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English 4800, Fall 2006

Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools

This section of English 4800 will ground students in traditional approaches to literature pedagogy while simultaneously focusing on recent waves of reform, reader response, cultural studies, and the impact of the internet. We will use a thematic approach to integrate these approaches as we explore a variety of cultural studies themes in a problem-posing, student-led format.

For over a generation the reader response movement has generated reform in secondary English teaching. Yet, in confronting a wide range of students, content questions, and social and cultural issues, reader response approaches fall short. Potential answers and new directions for English teaching have emerged under the umbrella of "cultural studies."

Changes in information technology are offering to extend and reshape the teaching of literature. The inherited cultural archive is now available on-line in formats and with complementary resources that far exceed what is available in textbooks.

We will examine the legacy of reader response and the potential of cultural studies and internet resources as we consider fundamental questions of why and how to teach literature. By focusing on difficult and potentially controversial cultural studies curricular themes, students will gain understanding of issues involved in teaching literature at the secondary level, see Course Goals.

Class will be held in a wireless, laptop classroom in Wood Hall specifically designed for English education courses. This room will allow us to integrate technology into literature teaching in a "classroom of the future." Our class will be organized by our on-line syllabus that will also serve as an electronic, hyperlinked, textbook. All students will develop and publish their own teaching website, both a portfolio of work and a real-world working site for future teaching. This website can serve as the basis of the portfolio required during intern teaching. Obtain help for your technology projects at the IT Lab on the Tower Bridge of the second floor of the Computer Center.

A significant portion of the class will be student-led, as we explore the development of response-based, cultural studies literature teaching within the context of NCTE and the State of Michigan content standards and benchmarks. Student groups will select topics addressing current and controversial themes such as literature and the Third World, literature and the environment (global warming?), literature and social class, literature and religion, literature and sexual orientation, literature and service learning, literature and the mass media, teaching Native American literature, literature and white priviledge, etc. Expect to spend an additional twenty dollars on books, packets, and reading materials for each of the student-led units -- this reading will be announced throughout the course.

Course discussions will be significantly extended in the class on-line discussion forum on the "English-Teacher" computer conference. Participation in the electronic conference and in the professional activities are all included as part of class participation.

A substantial website focused on Teaching English Through Technology has been developed to support this class and will provide access to streaming videos, on-line resources, and our own server space. Dr. Webb's website (www.allenwebb.net) is an additional resources for aspiring English teachers. Bring floppy disks to class so you can retain copies of your work. Before the end of the course, I urge you to burn a copy of your individual and content websites and webquest to a CD ROM.

As the capstone experience for English Education majors, this course entails an exciting variety of professional activities and responsibilities. Students are expected to attend a professional English teacher's conference, for example either the MCTE Fall Conference in Lansing on October 6 or the NCTE National Conference in Nashville, Nov. 16-19 (7000 English teachers in one place!). You should also join NCTE, MCTE, and/or MRA and read regularly the English Journal or Voices from the Middle. Information about the Michigan Teacher Certification test is available on the MTTC website.

The final course grade will be an average of grades for the major assignments, listed and weighted below. At the hour scheduled for the final exam students will attend an intern teaching panel. Class participation is vital in 480, missing more than 3 classes may lower the grade and missing more than 5 classes may lead to failing. This course will follow WMU policies regarding academic honesty. This course also supports the Safe on Campus environment (387-2123); The Last Closet is recommended reading for gay and straight future teachers.

Dr. Webb's office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605, and his office hours are Monday and Wednesday after 3:15 and by email and confer. If at any point in the semester if you feel stress, English 480 offers free on-line therapy from Eliza! (One of the early products of artificial intelligence research.)


Carey-Webb, Allen. Literature and Lives: A Response-Based, Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching Literature (NCTE, 2001)

Wilhelm, Jeffrey, You Gotta Be the Book: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents (Teacher College Press, 1996)

Additional books, packets, and web sites as components in research and group learning (up to $20 per group).

Recommended Optional Texts

Major Assignments

Class Participation/Confer (15%) Due: every week, closed on 12/13

Your own Teaching Web Site (15%) Due: 9/19

Discussion Analysis (10%) Due: 10/3

Cultural Studies Unit Plan (15%) Due: 10/17

Student-Led Unit (15% your own unit (Includes self-evaluation) & 20% participation in other units)

Final Exam (10%) Due: 12/9

Electronic Syllabus

Sep 5 Tuesday: Introductions

Planning the Course, Individual and Group Expectations, formation of groups

Sep 7 Thursday: Workshop Classroom Website

1. Read carefully through the entire on-line syllabus, including all assignments. Bring any questions about these assignments to class.

2. Think about the role of technology in the future of English teaching. a) View the streaming video and carefully study information on classroom websites on the "Teaching with Technology" page of the Teaching English through Technology website. b) Be sure you know what each page of a classroom website should contain. c) Examine the site Growing up Digital site: What is the "N-generation and what are its characteristics?"

3. Join and respond to questions on the class computer conference.

4. Obtain unified computer account from the computer center and bring account name and password to class. Register for your own website at WMU homepages.

Sep 12 Tuesday: Lesson Planning Resources

1. Read three or more articles from back issues of the English Journal that interest you. You should subscribe to the English Journal and you can do so from its home website and view the current issue. NCTE members can read back issues of the English Journal at the NCTE website on-line using their membership number as a password. Back issues are also in the Sangren Library under the call number PE1 .E5. (Between Waldo (all issues before 1980) and Sangren (issues after 1980) we have back issues to 1912 when the English Journal began publication--fascinating reading in the history of secondary English teaching!) You can conduct an ERIC search for articles on specific topics, for example for the unit you will be leading, by setting "English Journal" as the "source."

2. Find three or more secondary English lesson plans available on the web that you consider to be thoughtful and well-crafted. There are many sources for Language Arts lesson plans on the web. Try Outta Ray's Head, the Discovery School,Web English Teacher, New York Times Lesson Plan Archive, Cyberguides, Lesson Plans Page, ERIC, NCTE's Notes Plus (subscribers only), Lesson Planz.com, etc.

3. Drawing on at least three on-line lesson plans and three English Journal articles, develop an annotated list of "Teaching Ideas" with at least a paragraph of description and comments about how you might use or modify the idea in your own classroom. This will be one page for the teacher resources section of your website.

Sep 14 Thursday: Internet Resources

Web Resources Analysis Due (Required confer item)

Sep 19 Tuesday: Presentation of Teaching Web Sites

Sep 21 Thursday: Leading Discussion

Study the following Web Sites: Leading Discussion, Leading Discussions Cornell, Discussion Groups, Creating Discussion Questions, as well as A System for Analyzing Discussion. After class meeting, observe discussion and write analysis as soon as possible, but before Oct. 3.

Sep 26 Tuesday: Reader Response

1. Read: You Gotta Be the Book to page 86

Discussion of "Joyce Davidson" case study (handout).

Sep 28 Tuesday: Reader Response Continued

1. Read: You Gotta Be the Book to end

(I assume you have already know about the Fry Readability Graph from prior education classes.)

2. (Optional): For these two class meetings, additional background on teaching reading, reader response, and literature circles is available on an interesting website created by the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Look at : Reading Instructional Philosophy and Teaching Suggestions and Speaking and Listening Activities (On this page, skip sections on "Directions," "Telephoning," "Announcements," "Introducing a Speaker,""Puppetry" and focus on "Roleplay," "Drama," and "Reader's Theater.") Also, look at the Saskatchewan English Language Arts middle school curriculum from which these pages are drawn and explore the sample units where teacher and student work has been posted on the web.

Before Class on Sep. 30/ Oct. 1: Write a response to the confer topic on teaching reading.

Oct 3 Tuesday: Cultural Studies Teaching

1. Read: from: Literature and Lives Introduction through Chapter Four.

2. Turn in: Discussion Analysis.

Oct 5 Thursday: Cultural Studies Teaching Continued

Read: finish Literature and Lives, Chapter Five to end

Oct 6 Friday MCTE Fall Conference in Lansing

Oct 10 Tuesday: Middle School Philosophy / State and National Standards

Examine the various research papers at the National Middle School Association web site on the page Research Summaries. Taken together, these papers comprise the "middle school philosophy" (as opposed to the "Junior High" philosophy). How would you compare and contrast the middle school philosophy with response-based cultural studies teaching.

Study state and national language arts standards also comparing and contrasting the way that NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts, the Michigan English Language Arts Content Standards, and the Michigan K-8 standards for English Language Arts treat the teaching of reading and literature.

(Suggestion: Include some of the sites on this syllabus as links on your own website, to support your educational philosophy.)

Oct 12 Thursday Unit Plan Workshop

Write: A unit plan for teaching a work of literature using a cultural studies approach, reader response techniques, and the integration of technology. (See unit plan assignment. Rubistar created rubric and references to NCTE and Michigan English Language Content Standards required.) Due: Oct. 17

Student-Led Units

Oct 17 Tuesday

Oct 19 Thursday

Oct 24 Tuesday

Oct 26 Thursday

Group 1

Oct 31 Tuesday

Nov 2 Thursday

Nov 7 Tuesday

Nov 9 Thursday

Group 2

Nov 14 Tuesday

Nov 16 Thursday

Nov 16-19 NCTE National Conference

Nov 21 Tuesday

Nov 23 Thursday No Class, Thanksgiving

Group 3

Nov 28 Tuesday

Nov 30 Thursday

Dec 5 Tuesday

Dec 7 Thursday

Group 4

Dec 11-15: Finals Week

Dec 11 Monday 8:00-10:00am Take Home Final Exam due

Intern Teaching Panel

At the time set for our final exam, a panel of English 480 graduates will speak on their experiences with intern teaching. Does 480 work in the 'real world'? Read on-line: Tips for Intern Teaching and Letter to First-Year Teacher

Examine Other On-line Secondary English Methods Courses