Literary theory can be a tough topic for high school students—a simple story may be just the scaffold they need to start figuring it out.
I’ve always struggled with how to teach my seniors about literary analysis. Many of them find it boring or don’t see how they can use it in their lives. After two years of trying to justify our study of literary theory to my students, I reevaluated how—and why—I was teaching it in the first place.
I started with the literature I had been making my students read during our literary analysis unit. I often assigned “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, a story with a lot of symbolism and depth, or “The Oval Portrait” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Teachers have worked fast to meet the demands of this moment, but as they get a chance to slow down and reflect, some lessons are clear—like the primacy of relationships.
What has this moment revealed to you? There are a lot of stories about what the current crisis is uncovering about our society, economy, and educational systems. This is an opportunity to pause, reflect, grieve, and decide how we want to move forward.
From where I sit, having worked in public education for over 20 years and parenting school-age children, I see several understandings emerging from the crisis that we should attempt to carry into the future.
When students read comics or create their own, they have an opportunity to develop their creativity, critical thinking, and communication and collaboration skills.
Students today are digital natives who need to develop the 4 Cs—critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Comics are perfectly situated for use in developing these competencies, and they work across grade levels—a single story may have the capacity to speak to both elementary and secondary school students.
Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, for example, might be classified for the around fifth grade based on reading level, but this story of a girl struggling with anxiety that manifests itself in stomach ailments can reach any high school student, regardless of gender, who is trying to cope with bullying, test-taking, family issues, and more.
A middle school English and special education teacher share how they meet the needs of all of their students—and the new practices they’ll bring back to the classroom.
Every student has needs, but they don’t all have the same needs. In the English 7 classes, we co-teach, for example, more than 60 per cent of the students have identified special needs, and many of our students are English learners. And although our Title 1 school is able to provide an iPad for each student, given the level of poverty in the neighbourhood we cannot assume that every student has internet connectivity. That’s a lot of different needs, especially when you take into account that our classes have up to 38 students.
These research-backed strategies can help students feel connected during a time of physical isolation.
The coronavirus pandemic has produced a variety of critical challenges for school leaders. On the fourth day of “mom-schooling,” I noticed a shift in my 9-year-old daughter’s typical tenacity. She seemed underwhelmed and uncertain about our new normal and what to do with her time. In response, I emailed some parents from her basketball team and set up a virtual lunch, where the team could connect with one another online as if they were at recess on the playground.