccol/lenski/Welcome.html
Laura Leuck http://users.erols.com/aleuck/
Arnold Lobel http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/arnoldlobel.htm
Lois Lowry http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Lowry.html
Bill Martin, Jr. http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/billmartin.htm
Susan Rowan Masters http://www.madbbs.com/~srmasters/
Nancy McArthur http://junior.apk.net/~mcarthur/
Suse McDonald http://www.create4kids.com/
Walter Dean Myers http://scils.rutgers.edu/~kvander/myers.html
A. A. Milne http://www.pooh-corner.com/biomilne.html
Robert Munsch http://www.robertmunsch.com/
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor http://www.ipl.org/youth/AskAuthor/Naylor.html
Scott O'Dell http://www.scottodell.com/
Janie Lynn Panagopoulos http://www.JLPanagopoulos.com/
Linda Sue Park http://www.lindasuepark.com/
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent http://www.dorothyhinshawpatent.com/
Katherine Patterson http://www.terabithia.com/
Gary Paulsen http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/
Richard Peck http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/authors/peck.html
Tamora Pierce http://www.sff.net/people/Tamora.Pierce/
Dav Pilkey http://www.pilkey.com/
Patricia Polacco http://www.patriciapolacco.com/
Beatrix Potter http://www.peterrabbit.co.uk/beatrixpotter/index.cfm?territory=1&country=1
Jack Prelutsky http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/poetry/jack_home.htm
Robert Quackenbush http://www.rquackenbush.com
J.K. Rowling http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/author/
Louis Sachar http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/rc/rc_ab_lsa.html
Richard Scarry http://falcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/scarry.htm
Jon Scieszka http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-scieszka-jon.asp
Maurice Sendak http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Sendak_Maurice.html
Dr. Seuss http://www.randomhouse.com/seussville/
Neal Shusterman http://www.storyman.com/
Jerry Spinelli http://www2.scholastic.com/teachers/authorsandbooks/
William Steig http://www.williamsteig.com/
R.L. Stine http://www.scholastic.com/goosebumps/books/stine/index.htm
Phoebe Stone http://www.phoebestone.com/
Nikki Tate http://www.stablemates.net/
J. R. R. Tolkien http://www.tolkien.co.uk/
Chris Van Allsburg http://www.eduplace.com/rdg/author/cva/index.html
Jules Verne http://jv.gilead.org.il/
Carole Boston Weatherford http://tinyurl.com/2s78w
David Wiesner http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/authors/wiesner/
Laura Ingalls Wilder http://www.littlehousebooks.com/
Laurence Yep http://scils.rutgers.edu/~kvander/yep.html
10. Studying young adult novel genres. Select one young adult literature genre: mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy, comedy, horror, science fiction, etc., and research authors who write within this genre. Describe the specific features of this genre in terms of prototypical character types/roles, settings, storylines, and themes/value assumptions. Identity some titles that represent what you believe to exemplary representatives of this particular genre and describe reasons for your choice.
11. Studying adolescent development/socialization in young adult novels. Many young adult novels portray the development of adolescents as they attempt to define their identities through demonstrating their competence or maturity in accomplishing certain tasks or goals. While initiation of adolescents were clearly defined in traditional societies and supported by mentors, in contemporary society, such initiations are less clearly-defined. It is also the case that, rather than defining themselves in terms of one autonomous “self,” adolescents learn to adopt different identities consistent with the demands of a particular social context or world often in terms of gender, class, or racial differences. To acquire practices and attitudes valued in these contexts or worlds, adolescents may be mentored in relationships with peers, family members, teachers, and other adults. Given the influence of these different socializing forces, adolescents often experience tensions between allegiances to peers versus adults, for example, experiencing conflicts between the need to maintain their “cool” image with peers by resisting adult norms versus conforming to adult expectations against what may be problematic practices with peers.
Select a coming-of-age young adult novel and analyze the ways in which the main character achieves a sense of their identities within different social contexts or worlds. Analyze the influence of other characters on the main character’s socialization and the criteria that serves to define successful display of competence in these contexts or worlds. Consider the ways in which gender, class, or race influences the main character’s socialization.
12. Develop a lesson plan for a young adult novel. Select a “teachable” young adult novel that you could teach to an entire class. Define some objectives for your instruction related to some topics, themes, ideas, issues, or worlds that are portrayed in the novel, as well as the use of certain critical lenses and/or certain literary aspects of the novel. Develop some specific classroom activities that involve students defining relationships between this novel and other young adult or “classic” novels (see the Kaywell series on thematic links between young adult and “classic” novels.).
13. Develop an individualized reading program. Devise a plan for developing an individualized reading program for a particular grade level. Discuss in detail your objectives; procedures for selecting books; communications to students, parents, and administrators; strategies for promoting books through book talks and displays; uses of reading-interests inventories; and methods of evaluating students. Describe how you would conference with students to help them share responses to books, define their particular interests in certain kinds of books, and then help them select other books.
14. Conduct a reading-interests survey. Conduct a reading-interests survey of a group of friends and/or students. Develop an interests inventory similar to one devised by Rachel Malchow (see below). (You may want to first pilot your items with some peers before administering the survey). Then, summarize your results for your particular group and define reasons for your students’ interests based on their age, gender, reading ability, access to texts, and intertextual links with media/games. Define some implications for setting up an individualized reading program or classroom instruction.
Literature/Media Interests Survey
Rachel Malchow, Champlin Park High School, Champlin, MinnesotaLiteracy Interests Survey
Please complete the following completely and thoroughly. The purpose is for me to start to get to know your history as a reader, viewer, listener, and writer both inside and outside of school.
1. What types of reading material do you prefer outside of school, when you get to choose? Identify how frequently you read this type of material and then list some favorite titles, authors, or types in the space next to the item.
frequently sometimes rarely never
frequently sometimes rarely never
c) non-fiction books
frequently sometimes rarely never
d) fiction (novels or short stories)
frequently sometimes rarely never
frequently sometimes rarely never
f) graphic novels/ comics
frequently sometimes rarely never
2. On average, how many minutes per day would you say you spend reading materials that you have selected?
minutes per day_______
3. What were the last three complete books you read on your own, not for school?
4. What were the last three books you were assigned to read for school? Indicate if you completed the reading.
completed? yes no
completed? yes no
completed? yes no
5. On average, how many minutes per day do you spend reading materials for school work?
_______ minutes per day
6. What is the best book you have ever read for a school setting? Explain why you feel this book was so good.
Media Interests: Viewing and Listening
7. What are some of your favorite movies or types of movies? On average, how many movies per week do you watch?
_______ movies per week
8. What are some of your favorite television shows or types or television shows? On average, how many minutes of television do you watch per day?
_______ minutes per day
9. What are some of your favorite computer games, video games, or computer based activities? On average, how much time do you spend on the computer or gaming?
_______ minutes per day
10. What are some of your favorite bands, musicians, or types of music? On average, how much time do you spend listening to music?
_______ minutes per day
11. What are some recent pieces of writing you have completed outside of schoolwork? What type of writing was it, and who was the audience? (i.e. letter to my grandma)
12. What are some recent pieces of writing you have completed for schoolwork? What type of writing was it, and who was the audience? (i.e. essay for Mr. Johnson)
13. Please describe the typical process you go through when writing a formal school assignment such as an essay or research paper.
14. On a separate sheet of paper, please write me a short letter of introduction that describes some of the other important information about you that might be helpful for me to know as we get started this semester. You might include family history, extracurricular commitments, job commitments, academic history (especially your prior history in English classes), and future plans for college or career.
15. Study adolescents’ practices and tastes. Examine current scholarship on adolescence from sociological, anthropological, historical, psychological, educational, or other perspectives. What does this work say about adolescence as a concept and/or adolescents individually and collectively?
Then, conduct a mini ethnography of adolescents’ practices. Observe and record the behaviors of adolescence at malls, arcades, and other gathering places, conduct focus-group interviews or surveys. Is there something we might call a “teen culture” (or cultures)? Do adolescents believe that there is? What are the markers and rituals of this (or these) culture/s? What are some trends and trend-making related to adolescents in contemporary society? What do these trends reveal about how adolescents are shaped by and shape mass marketing and popular culture?
16. Study how adolescents’ reading experiences are shaped by schooling. Explore the topic of censorship and adolescent literature by examining which texts have been banned, why, and by whom. Compare these banned texts to the texts that make it onto the award lists (ALA, Newbury). What do these choices tell you about how adults from various constituencies view and shape popular conceptions of what adolescents are expected to be and become?
Then, research the books that are taught or are on the required reading lists in the school in which you are student teaching. To what degree are these books consistent with shat is considered to be the canon of literature typically taught to teenagers? Compare these books with various lists of young-adult books from major bookstores as well as themed booklists from Amazon.com. Interview or survey a representative sample of adolescents in this school regarding their reading preferences and patterns, asking them about their preferences for the required books versus other books they are reading that are not required.
17. Examine cross-cultural differences in perceptions of or attitudes towards adolescents. Do a cross-cultural analysis of adolescence as a concept. How do young people pass through “adolescence” (or do they?) in cultures outside the United States? How does coming of age or socialization differ from one culture to another? Consult primary source materials, anthropological or sociological studies, and so on.
Then, examine how adolescents from different culture are represented in fiction. Read books about adolescents written by authors of various cultures and explore how coming of age or socialization is represented, what cultural ideologies seem to be operating, and what underlying messages appear to be targeted to adolescent readers.
18. Analyze cultural attitudes towards or representations of adolescents. Analyze newspaper and magazine articles, television shows, advertisements, news reports, websites, and other sources focused on adolescents in contemporary society. How often are adolescents valorized or vilified? In what ways are they pushed into premature adulthood or urged to remain innocent?
Consult a variety of primary sources (i.e., articles, television shows, news broadcasts, movies) that reveal public attitudes toward teenagers today. Demonstrate how these sources reflect and/or contradict the prevailing attitudes of what it means to be an adolescent in contemporary society, including the mixed messages and contradictions in these sources.
Then, study how adolescents are targeted, marketed, and sold through product lines and companies such as Disney, the music industry, and so on? Research the origins of and critically analyze the products, icons, films, videos, television series, and other non-print texts marketed to teenagers, including the marketing and creation of series books for and about teenagers, for example, the Harry Potter series.
19. Responding to a young adult novel, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit. Read the novel and then respond to the following in your journal:
- Think about images that stand out in your mind as you read the book.
- Think about feelings or moods that the book evoked in you. How could you create these moods or images in visual form? Through sounds or music? Through colors, shapes, textures?
- Think about any objects, shapes or designs that seem to capture some part of the book's impression on you, or might in some way symbolize your response to the book.
- Do you associate this book with particular colors, shapes, textures?
- Do you hear music or other sounds when you think of this book?
Then, create some kind of non-verbal representation of Tuck Everlasting, to be shared with your classmates: a visual symbol or symbols as a collage, a clay (or other) sculpture, a dance movement or pantomime, a montage of musical selections, or a collection of objects, paintings, or drawings.
20. Responding to a “controversial” young adult novel, Deliver Use from Evie, by M. E. Kerr. In teaching a book on a “controversial” topic such as homosexuality, ask students to engage in some research on the topic so that they become familiar with issues facing gay teens or resources related to addressing issues of gender identity, including data on the fact that at least one in ten persons in the world is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. Students could interview someone who identifies as glbt and talk with him or her about life as a teenager. As this person read books in and outside of school, how often did s/he see him or herself "reflected in the mirror?" Considering the rather restricted canon of literature read in American high schools even today, how did the narrowness of that canon influence this person's feelings about him or herself as an adolescent?
If a student can't locate someone or don't feel comfortable discussing this topic with a friend or family member, do a bit of research in the library, on the Internet, in bookstores, or through community agencies for glbtq people. Discover what resources are currently available for adolescents who are glbtq. Then speculate on what you as a teacher can do to help each student see her or himself "in the mirror?" Finally, what are the personal risks and challenges for you in doing so?
Then, reflect on how these lived-world attitudes are shaping the characters in Deliver Us from Evie.
21. Drawing connections between legends and a young adult novel, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. In the young adult novel, Freak the Might, Kevin, and later, Max, make frequent mention of the Arthurian legends.
Download the brief summary of the Arthurian legends on the following Website http://www.gringolet.co.uk/kingarthurplotsum.html and the code of chivalry that Arthur's knights were expected to follow on http://www.astro.umd.edu/~marshall/chivalry.html
After examining this information, explore the following questions:
- What parallels are there between Philbrick’s novel and these legends?
- Who are the real “freaks” in the story and who are “heroes”? In light of the chivalric code, what qualities would define a person as a freak or a hero? In terms of how Kevin and Max are treated by others, what defines them as “freaks”? Is chivalry dead in contemporary society?
Visit the Freaks page at Monstrous.com, the do the following:
- Look at the photos of sideshow "freaks" and define the various qualities associated with the label (For example: missing limbs) in the historical period when these photos were taken.
- Now consider some contemporary definitions of the word "freak," not associated with physical deformities (i.e., "computer freak"). Add these definitions to your list.- Finally, consider the role of "freaks" in society: Who gains and who loses when people are labeled? If there were no "freaks" such as those in these pictures, would we create them.
- Finally, if overcoming their labels could be considered a quest, what were some of the turning points that Kevin and Max faced on their journey toward the "holy grail" of self- and societal acceptance?
Then, visit the Xmen page on Answers.com, read the bios of the Marvel superheroes and explore the following questions,
- How are these comic book characters similar to Max and Kevin (for example, in the adversities they had to overcome, their physical qualities, and so on)?
- In the Marvel series, even the evil character, Magneto, is portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic manner. How are some of the "villains" of Freak the Mighty similarly portrayed by Rodman Philbrick?
- What social ills are addressed by these comic books and by the novel, Freak the Mighty?
22. Creating independent reading guides for young adult novels. Provide plot summaries and character analysis of a young adult novel, the social or political issues surrounding that novel, biographical information about the author, and critical response to the novel:
- In possible preparation for booktalks, highlight some key events, character relationships, and themes in the book, focusing on those aspects of the book that are most likely to appeal to students.
- Research the historical, social, and/or political issues surrounding the time period and geographic location in which the novel is set. How accurately do you believe the author portrayed these issues and events? What issues are still present today? What may have changed?
- Do some research on the writer. Try to locate primary source documents such as an author's Web site or author interviews. If your novel is fictional, do you see parallels between the main character and the writer? Think about how the political and cultural milieu in which the story is set complicates issues like growing up, being male or female, and being a teenager.
- Locate some critical commentaries on the book. Do you agree with the critics? Is this is an engaging and realistic portrayal in your opinion? You can use a combination of electronic and print resources. Bring copies of whatever you find or your notes to this third and final session and include them in your reading log.
-Share what you have discovered and discuss how you might use some of this information in a group presentation in which you (a) introduce your classmates to the novel and (b) address the following questions: What does it mean to “come of age” in the culture and/or time period represented by the novel you have read? How does this process differ (or not) from what it means to “come of age” in contemporary American culture?