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Introduction to the Draft Report: The What, Why, and How of Teaching Literature - Previous Revision

Our group focused on the what, why, and how of teaching literature as a central focus of an English education program.  In defining questions as to what is literature, we grappled with definitions for what constitutes literature or literary texts, leading to a proposal to not only broaden the definition of literature to include a range of different kinds of texts, but also recognize the need to define literature in terms of the literary experience itself affords through transactions with texts.  And, in addressing the question as to why teach literature, we posited the importance of preservice teachers (hereafter PTs) formulating beliefs as to value of teaching literature to justify its centrality in the English/language arts curriculum.  And, in discussing the how, we propose specific strategies for use in literature methods courses to address various topics and issues associated with preparing PTs to teach literature.

What is Literature?

Helping students become competent and confident readers of literature constitutes a primary aspect and satisfaction of the English/Language Arts teacher.  To be successful in this endeavor an ELA teacher shoulders some critical responsibilities.  It is clear that just what texts and artifacts are to be included in what we call literature has profound implications for just whom among our students gain access to the world of personal and social meaning-making in reading.

Those who proclaim what texts are to be taught as literature are cognizant of how the existing canon is in fact a dynamic category system, one where works are constantly entering and exiting.  Yet just how these judgments are rendered, and by whom, remains mostly mysterious in our educational system.  Unless, however, each and every ELA teacher actively participates in this conversation of how we go about defining literature, commitment to the reading process itself will continue to elude many potential readers.

ELA teachers constantly struggle with making literature choices that are inclusive so that works are not denied students because they don't immediately conform to the teacher?s definition.   Once this process of definition and choice is open for inspection, teachers will begin to understand just how arguments for including everything from blogs to films, from song lyrics to advertisements might be fair game even if otherwise the ELA teacher might not view such artifacts as literature.  Further, an ELA teacher will understand just how the particular works chosen and the way students are encouraged to transact with them can be very disturbing both to students and community.  This is because authority is often questioned and multiple interpretations arise, both of which can be unsettling to students and parents who demand the certainty of the correct answer that can be spoon-fed and regurgitated for the latest high stakes test.  Yet once the public stops to consider the matter, it must recognize how every citizen in any number of informal ways performs the literary act on a daily basis by making personal aesthetic meaning of the texts we are all bombarded with.  Who can not be convinced of society's need for citizens who have learned and are comfortable with the active uses of the imagination?

As educators and socializers of future ELA teachers, we are presented with two primary challenges besides helping them to read widely and promiscuously.  First, how can we promote their active participation in the ongoing conversation about what to include in the literature circle?  How can we help them to see the consequences of their choices so they take responsibility for including texts that best connect with the readers they are growing?  Second, aware of just how our own reading behaviors exhibit such great diversity depending upon text and context, what will promote similar consciousness in beginning ELA teachers? Indeed, auditing their own reading behaviors and sharing the results with others might dramatically reaffirm that they will continually have to accommodate such reading diversity of preference and interpretation among their own students.

Working toward a dynamic definition of literature.  Literature is that collection of texts that best help us develop higher levels of literacy.  Less rich texts--those that simply present information or give directions, for instance--may allow us to learn word decoding on the route to extracting simple meanings, but literature enables us to learn complex reading behaviors that involve responding, reflecting, valuing, choosing, and take a stand on life?s complex issues.  At the same time, literature is more than just texts; it evokes experiences that transport readers into imaginary realms that foster connections to the actual worlds around them.  Taught as experience, literature invites students to take perspectives--symbolic, critical, playful, comparative, reflective--as part of the active engagement that all thinkers and writers must assume.

Given its capacity to foster articulation of and reflection about the complexities of life as mediated through language, the teaching and learning of literature, broadly conceived as delight in language itself (as opposed to more instrumental models and uses of language), should lie at the heart of the English curriculum.  To use Freire's terms, literature represents the interface, imaginatively expressed and received, between worlds and words.  In an important sense, literature seen as play with words prefigures and forms the basis of literacy--it provides the creative motivation to become literate. We perceive this process occurring with each child as he or she encounters and develops language arts through sound, symbol, and the magic of meaning.  As teacher educators, therefore, it behooves us to present such a view of literature (and literacy) to our student teachers, and to work with them in the forging of practically realizable contents and strategies for this sort of teaching.

Such a notion of literature runs counter to the prevalent, apparently common-sense version of literacy and literature which envisages literacy purely as decoding and unambiguous comprehension reading skills and literature as merely the icing on the cake for those who've made enough progress in basic literacy, a distinction evident in current "reading" tests and "basic skills" curriculum.

While in the end there will be wide agreement about just what to include in the category of literature, debates at the margins significantly add to our understanding of the English/language arts teacher's role in moving students beyond simple decoding skills.  The work of literature in fact can only exist in the light of particular kinds of reading activity.  In the end readers enact intellectual and emotional evocations of the work that are much greater than any drawing out of the "factual" constituents on the page.  In this sense of literature, which traditionally has been defined by genre membership and particular aesthetic or literary characteristics, only comes into full being in the presence of reader activity.  It is this activity that English/language arts teachers provoke and scaffold as they bring readers into the world of literature.  Still, without a text that connects to the experiential and interest world of the reader, the teachers' hands are tied.  Thus it is important to stress that we are not simply talking about literature itself in isolation, but literature within the context of instruction and the social context of the classrooms.   Based on theories that acknowledge the transactional nature of the reader?s act of reading response, the meaning of the text is constituted by not only readers in contexts, but also the cultural and social discourses constituting these contexts.

Literature in schools has also been defined in terms of a coverage model of texts established by the high school literature canon related to the traditional required texts identified by Applebee.  This canon reifies American and British classic texts as central to the curriculum with multicultural literature remaining at best marginal, although this continues to evolve.  Focusing on the canon certainly includes important, significant works of literature, but given a coverage model, these texts are often taught in terms of acquiring information rather than as a means of fostering responses to the worlds and tensions these texts evoke.  And, because these texts are considered the gold standard of literature, multicultural texts that have not been included in the canon are often perceived as add-ons or as "different," rather than treated as serious works of literature.

Defining Literature in Terms of Affordances

In defining literature, rather than simply focusing on the characteristics of literature, we define it in terms of the affordances it offers to students.

An aesthetic stance.  Literature invites students to adopt an aesthetic stance as opposed to a utilitarian, efferent stance in the literary experience (Rosenblatt, 1978; 1995; 2005).   As James Britton argues, literature invites students to adopt an interpretative/reflective stance associated with the subjective, non-pragmatic ways of experiencing life through experiencing the "language of the spectator" that fosters reflexive perspectives on the subjective meanings of experiences. Engaging in literature allows students to employ the language of the emotions--anger, fear, love, envy, hope, jealousy, hate, greed, desire--emotions that are essential to learning to recognize the humanity of people.  In a world in which the humanity of others is often ignored, it is essential to attend to the language of emotions permeating literature.

Empathy. Literature provides empathetic insights into the imagined experiences of others across time, space, gender, and culture. In fiction and poetry, life holds still for a moment, and we can take the time to stare at it, deciding what we value and what we reject, what matters and what can be dispensed with or ignored.  Without that disposition to reflect and decide, our choices are uninformed, impulsive, reactionary.  Given the importance of empathizing with the plights of people throughout the world, students need to acquire ways of reading literature as essential for reading accounts of events in the troubled parts of the world.

More than this, perhaps paradoxically, literature also gives us the opportunity to de-familiarize the familiar in ways that may be either celebratory, as a sense of awe and wonder at the nature of life and death, or critical, in the Brechtian sense of alienation from habitual, conventional modes of thought and feeling, as reflected in our experiences with poetry that challenges clichéd perceptions of the world.  Accounts of the suffering and dying in Darfur and elsewhere, for instance, are exercises in adding and subtracting unless we have the imagination to place ourselves there and feel something of the pain and loss.

Conversations about purpose, values, and self.  Literature invites us into conversations about purpose, values, and selves in ways that enable us to collaborate with others in shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world.  If we read our lives with the habit of thoughtful attention that we develop in reading, discussing, and writing about the lives we encounter in our literature, we have a better chance of becoming thoughtful, rational, humane citizens.  Through talk about literature, students learn to test their ideas against those of others--writers, their characters, other readers, critics--and come to understand that their solitary thinking can be sharpened and enriched by the exchanges.  Lacking that literary experience, we are in danger of growing arrogant by whatever ideology has captured us.

Reflection.  Literature also affords adopting a reflective stance, inviting students to formulate moral and philosophical understanding about the meaning and value of life (Broudy, 1988; Dewey; 1916; Greene, 1973) associate with what Mark Johnson (1993) described as the moral imagination (Bullough, 2006).  By grappling with the ethical dimensions of characters' actions, they may then reflect on the ethical dimensions of their own experiences as well as recognize that there is a common human condition experienced through literature as a way of knowing that condition.

Multimodal experiences.  Literature also needs to be defined to include a range of multimodal and digital texts associated with popular culture: manga novels, comic books, digital poetry/storytelling, mixed media drama productions, etc.   As has always been the case with children's literature, these texts combine print and visual images in ways that serve to engage young audiences accustomed to multimodal media texts (Kress, 2003).

And, young people increasingly experience texts not simply as autonomous entities but as linked together within what Henry Jenkins (2006) described as a "convergence culture" based on links between different media texts.  As Gee (2004) has noted, children often learn more literacy outside school than inside school. That is, children bring to the classroom knowledge about a variety of texts, whether music, art, technology, language, or movement.

First, through acquiring these literacies in the arts, students learn to feel about the world, or engage the affective, but they also teach students to see, notice, and critically interrogate the world, or engage the cognitive (Eisner, 1992, 2002,2003). Students learn to pay attention to the relationships that exist within any text, whether it be a story, poem, artwork, or musical composition. The arts help learners notice what is subtle in text, from a simple and single statement made by a character to the shades of a single color used in a landscape to a subtle introduction of horns or strings in a musical piece. The arts teach that paying attention to such subtleties matters when interpreting and creating texts (Eisner, 2002a).

Second, the arts, by nature, invite problem-solving and complex thinking. Although schools would argue that they want learning to be divergent, imaginative, or creative, standardized testing promotes convergent or single-track thinking (Arts Education Partnership, 2005; Eisner, 2002b). Finding the one theme in a play or story, or coming up with a single answer to a math problem, is valued in such testing. The arts, however, promote thinking beyond rules and regulations. Complex thinking revolves around searching out many possible solutions or interpretations rather than looking solely for a right answer.

Third, the arts promote paying attention to the way a text is configured. Focusing on how a story is written, how the words in a poem are chosen, how an artwork is presented, or how an argument is expressed through speech encourages learners to pay attention not only to what someone is expressing, but how what is being expressed is constructed (Albers, 1996, 1997, 2001; Arts Education Partnership, 2005; Cowan, 2001; da Silva, 2001; DuCharme, 1991; Ernst, 1994, 1997; Flynn, 2002; Graves, 1975, 1983; Greenway, 1996; Igoa, 1995; Katzive, 1997; Noden & Moss, 1995; Rabkin and Redmond, 2005; Siegel, 1984, 1995).

While digital texts share certain features with print texts, they also differ from print texts in fostering interactive audience participation as well as hypertextual links between texts as is the case with blogs, wikis, podcasts, or social networking sites (Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, & Whitin, 2005).  Learning to navigate these interactive, linked texts requires readers to adopt an active stance as not only interpreting, but also producing texts.  Readers must also employ a range of digital literacies associated with perceiving relationships between visual/video images and print, as well as different modes of social participation through sharing tagged material, promoting and subscribing to feeds, commenting on blog posts, or engaging in online chat.  PTs therefore need to understand their students' use of digital literacies associated with the use of digital tools, for example, their ability to combine images, music, sounds, and texts to create texts in ways that engage audiences.

It is also the case that teachers believe that students, particularly students considered to be "struggling readers," must first acquire these "basic reading skills" prior to reading literature, failing to recognize that students are most likely to be motivated to want to learn to read through reading engaging literary texts.  It is also the case that teachers should not assume that because students lack "basic reading skills," that they cannot read difficult literary texts.  We believe that it is possible to teach any Shakespearean play to any group of learners, whatever age or "ability" range.

Beliefs about the Value of Teaching Literature: Justifying Teaching Literature

The second part of our report formulates justifications for teaching literature.  PTs need to espouse justifications for teaching literature based on definitions for what is literature.   As beginning teachers, these PTs will experience attempts to socialize them to conform to status-quo instruction that reflects reductive, decontextualized notions of meaning-making in ways that limits the power of literature instruction.  It is important that beginning teachers learn to resist pressures to conform to these status-quo notions of literary instruction and curriculum.   Research on beginning teachers' development in their initial years of teaching shows that those teachers who have a strong, well-defined set of beliefs are less likely to conform to the traditional teaching practices operating in the schools than those teachers who do not have a well-defined set of beliefs and attitudes (Smagorinsky, Cook, & Johnson, 2003).  All of this suggests that PTs need to acquire more than simply teaching techniques.

Our methods courses therefore need to explore with PTs the central question: why teach literature?  Based on their  definitions of literature, they can then formulate purposes for teaching literature.  In doing so, PTs are learning to define their beliefs about the value of teaching literature, beliefs that should serve them in their future teaching careers to help them resist the pressures of status-quo practices and curriculum and to formulate new directions for teaching literature.

PTs best learn to formulate why they are doing what they are doing, as well as analysis of competing beliefs and attitudes related to teaching literature, through observing and talking to teachers about their beliefs so that they can perceive the relationships between beliefs and practices. And, they need to be able to critically examine the principles and assumptions underlying literature curriculum as driven by larger social, historical, and political forces determining what literature and how that literature should be taught (Zancanella, 1998).

PTs also need to be familiar with research on the value of teaching literature and the arts so that they can provide evidence for the value of teaching literature in certain ways in terms of student gains in achievement, especially for struggling learners.  For example, Albers' (2006) work in visual discourse analysis also indicates that when visual texts are analyzed by noting cueing systems within visual texts, and the social discourses that are evident from such analysis, more complex understanding emerges about students? literacy practices.

Why Teach Literature?

Rather than focus on one single justification for teaching literature, PTs could explore a number of different justifications related to the following aspects of literature instruction.  In doing so, they need to not only define the benefits of engaging in literature described in the "what is literature" section, but also formulate purposes in terms of the benefits of using their particular instructional methods--what students will learn from participating in their classroom activities.

As we argued, literature affords certain social and cultural experiences that enhance the quality of students' lives through engaging in transactions with texts (Probst, 2004).   However, PTs can enhance the value of these transactions through engaging discussions, writing-about and writing-of literature, drama, and video production activities.  PTs therefore need to justify the use of these activities by defining the larger purposes and value afforded by those activities.

Fostering imagination. We teach literature because an imagination honed and sharpened by the study of literature is crucial in reading the other texts and the other events of our lives.   We can do that if we have read powerful literature under the guidance of a teacher who invites and encourages that imaginative participation in the story, helping us learn to conjure out of ink on paper the human experience portrayed.  Through developing engaging response activities, a teacher invites thoughtful reflection on experience crucial to making sense of the complex issues and the difficult choices life presents us (Dewey, 1916).

Enacting alternative voices.  We also teach literature as a form of enactment that (Rosenblatt, 1978; Wilhelm, 2001) actively engages students in a transaction driven by their personal purposes and experiences that lead to construction of new alternative voices and perspectives.  Through experiencing enactment with texts, students learn to play with language and images as a means of adopting alternative perspectives related to their lives (Smagorinsky, 2001). They can therefore envision different ways of being in the world that leads them to adopt different identities and perspectives.

Inviting perspective-taking. Teaching literature fosters perspective-taking in the classroom--the adoption of alternative ways of perceiving and experiencing the world leading to empathy for others' perspectives (Beach, Appleman, Hynds, & Wilhelm, 2006). In a world that is increasingly segregated and divided, it is essential that students be open to engaging with the other and alternative perspectives, leading to tolerance and openness to changes.  In a world limited by rigid certainties, literature affords different ways of imagining alternative ways of thinking and experiences.

Through sharing their responses, students are exposed to different perspectives reflecting different ways of knowing and believing, leading them to recognize how their backgrounds and experiences build meaning and distance or include them in texts they read.  From hearing different perspectives voiced in the classroom, students experience dialogic tensions that serve to challenge their status-quo notions of the world (Sumara, 2002).  In doing so, students are experimenting with the uses of new social languages constituting their identities as well as employing alternative, hypothetical, "what-if" languages portrayed in fantasy or science fiction literature, leading them to begin to perceive their lived-worlds in a new and different ways.  Given the need to develop alternative perspectives on the political, economic, cultural, and ecological challenges facing the world, it is essential that students be open to entertaining these alternative perspectives.

Inferring symbolic meanings of language use.  Teachers can also help students learn to infer the symbolic meanings of language.  In doing so, students are learning to appreciate how language means in different and complex ways, as well as experiencing the playful nature of language.  For example, in Carol Lee?s research (2007), high school students draw on their experiences with inferring symbolic meanings of language use in rap and  "playing the dozens" to infer the symbolic meanings of language in Shakespeare?s plays.

Appreciating the literary uses of language leads students to engage in writing and performing literature through poetry readings and slams, as well as participation in drama activities. Through engaging in these performances, students learn to perceive the power of spoken literary language to construct imagined alternatives to status-quo worlds and to engage others in these shared envisionments (Langer, 1995).

They can also help students learn to adopt a "point-driven stance" associating with attending to the symbolic meanings of texts related to the larger "point" or thematic meanings of texts (Hunt & Vipond, 1992).  Rather than assume that this "point" resides in the text itself, teachers can help students learn to recognize how these thematic meanings are socially constructed through sharing of responses.

Making intertextual connections.  Teachers also help students define intertextual connections between different texts in terms of similarities in themes, topics, genres, stances, ideologies, and style.  By drawing on their knowledge of literature to make these intertextual connections, students then begin to perceive themselves as competent readers who have acquired the conventions of reading for meaning, for example, they ability to apply knowledge of "rules of notice" to attend to the importance of titles, endings, or turning points in a text as implying significant meanings (Rabinowitz, 1998) or applying problem-solving strategies for determining who committed a crime in a murder mystery.

From making these intertextual connections, students also learn to identify prototypical plots, character types, and themes common to certain literary genres.  In doing so, they can then examine how these prototypical elements are representing identities and social worlds, for example, how the mythic quest for truth reflects a larger need to understand the world.  And, based on their knowledge of prototypical literary elements, students can identify instances in which authors play with or parody those elements to challenge familiar ways of constructing texts, leading to creating their own literary parodies.

Grappling with difficult texts.  Teachers also can help students learn how to grapple with difficult texts that require re-reading to identify and understand what puzzles or mystifies them (Blau, 2003).  From helping students learn to engage in re-reading, teachers are fostering in students the ability to revise and rethink what may be initial superficial readings, leading them to be open to the need to continually rethink the ideas in understanding and producing texts.  Learning to revise their initial interpretations may then transfer to revising their writing.

Critiquing ideological assumptions.  Teachers can also help students engage in critique of the ideological assumptions constituting characters' actions and social worlds through applying feminist, Marxist, post-colonial, psychological, cultural, archetypal, or post-structuralist critical lenses (Appleman, 2000; Beach, Appleman, Hynds, & Wilhelm, 2006). By learning to adopt certain critical stances and lenses, students are critiquing how characters are constituted and limited by powerful institutions. For example, from experiencing the portrayals of racism in multicultural literature, students experience the historical and institutional forces shaping characters' lives that may enhance their awareness of how these forces operate in their own communities (Beach, Thein, & Parks, 2007).  In applying a post-colonial critique of Western perspectives of third-world nations, they begin to recognize the limitations of these Western perspectives. Or, in noting the ways in which discourses of race, class, and gender limit characters' development, they begin to examine how these discourses operate in their own lives.

Implications For English Education Methods Courses: How To Prepare PTs To Teach Literature

All of this suggests the need for English education methods courses to address a range of issues associated with teaching literature. In these methods courses, students need ample opportunities to experience different ways of responding to literature through talk, writing, drama, art work, and media productions, experiences that serve to model uses of response tools so that PTs perceive the value of using these tools. We also believe that literature should play a larger role in all teacher education courses as a way of knowing and reflecting that would assist PTs in their growing understanding of teaching, schools, adolescents, etc.

Unfortunately, one general English methods course that includes teaching of literature, composition, language, speech, drama, and media, may not allow for enough time to engage in these experiences. Moreover, courses in young adult literature may not deal with methods for teaching literature.

The following are some key topics and issues we believe should be included in methods courses. We also include some suggestions for activities and strategies for addressing these topics and issues.

Defining literature.  As we noted in the beginning of this document, a central topic facing PTs has to do with defining literature. To address this issue, Gordon Pradl, New York University, employs the following activity:

To begin engaging my undergraduate English education majors on what I call the "Literature Definition" problem, I first ask them to create lists of books that are either in the YES or NO pile and then to describe just what it is that causes them to sort texts in such ways.  It gradually dawns on them that the process of category definition is messy in all areas, not just literature.  When, for instance, does a flower become a weed?   When we no longer want it in our garden.  So all categories, which are socially constructed, leak.  Simultaneously, the categories that surround us are often presented by the powers that be as NOT leaking, as being clear, unambiguous, and not contentious.

Category definitions, however, have real consequences, especially in terms of how they exclude and include people from joining in various social conversations and activities.  For this reason alone it will always be important to interrogate the categories that our society holds inviolate.  In this sense, I tell my students, "You, as a teacher, are constantly faced with just what you will question and just what you will leave alone."

Then before they write up a final account of THEIR definition of literature, I summarize where our collective musings have led us so far.  Categories are defined first by what we call prototypical object(s) or examples.  These stand in contrast to peripheral ones?any questionable tokens that begin to test the boundaries of the category definition. Not just anything is peripheral, i.e. in normal parlance, items such as cars and birthday cakes would never enter the discussion surrounding just what is included in the category "literature."

When we look at the "Literature" problem in terms of a product--a physical object with particular physical characteristics or qualities--then novels, poems, stories seem clear, but plays, movies, essays, newspaper accounts are more on the margins with phone books, DVD repair manuals, grammar books, being outside.

Next comes what we have experienced as readers, that particular high of a lived through and inspirational connection, where the ink marks on the page or the images on the celluloid transact with our consciousness.  From this perspective our concern focuses on process, namely, literature in part involves those texts that encourage a literary response or stance, which includes some aesthetic aspect--a concern for the art characteristics of the object.  Similarly, a text that we consider to be literature may be treated in an efferent manner, as Rosenblatt suggested, rendering a reader's transaction with it non-literary.

The quality issue provides us with yet a third dimension in our quest to define literature.  We first distinguish texts we like and those we dislike.  Often the dislike pile can be or has been characterized by linguistic, structural, and imaginative deficiencies.  We thus conclude that there is some threshold that, if a work falls below, it is no longer literature.  In this sense we look to the aesthetic and ideational values being upheld. Are we creating a wide enough circle, so few readers will be left out?  However, do we feel that somehow we are lowering standards, not being mature or sophisticated enough?  Or do we create a precious and small circle, rarefied in some way, which excludes all but those who have been anointed as readers through some special training or opportunity?  How do small circles of readers and critics help create and defend a high bar that upholds the highest definitions of creativity, culture, ideas, and in turn civilization?

As we struggle with the inclusion and standards questions, one more aspect comes into play, that of the moral dimension.  Morality may be subjective but it does reward some behaviors and condemn others.  Literature, seen as upholding the zeitgeist of a culture, is thus something that functions by supporting the values and the key issues of that culture.

In moving through these FOUR dimensions that go into any consideration of the category literature, one often begins by thinking objectively as though there is an obvious, publicly-agreed-upon answer that underlies our common sense notion of what literature is.  Once this search for definition becomes problematized, however, there is a natural swing to seeing the question as being totally subjective and thus totally relative--indeed a question no longer worth considering.  The truth lies somewhere in between.  While we finally make and are responsible for our own set of judgments, these represent finally only a reasonably small set of possibilities, which in turn are governed by the fact that we share values and definitions with our referent groups or our interpretive community--we are both private and social individuals.   

Further, the organizations for which we work (schools, parents, politicians) have a stake in making sure that stability is maintained and that their views of the world are manifestly supported.

Given this summary, I then end with these guidelines: first, what is clear and what remains confusing to you when it comes to thinking about what literature is and excludes?  Next, return to your original six texts, perhaps adding new ones or replacing what you began with, and use these to illustrate just where YOU draw the line in terms of the FOUR continua outlined above.  What do you take into consideration when you draw these lines?  How do your "tipping points" along the four dimensions align you with others or separate you from others?  How do you anticipate your literature definition evolving over time in the sense of making judgments about forms that may not yet be in existence?  And finally what are you learning about yourself as an English teacher as you ponder these issues?

I find that this kind of inquiry, while initially resisted by the students who sit quite securely in their sense of the static canon that they have been feeding on since high school, ends up giving them more possibilities and making them more responsible for seeing how the decisions they make regarding what to include under the label LITERATURE have real consequences, both in the personal and the public/political realms.

Students can also address the ways in which literature has been defined in terms of PTs' own perceptions about categories for defining literature and literacy.  They could address issues as to who and how criteria for "literary quality" are formulated, particularly in relation to teaching of young adult literature.  They could also consider how people perceive the value of literature by capturing testimonials from people as to how their lives have been influenced or changed through reading literature.

Further reading on defining literature:
Abbs, P.  (2003). Against the flow: Education, the arts and postmodern culture. New York: Routledge.
Agee, J. (1998). Negotiating different conceptions about reading and teaching literature in a preservice literature class. Research in the Teaching of English, 33, 85-120.
Bergmann, L. S., & Baker, E. M. (Eds.). (2006). Composition and/or literature: The end(s) of education. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Edmundson, M. (2004). Why read?  New York: Bloomsbury USA.
Freire, P., & Macedo, D.  (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. New York: Bergin & Garvey.
Graff, G.  (1989). Professing literature: An institutional history. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Greene, M. (2000). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Pradl, G. M. (1996). Literature for democracy: Reading as a social act. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Richter, D. A.  (1999). Falling into theory: Conflicting views on reading literature. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.
Rosenblatt, L. M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Rosenblatt, L. M. (Ed.). (1995). Literature as exploration, 5th ed. New York: Modern Language Association.
Rosenblatt, L. (2005).  Making meaning with texts: Selected essays. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Scholes, R.  (1999). The rise and fall of English: Reconstructing English as a discipline. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Sumara, D. J. (2002). Why reading literature in school still matters: Imagination, interpretation, insight. New York: Erllbaum.
Stevens, D., & McGuinn, N.  (2004). The art of teaching secondary English. New York: Routledge.
Yancey, K. B.  (2004). Teaching literature as reflective practice. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Reader response/literary critical theories. PTs should be familiar with different reader response theories and literary critical perspectives associated with ways of fostering responses to texts (Appleman, 2000; Beach, Appleman, Hynds, & Wilhelm, 2006; Carey-Webb, 2001; Eckert, 2006; Probst, 1004; Schweickart & Flynn, 2004).  This requires PTs to translate their knowledge of these theoretical or critical perspectives into activities that reflect certain ways of constructing meaning.  For example, in adopting a feminist perspective, they are focusing on how students' gender perspectives shaped their construction of gendered practices in texts.   In constructing these response activities, PTs could reflect on their assumptions about the kinds of responses or critical stances they are inviting students to adopt as consistent with certain response theories and literary critical perspectives.

Transactional literary response theory and practice.  In methods courses, PTs can share their aesthetic, "living-through" experiences with texts related to their experiences of sympathy, happiness, relief, apprehension, joy, anger, anxiety, etc., as ways of perceiving the world.

They can also draw comparisons between entering into and constructing text worlds which involves entering into a "landscape of action" and participating in a "landscape of consciousness" in which they vicariously imagine characters' feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about participating in a text world (Bruner, 1986).  And, they can identify the different phases of what Langer (1995) describes as "envisionments":

  • "being out and stepping into an envisionment" in which readers "make initial contacts with the genre, content, structure, and language of the text" (7). 
  • "being in and moving through an envisionment" in which readers are "immersed in their understandings, using their previously constructed envisionment, prior knowledge  and the text itself to further their creation of meaning" (7).
  • "stepping back and rethinking what one knows" in which readers "used their envisionments to reflect on their own previous knowledge or understanding" (7).
  • "stepping out and objectifying the experience" in which readers "distanced themselves from their envisionments, reflecting on and reacting to the content, to the text, or to the reading experience itself" (7).

Recognizing the limitations of traditional reader-response approaches.  It is also important for PTs to recognize the limitations of reader-response approaches that focuses only on students' subjective or shared autobiographical  experiences without fostering critical analysis of how they are being positioned by texts and social contexts.  For example, Cynthia Lewis (2000) argues that, in responding to multicultural literature, students need to recognize that they cannot necessarily identify with characters who are the targets of racism when they have not had similar experiences.

To do so, PTs could reflect on how their constructions of the roles, rules, norms, beliefs, and attitudes of text worlds both draws on and differs from their construction of lived worlds (Beach & Myers, 2001).  For example, in studying characters' roles, they may ask, "What roles/identities do participants or characters enact in a world?  How do these roles/identities vary across different worlds?  What practices or language do they employ to enact this role or identity?  What are their feelings about being in a role/identity?"  Or, in studying characters' or people's rules or norms, they may ask: "What is considered to be appropriate versus inappropriate behavior?   What rules does this suggest?   Who do you see as following versus not following these rules?    What do these rules suggest about the type of world the characters inhabit?"  For example, constructing of the world of Pride and Prejudice involves applying a different set of cultural norms related to gender construction than is operating in their own contemporary world. 

And, PTs need to recognize differences in characters' perspectives about these roles, rules, norms, beliefs, and attitudes operating in a text world--the fact that Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice held a different set of attitudes about women's role in society than did her mother or sisters.  And, they need to be able to identify the competing worlds operating in text worlds, competing worlds that create tensions for characters.  PTs could then develop activities designed to help students learn how to construct text worlds as contrasted with their construction of lived worlds.

PTs could reflect on how texts are positioning them in terms of the ideological stances they are being invited to adopt (Althusser, 1971). They could reflect on the stances they adopt in terms of three alternative positions described by Stuart Hall (1993):

  1. Dominant-hegemonic reading: Students may simply accept or identify with the dominant value stance without challenging that stance.
  2. Negotiated reading: Students may negotiate or struggle with the dominant stance, applying some of their own value stances.
  3. Oppositional reading: Students resist, challenge, disagree with, or reject the text's invited stance. 

By recognizing how they are being positioned, students may identify the ideological forces operating in the text or context that serve to position them in a certain manner, forces tied to cultural and institutional systems.  As Hicks (1996) notes, "reading involves a set of cultural practices, as integrally embedded within webs of relationships as any other social act of being and knowing" (p. 221).  For example, in responding to the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, students may consider how assumptions about race and class operating in the world of the novel serve to position the reader.

PTs could also reflect on how their own discourses of race, class, and gender influences their interpretation of texts.  They may also note how these discourses, for example, discourses of "whiteness," reflect institutional forces designed to benefit whites as a group.  This may then lead them to a critique of the institutional racism operating in much of Western literature related to portrayals of non-white characters.

Studying students' responses.  PTs could also conduct studies of their students' responses, as illustrated by the following project:

This project invites you and your students to retrospectively analyze their own literature discussions. From this analysis, you will create a short five-minute video documentary of how your students respond to literature in your class and what you learned from this study. Two parts comprise this project: 1) The edited video; 2) reader response analysis.

In the video, plan to include still photos of your students as they engage in literature activities (i.e., literature studies, activities, small, pair, large group), as well as short video snippets of your students as they respond to literature. The video should have music to accompany the video. In the video, include short clips of the literature discussion you analyze. Include in this video both students discussions and your own voiceover narration of what you noticed about their discussions.

With the reader-response analysis, you will conduct one literature study with your students, video-record the entire discussion, and choose ten minutes of this discussion and transcribe it. In the margins of the transcript, analyze students' responses, your responses, and the overall discussion in light of Rosenblatt's theory of reader response. At the end of the transcript, include an overall analysis of your students' discussion (several paragraphs) and whether they moved through the layers of response that Rosenblatt describes. Consider questions such as: What types of responses are my students saying? Are they attending to superficial aspects of text or are they talking about issues that they believe the author raises? What is the percentage of teacher talk? What is the overall percent of student talk? Based upon these two components (video/photos) and the reader response, edit and create a short five-minute video of your students' study of literature (Windows movie maker or iMovie). Integrate photos, music, and/or voice over narration that capture the essence of what you learned from your study of your literature classroom. Include the transcripts and videotape for this project.

Further reading on reader-response theories and literary critical perspectives:
Appleman, D. (2000). Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press.
Beach, R. (1993). A teacher's introduction to reader response theories. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Carey-Webb A. (2001). Literature and lives; A response-based, cultural-studies approach to teaching English. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Eckert, L. S. (2006). How does it mean?: Engaging reluctant readers through literary theory. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Ellsworth, E. (1997). Teaching positions: Difference, pedagogy, and the power of address. New York: Teachers College Press.
Lewis, C. (2000). Limits of identification: The personal, pleasurable, and critical in reader response. Journal of Literacy Research, 32(2), 253-266.
Pace, B. G. (2006). Between response and interpretation: Ideological becoming and literacy events in critical readings of literature. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(7), 584-594.
Probst, R. E. (2004). Response & analysis, Second edition: Teaching literature in secondary school. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Richards, I. A. (1965).  How to read a page. Boston: Beacon Press.
Rosenblatt, L. M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Rosenblatt, L. M. (Ed.). (1995). Literature as exploration, 5th ed. New York: Modern Language Association.
Rosenblatt, L. (2005). Making meaning with texts: Selected essays. Portmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Scholes, R. (2001). The crafty reader. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Schweickart, P. P., & Flynn, E. A. (Eds.). (2004). Reading sites: Social differences and reader response. New York: Modern Language Association.

Literature curriculum design.  PTs need to be familiar with different ways of framing or designing the literature curriculum.  In doing so, they need to extract the principles and assumptions defining the selection of particular texts and methods, as well as the larger goals driving the curriculum.  Many literature curriculums are organized around a combination of genres and historical or literary periods, a structure reified by the organization of textbooks into genre/historical/chronological approach.   A typical high school curriculum may be teaching the short story, novel, drama, and poetry genres in the ninth and tenth grades, an historical survey of American literature taught in the 11th grade, and an historical survey of British or world literature in the 12th grade.      

In contrast to these coverage models shaping the literature curriculum, PTs could envision alternative ways of organizing the curriculum based on inquiry-based approaches related to issues, topics, themes, or genres, as well as integrating understanding and production of literature, as well as critical pedagogy approaches related to critical analysis of literature.

They also need to be familiar with state standards in English/language arts so that they can align their instruction with those standards, as well as how these standards can be read as prescriptions for how to achieve standards, but without a clear sense of the larger purposes or objectives.

Further reading on literature curriculum design:
Agathocleous, T., & Dean, A. C. (2003). Teaching literature: A companion. New York: Palgrave.
Applebee, A. N. (1996). Curriculum as conversation: Transforming traditions of teaching and learning. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Barrie R. C., Barrell, B. R. C., Hammett, R. F., Mayher, J. S., & Pradl, G. M. (Eds.). (2004). Teaching English today: Advocating change in the secondary curriculum. New York:Teachers College Press.
Burke, J. (2003). The English teacher's companion: A complete guide to classroom, curriculum, and the profession. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Chambers, E., & Gregory, M. (2006). Teaching and learning English literature. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Gere, A. R., & Shaheen, P. (Eds.). (2001). Making American literatures in high school and college. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
McMahon, R. (2002). Thinking about literature: New ideas for high school teachers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Pope, R. (1998). The English studies book. New York: Routledge.
Showalter, E. (2002). Teaching literature. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
Smagorinsky, P. (2002). Teaching English through principled practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Analyzing uses of literary language. PTs also need to know how to help students attend to uses of literary language in texts.  Rather than adopt a New Critical perspective that the meaning of the language is "in" the text, PTs can help students infer multiple meanings of literary language constituted by how students perform or enact this language, as well as the knowledge and connections they bring to constructing the meanings of language.   All of this encourages students to experience the delight of creative, playful uses of language that leads to learning and construction of alternative perspectives on the world.

PTs can also help students attend to uses of figurative language, titles, literary styles, double-voicing of discourses, etc. (Pugh, Hicks, & Davis, 1997), attention that requires that they learn to re-read literature and appreciate the fact that literature is difficult and that one rarely interprets complex meanings of a poem on a single reading (Blau, 2003).

In methods courses, PTs can share ways of modeling analyses of uses of literary language, as well as develop oral interpretation and writing activities that involve students in creating their own literary texts.  Through engaging in their own poetry performances and writing of stories and poems, PTs develop material for sharing with their students to model performance and creative writing practices.

Further reading on uses of literary language:
Blau, S. (2003). The literature workshop: Teaching texts and their readers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Coo.
Moon, B. (2001). Studying poetry: Activities, sources and texts. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Somers, A. B. (1999). Teaching poetry in high school. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Critiquing portrayals of race, class, gender, and sexuality in literature.  PTs can also help students reflect on their notions of cultural constructions of differences in race, class, gender, and sexuality by having them examine representations of these differences in literature and the media.  In doing so, PTs examine how these constructions reflect cultural and ideological beliefs operating in texts, for example, how race is constructed in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye in terms of institutionalizing conceptions of whiteness as an ideal norm. 

Rather than treating "multicultural literature" as a separate entity, PTs are therefore learning to critically examine how cultural differences related to race, class, gender, and sexuality are portrayed in texts reflecting different cultural contexts.  They can then develop teaching activities that will encourage their students to understand how notions of race, class, gender, and sexual differences are cultural constructions.  And, PTs can explore how literature portrays hybrid versions of these differences in ways that challenge stereotypical constructions of identity difference (Grobman, 2006).

Further reading on portrayals of race, class, gender, and sexuality in literature:
Beach, R., Thein, A. H., & Parks, D. L. (2007). High school students' competing social worlds: Negotiating identities and allegiances in response to multicultural literature. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Boyd, F. B. (2002). Conditions, concessions, and the many tender mercies of learning through multicultural literature. Reading Research and Instruction, 42(1), 58-92.
Cai, M. (2006). Multicultural literature for children and young adults: Reflections on critical issues. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishers.
Christensen, L. (2000). Reading, writing, and rising up: Teaching about social justice and the power of the written word. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.
Connor, J. J. (2003). "The textbooks never said anything about...." Adolescents respond to the Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(3), 240-247.
Dressel, J. H. (2005). Personal response and social responsibility: Responses of middle school students to multicultural literature. The Reading Teacher, 58(8), 750-764.
Eagleton, T. (2006). Criticism and ideology: A study in Marxist literary theory, new edition. London: Verso.
Edelsky, C.  (2006). With literacy and justice for all: Rethinking the social in language and education. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Fecho, B. (2004). "Is this English??" Race, language, and culture in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Grobman, L. (2006). Multicultural hybridity: Transforming American literary scholarship and pedagogy. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Hicks, D. (2005). Class readings: Story and discourse among girls in working-poor America. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(3), 212-229.
Johnston, I. (2003). Re-mapping literary worlds: Postcolonial pedagogy in practice. New York: Peter Lang.
Pace, B. G. (2006). Between response and interpretation: Ideological becoming and literacy events in critical readings of literature.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49(7), 584-594.
Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.
Sumara, D., Davis, B., & Iftody, T. (2006). Normalizing literary responses in the teacher education classroom. Changing English, 13(1), 55-67.

Uses of narrative production and reflection.  Oral and written narratives can be used to foster responses to literature.  By sharing stories evoked by and related to literature, PTs are using narrative techniques of setting the scene, dramatizing events, building suspense, and resolving conflict.  They are also learning to use literary language to create imagined worlds.  In one study, a teacher's use of oral narratives in her classroom served to model stances associated with the literary uses of language in literature (Juzwik & Sherry, 2007).

PTs could devise teaching activities organized around different narrative genres: myths, short stories, novels, fables, jokes, monologues, biographies, memoirs, etc., activities that integrate reading and writing of narratives.  They can include analysis of how these forms have evolved over time, leading to an understanding of how writers are influenced by traditions and how they then break these traditions.

PTs can also use narratives to reflect on their teaching (Alsup, 2005; Clandinin, 2006; Lyons & Laboskey, 2002; Schaafsma, Pagnucci, Wallace, & Stock, 2007).  By sharing their narratives about the challenges of teaching, they are learning to construct their identities as teachers.  They are using narratives to recapture the particular aspects of teaching, creating a record that can serve as the basis for your reflection on your teaching, leading to reflections on goal/plan relationships, expectations, previous experience, context/setting, and their teacher identities.  By then identifying the roles, beliefs, norms, and institutional forces portrayed in their narratives, they can then reflect on how their practices are shaped by these roles, beliefs, norms, and forces.

Further reading on narrative production and reflection:
Alsup, J. (2005). Teacher identity discourses: Negotiating personal and professional spaces. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, J. (2002). Making stories: Law, literature, life. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Craig, C. J. (2007). Story constellations: A narrative approach to contextualizing teachers' knowledge of school reform. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(2), 173-188.
DeBlase, G. (2005). Negotiating points of divergence in the literacy classroom: The role of narrative and authorial readings in students' talking and thinking about literature. English Education, 38(1), 9-22.
Florio-Ruane, S. (2001). Teacher education and the cultural imagination: Autobiography, conversation, and narrative. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hillocks, G. (2007). Narrative writing: Learning a new model for teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Johnson, K. E., & Golombek, P. R. (Eds.), (2002). Teachers' narrative inquiry as professional development. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lyons, N., & Laboskey, V. K. (Eds.) (2002). Narrative inquiry in practice: Advancing the knowledge of teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.
Perl, S., Counihan, B., McCormack, T., & Schnee, E. (2007). Storytelling as scholarship. English Education, 39(4), 306-325.
Ritchie, J. S., & Wilson, D. E. (2002). Teacher narrative as critical inquiry: Rewriting the script. New York: Teachers College Press.
Schaafsma, D., Pagnucci, G., Wallace, R., & Stock, P. L. (2007). Composing storied ground. English Education, 39(4), 282-305.

Book selection, reading interests, and individualized reading programs.  Teachers are continually making text choices based on a range of criteria, many of which are invisible, that need to be made explicit in a methods course.  How then might we make these invisible criteria visible? They need to understand the influences of mandated textbooks, the high school canon, fear of censorship, students' reading interests, and a recognition of their own and students' valued authors. PTs need an understanding of various factors influencing adolescents' book selection and reading interests, factors such as age, gender, knowledge of authors/topics/genres, attitudes, interests, and purposes for reading.

PTs could analyze the required texts at different grade levels, noting the extent to which these texts reflect the high school literature canon constituting curriculum approaches.  They could also examine various literature anthologies in terms of the kinds of response activities employed and the texts included, addressing the issues of inclusion of what Russell Hunt (1992) described as "texttoids"--short excerpts or materials that may not engage students to the degree they would be engaged with longer texts, as well as the misinformation that may be included in textbooks (Stevens, 2006).   Moreover, the response prompts or discussion questions in some series may consist of "reading-check" correct-answer comprehension questions, as opposed to open-ended response prompts.

PTs could also study differences in students' ability to read and interpret different texts.  For example, some students may prefer to read fantasy or mystery novels because they enjoy being transported into a world distinct from their own familiar world (Blackford, 2004).  Other students may prefer realistic fiction because they can vicariously experience characters' coping with challenges they assume they will face later in their adolescence, for example, having a serious love relationship, going off to college, facing competing allegiances to the peer group versus their own ethical beliefs, etc.   Other students may prefer nonfiction books or newspapers, given a strong interest in current affairs.

PTs could also survey students about their reading interests, particularly for use in setting up a free-reading program in which students select their own texts.  They could interview students, drawing on the questions in this chapter on students' notions of reading, asking them to describe those strategies and processes they employ in reading their most versus least preferred types of texts.   They may find that their less preferred texts are those about which they lack confidence in using certain strategies or processes.

All of this points to the importance of attending to individual differences in students in selecting texts and planning literature instruction. Research on teaching literature finds that approaches that are based more on attention to students' individual differences are more likely to result in increased book-reading over time (Verboord, 2005).

Further reading on book selection, reading interests, and individualized reading programs:
Atwell, N. (2003). In the middle: New understandings about writing, reading, and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Cavasos-Kottke, S. (2006). Five readers browsing: The reading interests of talented middle school boys. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50(2), 132-147.
Gillespie, J. T., & Barr, C. (2006). Best books for high school readers, Supplement to the first edition: Grades 9-12. Libraries Unlimited.
Gillespie, J. T., & Barr, C. (2006). Best books for middle school and junior high readers, Supplement to the first edition: Grades 6-9. Libraries Unlimited.
Keane, N. J. (2006). The big book of teen reading lists: 100 great, ready-to-use book lists for educators, librarians, parents, and teens. Libraries Unlimited.
Koelling, H. (2004). Classic connections: Turning teens on to great literature. Libraries Unlimited.
Love, K., & Hamston, J. (2003). Teenage boys' leisure reading dispositions: Juggling male youth culture and family cultural capital. Educational Review, 55(2), 161-177.
Van Schooten, E., De Glopper, K. & Stoel, R. D. (2004). Development of attitudes toward reading adolescent literature and literary reading behavior. Poetics, 32, 343-386.

Addressing issues of difficulties in reading literature.  It is certainly the case that many students in English classes are experiencing difficulty with reading, difficulties that will result in their not doing well on mandated reading tests.  However, these issues of reading difficulties are often addressed through technical, decontextualized instruction that denies transactional conceptions of meaning construction, responses to literature, and uses of literary texts.  This focus on teaching "reading skills" denies the active role of the reader in constructing the meaning of texts.

These reading skill programs are often based on deficit models of students as "struggling" or "poor" readers based simply on reading comprehension test scores, based on narrow notion of "reading ability."At the same time, PTs may underestimate students' capacity to interpret texts based on narrow measures and thereby have low expectations for their potential success (Hamel, 2003).

Literature methods courses therefore need to broaden notions of reading comprehension to include a range of different kinds of interpretive practices as well as ways of determining individual differences in students' reading difficulties as well as their strengths.  They also need to give PTs an understanding of uses of think-alouds or response activities as tools for determining individual differences in students' reading processes and abilities.  And, PTs need to acquire techniques for modeling and scaffolding relevant purposes for reading and prior knowledge, as well as ways to build vocabularies.  And, they need to emphasize the centrality of developing striving readers' engagement with larger activities in which reading is embedded as part of acquiring knowledge essential to participating in those activities.  As previously noted, they also need to know how to develop individualized reading programs to foster sustained silent reading based on students' own book selections.

Further reading on difficulties in reading literature:
Daniels, H., &  Zemelman, S. (2004). Subjects matter: Every teacher's guide to content-area reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Finders, M., & Hynds, S. (2003). Literacy lessons: Teaching and learning with middle-school students. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Reeves, A. R. (2004). Adolescents talk about reading: Exploring resistance to and engagement with text. International Reading Association.
Fordham, N., & Sandmann, A. (2005). Teaching reading strategies with literature that matters to middle schoolers. Best Practices in Action.
Moore, D. W., Alvermann, D. E., & Hinchman, K. A. (Eds.). (2000). Struggling adolescent readers: A collection of teaching strategies. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
O'Donnell-Allen, C. (2006). The book club companion: Fostering strategic readers in the secondary classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Wilhelm, J. (2007). Engaging readers & writers with inquiry: Promoting deep understandings in language arts and the content areas with guiding questions. New York: Scholastic.

Knowledge of young adult literature.  It is also important that PTs have a strong background knowledge and familiarity with young adult literature, particularly if they are going to be teaching at the middle-school level.  In young-adult literature courses, it is useful to model each of these approaches to teaching literature so that PTs experience response strategies first as student readers, and then to shift gears and reflect on the teaching/pedagogy involved in the class.  In these classes, PTs can address issues of the teachability of young adult novels related to the maturity level and interests of student audiences for these novels.

PTs can also grapple with choices related to whole class versus independent reading of novels given their students' reading ability, interests, and knowledge.  In all of this, PTs need to reflect on the literature they choose to teach, what the purposes are for literature instruction in middle and high school, why a range of approaches to literature study is important, and other important "big idea" questions.

PTs need to provide students with books they want to read based on their interests and preferences for particular genres, authors, topics, or themes.  PTs might want to interview individual students about texts they enjoy reading, reasons for their enjoyment, and other possible kinds of texts they may want to read if they could.  If PTs aren't sure they'll be honest with PTs, consider asking students to interview each other (or students in the hallways) about their reading preferences and write up the results in an informal report.

To promote young-adult literature, PTs need to know how to give book talks. Employ activities such as the following:

Each PT will give two book talks, and bring a text set of books (approximately 10 books, both YA and picture books) with a bibliography (a copy for each classmate) that addresses the genre being discussed during that class session. A book talk is a short (5 minute) oral description of a book you have read for this class. Its purpose is to entice others to read the book. While the book talk is informal, it requires some planning to be effective. Consider beginning the book talk with a "hook" to gain the immediate attention of your audience. You might also want to include a brief excerpt (1-2 paragraphs) that reveals the flavor of the book. Finally, it?s a good idea to have the book on hand while you give your presentation. As much as possible, relate your book to other books with similar themes or plots and/or to other books by the same author. Note: Do not give the entire plot away in your book talk--remember, you are trying to encourage others to read the book! We will begin most class periods with these book talks; course participants should listen carefully and take notes on these books talks in order to build your classroom or school library.

Further reading on adolescent literature:
Bucher, K. T., & Manning, M. L. (2005). Young adult literature: Exploration, evaluation, and appreciation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Bushman, J. H., & Haas, K. P. (2005). Using young adult literature in the English classroom. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Donelson, K., & Nilsen, A. (2004). Literature for today's young adults, 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Enriquez, G. (2006). The reader speaks out: Adolescent reflections about controversial young adult literature. The ALAN Review, 33(2), 16-23.
Herz, S. K., & Gallo, D. R. (2005). From Hinton to Hamlet: Building bridges between young adult literature and the classics. Greenwood Press.
Rice, L. J. (2006). What was it like?: Teaching history and culture through young adult literature. New York: Teachers College Press.
Sprague, M. M., & Keeling, K. K. (2007). Discovering their voices: Engaging adolescent girls with young adult literature. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.      

Discussing literature.  PTs can best learn to facilitate discussions of literature through use of writing prompts, questions, group-process strategies, or modeling of responses to foster students' talk about literature.  They need to know how to conduct literature discussions by:

  • posing "authentic," provocative questions that foster expression of diverse perspectives
  • explicitly teaching students discussion skills of turn taking, agreeing and disagreeing, and acknowledging diverse responses.
  • framing discussion topics in terms of tentative, hypothetical hunches that need further verification.
  • using informal writing techniques to help low-level participants formulate their ideas in writing prior to discussions.
  • enhancing low-level participants' discussion contributions through working with them individually, using writing activities to prepare them for discussions, or using paired/small-group discussions prior to large group discussions.
  • employing Web-based chat rooms to reduce intimidation of low-level participants due to nonverbal factors operating in classrooms.

In modeling question-asking, PTs need to know how to employ genuine, "authentic questions" (Nystrand, 1997)--which have no pre-determined answers or that involve some follow-up to the student's answer.   Because there is no assumed "correct answer," they foster teachers and students mutually negotiating meaning for a shared social purpose.  Unfortunately, these genuine questions are rare in class discussion.   In an analysis of 100 middle and high school classes, Nystrand (1999) found that only about 15% of the discussions involved use of "authentic questions."

PTs also need to know how to set up and support small-group or book club discussions (Appleman, 2006; Daniels, 2002; Daniels & Steineke, 2004; Marshall, Smith, & Smagorinsky, 1995). And, they need to know how to facilitate online chat discussions in ways that foster expression of alternative perspectives and stances (Black, 2005).

PTs also need to realize that there are social and communal forces occurring in a book club or literature circle. When people gather in a group to read and write, something happens beyond the simple sharing of words. Personal connections are created between the members of such groups that move beyond acquaintance or collegiality. The sharing of stories, whether others' or one's own, creates relationships built on the storied lives we live (see Bruner or Greene or Murdoch or Nussbaum), and those relationships require an imagination and bond stronger than the typical imagination and bond associated with other relationships built through work or friendships.

PTs should know that book clubs in schools have been met with varying success. In most cases, breakdown stems from the lack of connection between students and the fictional stories they are assigned to read or between group members and the experiential stories they choose to share. Perhaps this failure stems from the fact that the book clubs used in classrooms cannot resemble traditional, communal book clubs (such as in historical women's book clubs or African American literary societies or even in the Oprah Book Club phenomenon) because the genre of performance has not been adequately defined or ritualized. Perhaps the missing component is the lack of a mechanism of performativity that allows for resistance or social action that historical women's book clubs or African American literary societies had. If true, this would imply that bringing a ritualized performance into educational book clubs might help solve certain inefficacies created by the adaptation of a social and communal activity into a pedagogical tool. Simply, a teacher candidate probably should not read Daniels, pass out role sheets, and walk away.

PTs also need to know how to use online chat or blogs, particularly for discussions with other classes or participants on issue-oriented topics.  Teachers note that blogs provide a greater sense of a shared community with people from outside the classroom, providing students with an audience larger than simply the classroom.  Two popular blogs for adolescents that function as on-line book clubs for teens are Book Diva and Teenreads.

To improve in their use of discussion strategies, PTs need to continually reflect on transcripts, narrative recollections, or audio/digital video of discussions to identify instances of effective versus less effective strategies and note changes over time in the amount and quality of student talk.  For example, Peggy Albers has been using Windows Movie Maker as a tool to help students (and teachers) do retrospective analyses on their literature discussions in ELA classes. Such visual retrospection allows both teacher and student to see their participation in literature discussions, make thoughtful and critical changes in their literature practices, and support on-going development as critical readers of literature.

Further reading on literature discussions:
Applebee, A. N., Langer, J. A., Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English.  American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 685-730.
Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Daniels, H., & Steineke, N. (2004). Mini-lessons for literature circles. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Holden, J., & Schmit, J. (Eds.). (2002). Inquiry and the literary text: Constructing discussions in the English classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Kooy, M. (2003). Riding the coattails of Harry Potter: Readings, relational learning, and revelations in book clubs. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 47(2), 136-145.
Lee, C. (2006). 'Every goodbye ain't gone': Analyzing the cultural underpinnings of classroom talk. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(3), 305-327.
Marshall, J., Smagorinsky, P., & Smith, M. (1995). The language of interpretation: Patterns of discourse in discussions  of literature. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Nystrand, M. (1997). Opening dialogue: Understanding the dynamics of language and learning in the English classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
O'Donnell-Allen, C., & Hunt, B. (2001). Reading adolescents: What book clubs are teaching us about collaborative inquiry of young readers and YA literature. English Journal, 90, 82-89.
Smith, M. W., & Connolly, W. (2005). The effects of interpretive authority on classroom discussions of poetry: lessons from one teacher. Communication Education, 54(4), 271-288.

Writing about and of literature. PTs need to know how to foster writing about literature, drawing on their knowledge of current writing pedagogy related to constructivist uses of writing to learn.  This involves knowing how to create writing assignments that foster engagement and critical analysis of texts through informal writing (freewriting, journal writing, online chat, mapping, listing, drawing) and formal writing (essays, reports, PowerPoint presentations).

Students often have difficulty going beyond, extending, or elaborating on their responses.  To help students extend their responses, PTs could model various other strategies included on this list.   They may also ask students to provide reasons for why they are responding in certain ways, why, for example, they are upset with a character or believe a story will end happily.   Or, they could ask students to infer what a text means to themselves--their own personal meaning, and what it means to the world--larger implications for others.

PTs could also create activities in which students are responding to and creating multi-genre texts--texts that consist of a range of different types of genres--reports, poems, letters, diaries, stories, advertisements, field notes, photos, drawings, etc. (Romano, 2000).   Connecting these disparate genre types requires the ability to determine how different types of texts yield different perspectives on the same topic or phenomenon.

In combining texts, students are also learning to communicate in multimodal ways through how they combine print, image, and audio texts. This requires that they consider how their language, images, or audio serves to illustrate, augment, extend, or interrogate each other. For example, a group of four African-American 8th grade females constructed a multimodal PowerPoint presentation that portrayed different images of poverty and homelessness in their community (Mahiri, 2006).

PTs may also have students respond to literature using blogs, wikis, and podcasts, tools that allow for interactive sharing of responses with peers, as well as collaborative writing.  Teacher educators may model the uses of these digital writing tools in their methods classes so that PTs develop examples of digital writing for use in modeling uses of this writing with their students.

PTs can also help students understand literature through having them write their own stories or poetry.  Learning to use descriptive details or dialogue to portray characters or events helps students understand how writers employ literary techniques to convey meaning.  Or, writing poetry, students learn to use titles, voice, figurative language, rhythm/rhyme, or white space, uses that enhance their ability to respond to poetry.

Further reading on writing about and of literature:
Anderson, J. H., & Farris, C. R. (Eds.). (2007). Integrating literature and writing instruction. New York: Modern Language Association.
Atwell, N. (2003). In the middle: New understandings about writing, reading, and learning. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Davis, R. L., & Shadle, M. F. (2007). Teaching multiwriting: Researching and composing with multiple genres, media, disciplines, and cultures. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
DiPardo, A., & Schnack, P. (2004). Expanding the web of meaning: Thought and emotion in an intergenerational reading and writing program. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(1), 14-37.
Gallagher, K. (2006). Teaching adolescent writers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Gaughan, F., & Khost, P. H., (Eds.). (2007). Collaborating, literature, and composition: Essays for teachers and writers of English. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Graham, S., MacArthur, C. A., & Fitzgerald, J. (Eds.). (2007). Best practices in writing instruction. New York: Guilford Press.
Gordon, E., McKibbin, K., Vasudevan, L. & Vinz, R. (2007). Writing out of the unexpected. English Education, 39(4), 326-351.
Langer, J. A. (2001). Beating the odds: Teaching middle and high school students to read and write well. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 837?880.
McIntosh, J. (2006). Enhancing engagement in reading: Reader response journals in secondary English classrooms. Language & Literacy, 8(1). Retrieved July 22, 2006 from
Knights, B., & Thurgar-Dawson, C. (2007). Active reading: Transformative writing in literary studies. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Sipe, R. B., & Rosewarne, T. (2006). Purposeful writing: Genre study in the secondary writing workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Drama activities/oral interpretations. PTs can also develop drama activities designed to foster students? enactments of literature that draw on their knowledge and experiences to create alternative, ?what-if? versions of texts that allow them to explore ?spaces of possibles? (Neelands, 2000), leading to reflection on their own lives.   PTs can facilitate students? enactments of texts by defining certain purposes for reading, creating textual worlds associated with certain places or situations, fostering adoption of characters? or the author?s perspectives, drawing connections to their lives, and then reflecting on the meaning and value of these enactments related to what they learned about the issue, conflict, problem, or phenomena portrayed in the enactment.  PTs can have students engaged in oral interpretations/poetry performances that involve them in physical and vocal enactments of literary language.

PTs can also create large-group and/or online role-play activities related to the texts, for example, a censorship hearing about a text you are reading.  Students could also create museum/art exhibits, businesses, companies, schools, government agencies, media production units, etc., in which students assume certain roles and responsibilities (Wilhelm & Edmiston, 1998).  In doing so, they need to know how to continually revise and facilitate alternative challenges during the drama activities, as well as help students build on their expertise to display competence in front of their peers.

Further reading on drama/ activities/oral interpretations:
Fisher, M. T. (2007). Writing in rhythm: Spoken word poetry in urban classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.
Fleming, M. (2001). Teaching drama in primary and secondary schools: An integrated approach. David Fulton.
Medina. C. L. (2004). Drama wor(l)ds: Explorations of Latina/o realistic fiction. Language Arts, 81(4), 272?279.
Medina, C. L. (2004). The construction of drama worlds as literary interpretation of Latina feminist literature. Research in Drama Education, 9(2), 145?160.
Schneider, J. J., Crumpler, T. P., & Rogers, T. (2006). Process drama and multiple literacies: Addressing social, cultural, and ethical issues. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Patterson, J., McKenna-Crook, D., Swick, M. (2006). Theatre in the secondary school classroom: Methods and strategies for the beginning teacher. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Wilhelm, J., & Edmiston, B. (1998). Imagining to learn: Inquiry, ethics, and integration through drama. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Teaching world literature (contributed by Don Zancanella).  For most of the twentieth century, teaching literature in American secondary schools meant teaching British and American literature.  During the last third of the century, the term ?multicultural literature? began to appear, accompanied by critiques of the literary canon?critiques of the process by which the canon was formed and of the outcomes of that process.  For the most part, however, multicultural literature meant literature by members of marginalized groups within the United States, not by writers in other parts of the world.

?World literature? has been a feature of the curriculum in some states, districts, and individual schools for many years, but in most cases it has not played a prominent role in the theory and practice of English teaching.  For example, in Applebee?s (1993) study of the literature curriculum, only about 25 percent of high schools included a course focused on world literature.  Of the authors of required book-length works, 58.3 percent were from North America, 33 percent from the United Kingdom, 7.6 percent from Europe, and 1.1 percent from ?Other.? Now, however, there are some signs that world literature may become a more important part of literature instruction.  These include the following:

Globalization.  The media, business, science, the arts, and educational institutions are all becoming less bounded by national borders and identities.  Friedman?s ?flat world? thesis may lack a certain sophistication, but at bottom, it?s accurate. 
Immigration. The presence of growing numbers of immigrants from other countries in American schools.
Media. Electronic media, particularly the Internet, but also including satellite TV and radio that make few distinctions about international boundaries.  A Google search can turn up results from anywhere on the globe.
Student needs.  Pressures to make the study of literature relevant.  In our post-9/11 world, student awareness of and interest in international events, culture, and history are growing.
For English educators, preparing PTs to teach world literature can seem daunting, especially given factors such as the following:

Content preparation at most institutions continues to include little or no study of world literature.  PTs come to English methods classes well-versed in 19th century American literature and the Romantic poets, but unable to name more than one or two authors or works from Africa or Asia.  Furthermore, most have not studied the role of translation in literature.  Some of our interpretive traditions (such as close reading) are problematic when the work under study is a translation.
Even less available to prospective teachers is exposure to works of literature from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America appropriate for young readers.  American publishing companies are notoriously remiss in publishing works in translation, but the problem is even more pronounced in the area of young adult literature.
Prospective teachers may lack cultural, geographic, and historical knowledge about the regions authors have written about.
However, it is also true that PTs come to the teaching of world literature without some of the deeply embedded conventions of practice that can interfere with thoughtful instruction.  This means student-centered, interactive, inquiry-based approaches to teaching literature become more immediately possible for prospective teachers to explore.  Consider the following:

A course or unit focusing on world literature tends not to carry with it the expectation that works must be taught chronologically.
There is no high school canon of world literature so teachers have a good deal of freedom to select works that will interest their students and meet their instructional goals.
PTs do not find themselves wed to particular interpretations of works (what their own high school and college teachers told them about Gatsby, for instance), so they can approach the act of interpretation in the collaborative, open manner reader-response theorists advocate.
Studying translation can be a powerful way to explore difficult-to-put-your-finger-on aspects of literature such as style.  Placing two translations of the same poem side-by-side exposes word-level qualities of literature in ways few other activities can.  (This is close reading gotten at from a different angle.)
Supporting ELL students becomes less difficult if the literature being taught requires all students to stretch their cultural and linguistic imaginations instead of casting some students as always in-the-know and others as perpetual outsiders.
Further reading on teaching world literature:
Asher, N. (2005). At the interstices: Engaging postcolonial and feminist perspectives for a multicultural education pedagogy in the South. Teachers College Record, 107(5), 1079?1106.
Halpin, B. F., et. al. (2006). Literature: An exercise in futility or the way to save the world?. English Journal, 95(6), 28?32
Heble, A. (2002). Re-ethicizing the classroom: Pedagogy, the public sphere, and the postcolonial condition. College Literature, 29(1), 143?160.
Montero, M. K., et. al. (2006). "Teachers can't teach what they don't know": Teaching teachers about international and global children's literature to facilitate culturally responsive pedagogy. Journal of Children's Literature, 32(2), 27?35.
Qureshi, K. S. (2006). Beyond mirrored worlds: Teaching world literature to challenge students' perception of "other". English Journal, 96(2), 34?40.

Integrating media, art, and popular culture with literature instruction. Given students? high level of engagement with media and popular culture texts?films, television, radio, magazines, graphic novels, popular music, as well as digital media such as social networking sites, YouTube, Flickr, and other interactive online sites, PTs can having students learn to respond critically to these media texts in ways that draw on their critical responses to literature, responses that can serve to enhance their reading and writing skills (Hobbs, 2007).  And, they can have students study examples of film adaptations of literature to understand differences in how media forms construct experience.

PTs need to be familiar with uses of visual or digital tools for responding to literature, for example, art work (Reif, 1992) such as the use of diagrams to portray character traits (Smagorinsky & O?Donnell-Allen, 1998) or hypermedia productions that link together images, texts, music, sounds, video clips in ways that reflect an original interpretation of the text and/or a critical stance on the themes or topics in texts (Myers & Beach, 2001; Rozema, 2003).

At the same time, PTs need to examine how digital media is influencing the reading of print literature, as well as the limitations in the kinds of literary experiences afforded by digital media.  A survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts (2004) identified a decline in the amount of reading of literature, particularly for younger people, although the survey did not take into account reading of online texts.  It is also the case that young people are less likely to read print news.   It may be the case that print and online reading do not compete with each other, but rather complement each other.  Rather then bemoan the decline of reading print literature, PTs need to consider ways to build on adolescents? strong interests in digital media to foster reading of print literature.

PTs could also develop activities for students to participate in online virtual worlds designed to foster experiences with literature, for example, the Literary Worlds site at Western Michigan University ( 

Constructing documentaries about text worlds.  PTs could also construct media texts to express their interpretations of literature, as reflected in the following activity involving development of a documentary portraying the historical and cultural contexts of a text:
     This project invites you to consider how literature is written within a historical time period, emerging as a result of the author?s response to events within this time period, and create a documentary short. Drawing information from your own family/friends and primary sources (photographs, interviews, excerpted video footage, etc.), choose a major text taught in the ATL area (Great Gatsby, House on Mango Street, Death of a Salesman, etc.), and locate it within a historical period through which one or more of your family members or friends lived (WWI, WWII, Viet Nam War, Harlem Renaissance, roaring 20?s, civil rights, Gulf War, Afghanistan/Iraq, Beat generation, etc.). Consider how you want to represent your major text through this time period from the perspective of your family members/friends and include primary source information for this project (interview, photos, personal letters, emails, artifacts, etc.). For example, if you choose The Grapes of Wrath as your major text, work with family members/friends who lived during the Great Depression, interview them and record their memories, look through photos they may have, read personal letters they may have kept, etc. Additionally, read and research the Great Depression to supplement your family member(s)? information and the information in the major text. Create a documentary short, based upon your reading of the major text, your family member/friend?s information, and events that surrounded the author?s writing of this major text. At least one interview with a family member/friend must be transcribed and included in this project.
     When creating a movie, we will study documentary shorts including Glorious Expression, a movie on Jacob Lawrence. We will talk about what we noticed as effective elements within this documentary, the primary sources, the historical references to the time, and the actual story being told of this Harlem Renaissance painter. You will then design your documentary based upon features such as still photographs, interview clips, clips that show your family member in some kind of daily activity, special effects (fade in, aged techniques, etc.). The documentary short should be between 5?8 minutes. We will show examples of how this project might look.
Components of this project:
     a. Video movie of 5?8 minutes will address these ideas: 1) how does this project investigate the time period, your family, and integrate primary sources to teach this novel?; 2) how does this project, including your family/friend stories, connect with the major text that you studied;
     b. Written reflection (no more than two pages): 1) what did you learn by doing this project; 2) how did creating a movie help you understand the writing, composing processes?; 3) how will this movie become a resource for your teaching?
     c. Accompanying this presentation must be an annotated bibliography of sources that you consulted when inquiring into your text.
Constructing multimodal texts.  PTs also benefit from constructing multimodal texts to help them experience ways of combining images, artwork, and text, as illustrated by the following activities:
     Writing a postmodern book: In this project, you will design, write, and create your own postmodern book, or a book written in a nontraditional format. To begin, you will choose an inquiry topic on which you will become familiar. Based upon your inquiry project reading, each student must design, develop, and create a fiction or nonfiction book around your inquiry project on an author, illustrator, genre, or topic that you are studying. The book should follow a nontraditional format, and should represent the wide reading that you have done. We will read and study postmodern books in class and generate ideas. For example, if you are studying Shakespeare?s Elizabethan theater, the book might be shaped as a Folio, the Globe Theater, or the actual stage. If you are working with Eric Carle as a writer/illustrator, your book might take on the shape of an animal or insect, and assume a style similar to his. When building your book, think outside the box?that is, if possible, think beyond paper as the primary material. You might use wood, clay, plastic, etc. for your outside covers. For the inside, play with the various types of techniques that we will us in class: watercolor, pencil color, acrylics, tempera, ink, woodcuts, etc. Each person must make a CD on which photos of each page are placed, and a PowerPoint to indicate how the book should be read. Bibliography of resources consulted must be attached. Postmodern books will be assessed on the same criteria that we assess children?s and YA literature.
     Developing and writing podcasts: Write and create a digital audio program (5?8 minutes) in which you describe what you have learned about teaching children's and young adult literature, and how you have designed a way in which you work with this literature in your classrooms. Each student must write out a script and submit this along with the audio-recording.
     Arts-based reflection on literature: Each of you will keep an arts-based journal (unlined) in which you respond artistically to the class professional and picture/book and novel readings. The journal reflects your ongoing understanding of literature theory and pedagogy. Entries should not reflect the professional readings not only at a superficial level but also at greater depth. Entries should not reflect only the literary texts readings, but both the professional and literary texts. Make the connections between the professional readings and the literary texts clear.
     All of these entries must integrate some aspect of art. Each journal entry must begin on a new page (do not combine entries on the same page). These entries should be clearly marked and easily read. Your journal will be turned in at the end of the semester. Please stay current with your journal, record your thoughts and thinking, and notes to yourself about literacy and learning.
Further reading on integrating media with literature instruction (see also the Fall, 2007 issue of English Education).
Beach, R. (2007). A Web-based guide to links and activities. New York: Teachers College Press.
Carter, J. B. (Ed.). (2007). Building literacy connections with graphic novels, Page by page, panel by panel. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Grabill, J., & Hicks, T. (2005). Multiliteracies meet methods: The case for digital writing in English education. English Education, 37(4), 301?311.
Golden, J. (2001). Reading in the dark: Using film as a tool in the English classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved November 10, 2006 from
Kajder, S. B., & Rief, L. (2006). Bringing the outside in: Visual ways to engage reluctant readers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Kist, W. (2005). New literacies in action: Teaching and learning in multiple media. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. New York: Routledge.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2003). New literacies, Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Morrell, E. (2005). Critical English education. English Education, 37, 312?321.
Myers, J., & Beach, R. (2004). Constructing critical literacy practices through technology tools and inquiry. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 4(3).
Schwarz, G., & Brown, P. U. (Eds.). (2005). Media literacy: Transforming curriculum and teaching. The 105th Yearbook for the National Society for the Study of Education. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Tendero, A. (2006). Facing versions of the self: The effects of digital storytelling on English education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(2). Available:
Wardrip-Fruin, N., & Herrigan, P. (Eds.). (2004). First person: New media as story, performance, and game. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Wetmore, K., Hulbert, J., & York, R. (2006). Shakespeare and youth culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Evaluation and assessment of literature learning. PTs need to be able to formulate criteria for evaluating students? responses based on constructivist theories of literature learning.  These criteria may include student degree of elaboration in their recounting or retelling of narrative events or in connections to other texts or autobiographical experiences; ability to:

link the current text to other texts in terms of similar genres, settings, character types, narrative patterns, themes, or stances
consider alternative perspectives operating in the text
explain characters? actions in terms of a range of different characteristics?characters? traits, knowledge, beliefs, plans, and goals
entertain alternative hypotheses for explaining events or characters?  actions
define patterns in characters? actions and infer related beliefs, traits, and goals
contextualize actions within larger historical and cultural contexts based on inferences about characters? reactions to norms operating in those contexts
interpret larger themes by inferring the underlying value assumptions inherent in characters? actions related to the norms operating in the text world
construct a text?s story world in terms of the particular cultural or historical norms and conventions operating in that world.
PTs also need to grapple with issues of literature assessment.  A central issue facing PTs is the influence of mandated standardized reading tests on the literature curriculum.  PTs need to understand limitations of standardization related to issues of validity and reliability, as well as how uses of multiple-choice testing limits that nature and quality of transactions with texts and classroom response activities. PTs also need to understand the problematic aspects of use of test scores on standardized multiple-choice tests as a means of demonstrated ?accountability? as mandated by No Child Left Behind, particularly in terms of having to ?teach to the test? in ways that limit exploration of alternative meanings and critical analysis of texts (Kohn, 2000; Sacks, 2001; Swope & Miner, 2000).

PTs also need to be familiar with alternatives to the use of multiple-choice testing as evident in the use of performance assessment and portfolios of student classroom work in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Vermont.  George Hillocks?s (2002) research on the impact of states? writing tests on writing instruction in those states indicates that the type of assessment determines the focus and type of instruction employed.  He found that in the four states (New York, Texas, Illinois, and California) that were employing a traditional writing assessment, teachers were teaching the five-paragraph format, with little attention to the composing/thinking processes, audience analysis, inquiry-strategies, or writing across the curriculum.  In contrast, in Kentucky, which employs a portfolio writing assessment, teachers were focusing more on teaching process writing, rhetorical strategies, revision skills, and writing in different contexts.

They may also develop strategies for assessing student growth using the product or showcase portfolio (Sunstein & Lovell, 2000; Yancey & Weiser, 1997; Yancey, 2004), particularly through use of digital, e-portfolios to display relationships between different aspects of their work that can be readily accessed by others.  PTs can develop their own teaching e-portfolios to model the process of constructing portfolios for their students.

Further reading on evaluation and assessment of literature:
Anagnostopoulos, D. (2005). Testing, tests, and classroom texts. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 37(1), 35?63.
Broad, B. (2003). What we really value: Beyond rubrics in teaching and assessing writing. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.
Huot, B. (2002). (Re)Articulating writing assessment for teaching and learning. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.
Kohn, A. (2000). The case against standardized testing: Raising the scores, ruining the schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Sunstein, B. S., & Lovell, J. H.  (Eds.). (2000). The portfolio standard: How students can show us what they know and are able to do. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Swope, K., & Miner, B. (Eds.). (2000). Failing our kids: Why the testing craze won?t fix our schools. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Coping with censorship.  PTs need to be prepared to cope with the inevitable threat of censorship by being able to formulate justifications for value of teaching texts that may be threatened with censorship related to portrayals of profanity, heterosexual activity, homosexuality, sexual activity deemed immoral/illegal, religion/witchcraft, violence/horror, rebellion, racism/sexism, substance use/abuse, suicide/death, crime, crude behavior, depressing/negative (Curry, 2001). 

They need to counter assumptions behind censorship, that reading books causes adolescents to adopt certain practices or attitudes, by arguing that students bring knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes that shape their construction of meaning, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes shaped by family, community, peers, schools, and other institutions in their lives.  At the same time, they need to respect parents? perspectives related to their children and the need to formulate rationales or reading contracts for teaching controversial texts.  The also need to know how to access resources such as the NCTE Censorship page (, how to work with school administrators to allow parents to voice their concerns in writing through administrative channels as opposed to attempting to personally deal with parent complaints. And, they need to recognize instances of teachers? or librarian censorship driven by potential fears of community reactions or lack of knowledge about cultural difference.

Further reading on censorship:
Brown, J. E. (Ed.). (1994). Preserving intellectual freedom: Fighting censorship in our schools. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Foerstel, H. (2006). Banned in the USA: A reference guide to book censorship in schools and public libraries. Information Age Publishing.
National Council of Teachers of English. (1998). Rationales for Challenged Books. [CD-ROM]. Urbana, IL. :
Petress, K. (2005). The role of censorship in school. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 32(3), 248?253.

Advocacy: The Following Are Items On Which We Advocate Taking Action

Promote teacher education program and course requirements related to strong background knowledge of both literature and literature methods.  It is essential that PTs acquire a strong background knowledge of a range of different kinds of literature, including not only American and British literature, but also young adult, multicultural, and world literature, as well as current literary critical approaches and work in both English language and ELL.  And, it is essential that PTs take a separate literature methods course as opposed to one generalized English methods course, along with separate courses in teaching of writing and/or English language.  In some cases, the literature methods course may be a course that is combined with a young adult literature course. 

Provide authentic practicum experiences.  An essential component of the methods course is participation in authentic practicum/field experiences that provide PTs with opportunities to translate theories into practice specific to particular classroom contexts.  Authenticity is a key construct in teacher education (Darling-Hammond & Snyder, 2000). It requires activity faithful to actual professional activity. Providing context alongside theory and practice increases student knowledge about what it means to apply theory to real-world contexts. Authenticity assists with the candidates? ability to transfer and apply theory to practice.

In addition, many of the various challenges teachers face concern issues of diversity, and the lack of use of emerging technologies by new teachers in diverse settings is indicative of the inauthentic tasks in which these technologies are taught in university programs (Long et al., 2006).  Learning takes place somewhere within an activity, and the more authentic the situation, the greater the learning experience. The dependence of constructivism on the engagement in activities matches the link between increased authenticity and increased learning in all situations, including teacher education (Iverson et al., 2007).

Therefore, it is important for English education students to first experience literature as their future students might experience it, and then use those experiences to develop teaching strategies that will be relevant and engaging for K?12 students. This is difficult to do as it asks the teacher candidates to shed their personal ways of interaction with texts and to temporarily forget their love of literature?to accept themselves as ?recovering English majors.? Yet, without the knowledge of how others struggle with reading, they cannot build the skills necessary to help solve those struggles. It is also important for candidates to have opportunities, beyond the student teaching semester, to interact alongside adolescents as they, together, interact with literature. They need to see how the imagination of adolescents works in reaction to reading stories, as well as how that process differs between cultures, across cultures, and at the meeting of cultures.

Methods instructors may provide PTs with specific case studies or scenarios related to issues faced in teaching literature (Alsup & Bush, 2003).  They may also connect the methods courses to working with pupils in practicum settings so that PTs can reflect on their experiences with these pupils in the methods courses by adopting an inquiry stance (Meyer & Sawyer, 2006).

Develop a CEE website that includes examples of effective literature instruction, resources, and links related to teaching literature, and opportunities for online sharing. This site could provide online resources related to different aspects of teaching literature; it could also include a wiki site to which participants could contribute teaching ideas and resources.  And, the site could include opportunities for online chat sharing for preservice and beginning teachers to swap ideas related to teaching literature (Scherff & Paulus, 2006).

The site could also provide streaming videos of exemplary literature teachers. PTs could then share their reflections on these videos in discussions in methods classes.  PTs could also create their own videos of their student teaching for sharing with peers and for inclusion in their teacher portfolios (Hall & Hudson, 2006).  In doing so, they could engage in inquiry-based analysis and reflection of these videos through sharing online comments. 

Collect stories from students and teachers and/or conduct action research studies about the act of reading literature and the effects of literary reading on writing and thinking.  Given the need to justify the value of literature within the curriculum to students, administrators, school boards, and the public, CEE members and/or PTs could collect stories from students and teachers and/or conduct action research studies about the act of reading or responding to literature and the effects of literary reading on writing and thinking.  In doing so, they could document the ways in which reading literature benefits people as well as how learning to respond to literature serves to improve writing and thinking.  These narratives, when collected together on the CEE site, could then serve as testimonials for use in efforts to promote or defend the centrality of literature in the English/language arts curriculum.  They could also be used to create pamphlets or flyers containing beliefs, actions, activities, demonstrating the importance of literature in the classroom.

Provide support for beginning teachers in teaching literature.  Beginning teachers face extensive challenges related to teaching literature: preparing curriculum, accessing/reading texts, setting up individualized reading programs/book clubs, responding to students? writing, evaluating/assessing students, and coping with potential censorship issues.  Because they are often overwhelmed, beginning teachers need support and mentoring to help them face these ongoing challenges.  CEE could create materials for training mentors related specifically to assisting beginning teachers cope with these challenges.  They could also provide resource materials on the CEE website or sponsor publications designed for beginning teachers (Burke & Krajicek, 2006).


Albers, P. (2006). Imagining the possibilities of multimodal curriculum design. English Education, 38(2), 75?101.
Alsup, J., & Bush, J. (2003). ?But will it work with real students??: Scenarios for teaching secondary English language arts. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Applebee, A. N. (1993). Literature in the secondary school: Studies of curriculum and instruction in the United States. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Appleman, D. (2006). Reading for themselves: How to transform adolescents into lifelong readers through out-of-class book clubs. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Appleman, D. (2000). Critical encounters in high school English: Teaching literary theory to adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press.
Arts Education Partnership (2005). Third space: When learning matters. Washington, DC: AEP.
Beach, R., Appleman, D., Hynds, S., & Wilhelm, J. (2006). Teaching literature to adolescents. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Black, A. (2005). The use of asynchronous discussion: Creating a text of talk. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 5(1).
Blau, S. (2003). The literature workshop: Teaching texts and their readers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Britton, J. (1970). Language and learning. London: Penguin.
Broudy, H. (1988). The uses of schooling. New York: Routledge.
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This report was created in part as a result of the 2007 Conference on English Education Leadership and Policy Summit, Don Zancanella, CEE Chair, and Dawn Abt-Perkins, CEE Leadership and Policy Summit Chair.
Participants and authors in the ?What is the role of literature in English education?? thematic strand group of the CEE Summit included:

Co-Conveners: Richard Beach and Hephzibah Roskelly

Peggy Albers, Georgia State University
Lynne Alvine, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Marshall George, Fordham University
Peg Graham, University of Georgia
Joseph Haughey, Western Michigan University
Mark Lewis, University of Colorado, Boulder
Gordon Pradl, New York University
Bob Probst, Florida International University
?Robert Rozema, Grand Valley State University
David Stevens, Durham University

? Did not attend the CEE Summit but participated in online discussions.

If you wish to send a response to this CEE report, please email and specify which report you are commenting on in the Subject of your email.

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