English 4800, Spring 2020
Teaching Literature in the Secondary Schools
In an effort to prepare future secondary English teachers for the students and classrooms of the 21st Century, this section of English 4800 will focus on a critical inquiry, social justice approach. In so doing we will address the new Common Core Standards, changing student populations, and reform movements in the the teaching of literature including reader response, digital literacy, critical pedagogy, and cultural studies.
(In this course the term "critical inquiry" is in the tradition of "critical theory," not the more abstracted, decontextualized, and superficial approach of "critical thinking skills." Likewise, the term "inquiry" is richer than the simpler, but also of value, expression "questioning strategies.")
After the first part of the semester directed by the instructor, students will take significant responsiblity for course, choosing the reading, creating assignments and activities, and assessing learning as we explore critical inquiry approaches to developing meaningful curriculum and instruction in contemporary secondary schools. This approach represents an experiment in Frierian teacher-student, student-teacher education.
In the era of anti-democratic governmentality, neo-liberal educational reform, standardized testing, and the corporatization of curriculum, future teachers need to think critically about established curriculum regimes and consider how to develop the freedom they need to prepare their students as global citizens in an unfinished, indeed endangered, democracy threatened by inequality and climate change.
Critical Inquiry & Social Justice
The starting point for a critical inquiry, social justice approach to teaching literature is engaging with critical issues in the world and in the lives of adolescents via relevant and meaningful thematic curriculum. In dialogue with student questions and interest, English language arts teachers should be able to bring together a wide range of cultural materials, including traditional works, multicultural and young adult literature, visual and media texts including film, and cultural and informational texts, and address what texts mean, as well as how they mean, in historical, cultural, political and social contexts.
Thematic teaching facilitates teaching that addresses different abilities, learning styles, and backgrounds. English as a second language students now consitute 9% of the school population in the United States, and their numbers continue to increase. This class will provide opportunities to think about how to develop curriculum that will foster the engagement and success of all students.
By focusing on difficult, relevant, and potentially controversial possible areas for critical inquiry and social justice teaching during the student-led portion of the course, future teachers will gain understanding of approaches, strategies, curriculum, and issues involved in teaching literature at the secondary level, see Course Goals. (You may also want to review the WMU teacher education Mission.)
Student groups will select topics addressing current and controversial areas to inquire into such as:
literature and climate change;
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.
New Literacies and New Technologies
Rapid evolution in information technology offers many avenues and resources for critical inquiry extending and reshaping the teaching of English. The inherited cultural archive is now available in digital format on-line. Complementary resources and tools that far exceed what is in textbooks are now available on the Internet and new genres of informational and visual texts are emerging.
The WMU English Department has, perhaps, the most advanced language arts teacher preparation classrooms in the world. Rather than training teachers to adopt cook book software or corporate "classroom management" packages, these labs foster teacher designed instruction, critical thinking about technology and curriculum, teacher and student publication, free, open-source, or low cost resources, and strategies for bringing the vast resources and communicative possibilities of the Internet to all students.
Our class will be organized by this on-line syllabus that also serves as an electronic, hyperlinked, textbook.We will use on-line threaded discussion, publish student work on a collaborative wiki, engage in virtual school discussions, and students will design technology enhanced teaching and use of the laptop classroom into learning in a variety of ways. I recommend students develop their own teaching website, that can serve as both a portfolio of work and a real-world working site for future teaching.
Future English teachers should join NCTE, MCTE, and/or MRA and read regularly the English Journal or Voices from the Middle. The English Companion Ning is a remarkable resource with over 10,000 members -- join and draw on this resource throughout the semester. WMU has an NCTE Student affiliate; become an active member.
An important assignment in the class is to attend a professional teacher conference, and report on that to the rest of the class. This Spring there are two outstanding choices: 1) Michigan Reading Association (MRA) Conference March 14-16 in Grand Rapids (Student 1 day $139, student 2-3 days $159 - register by Mar 4! Volunteer and get a free hotel room!) If finances present a challenge, seek support and be creative, for example, the gofundme approach; and/or, 2) the MCTE Think Spring Conference Friday, March 13, at Western Michigan University! ($25 - if you register by Feb. 15).
I recommend gay and straight future teachers join GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Teachers need to be informed about the world. Students are expected to read regularly the New York Times and other sources. WMU provides a free NYT subscription.
Official information about the Michigan Teacher Certification test is available on the MTTC website.
Since the class is discussion-based, attendance and preparation are essential to your own learning and to the learning of your classmates. Missing any classes will affect your learning. Missing more 3 classes may lower your grade and missing 5 classes may lead to failing. Study my philosophy regarding discussion, preparation, participation, attendance, grading, and learning -- and consider your own philosophy!
Your 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 turn in a take home exam, discuss the course, and attend an intern teaching panel comprised of graduates of the class recently engaged in intern / early career teaching and job searching.
This course will follow WMU policies regarding academic honesty.
My office is 723 Sprau Tower, 387-2605. Office hours are after class and by appointment. You can always reach me via email.
Jan 6: Introductions
Jan 8: Introduction to Critical Inquiry Teaching
Jan 13: English Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks
Jan 15: Standards and Implementation
Jan 20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Jan 22: Planning Critical Inquiry / Social Justice Teaching
Jan 27: Leading Discussion
Jan 29: Studying Examples of Critical Inquiry & Social Justice Teaching
Feb 3: Reading Literary Texts
Feb 5 Independent Reading
Feb 10 Critical Inquiry / Social Justice Unit Plan Due
Feb: 12 Discussion Analysis Due
Mar 2-6 SPRING BREAKMar 13 MCTE Think Spring CONFERENCE, Western Michigan University Mar 14-16 MRA CONFERENCE, Renaissance Center, Detroit
Apr 20-23 Finals Week
Wednesday April , pm Final Exam & Intern / New Teacher Panel
Intern / New Teacher Panel
Examine Other On-line Secondary English Methods Courses