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It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course. [Update: Here’s the page all about this course.]






ENG 125: Literary Narrative


Class Type: General Education

Class Cap: 30 Students

Most Common Student: Sophomore

Meets: 2/Wk, 75 minutes each



Required Booklist Plans:


In the class I’m currently teaching, a revised version of ENG 170, I’m required to teach my students the basics about the most common children’s literature genres (Realism, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Non Fiction, etc.). While I’m only required to teach students how to generally analyze literary narratives in 125, I’ve decided to make genres the inspiration behind my booklist. [Of course, including diverse characters in my list is also a personal requirement I have when designing any course.] So, below is my current list and some key concepts I’m planning on tying to each during class discussions and in major assignments.



The Sun is Also a Star

Genre: Realism
Key Concepts: Social Justice, Immigration, Bi-racial Romance, Multiple POVs



Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Genre: Realism
Key Concepts: LGBTQIA Literature, Romance in the Digital Age, High School



The Bronx Masquerade

Genre: Realism
Key Concepts: African American Literature, Urban Life, Poetry



Before We Were Free

Genre: Historical Fiction
Key Concepts: Latinx Literature, Politics, Gender, Family




Genre: Dystopian
Key Concepts: Consumerism, Technology, Education, Language



The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Key Concepts: Vampire Myths, High School, Siblings, Flashbacks



The Vampire Diaries (Television Series)

Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Romance
Key Concepts: Adaptations, Medium Affordances and Limitations, Audience, Characterization



American Born Chinese

Genre: Graphic Novel
Key Concepts: Asian American Literature, Racism/Prejudice, High School, Narrative Structure



What Goes Up

Genre: SciFi
Key Concepts: Ethical Dilemmas, Competition, Family Dynamics, Science, POV



Ten Little Indians

Genre: Short Fiction Anthology
Key Concepts: Short stories, Native American Literature, Racism/Prejudice, Class, Culture



Major Assignments Plans:



These assignments will look very similar to ones I’ve used in my past 170 and 125 courses. There are some slight changes and new activities, though, so I’ll briefly describe each below.



Reading Quizzes

I always include this assignment to help motivate students to read the novels. These quizzes don’t require any analysis. Students just have to remember important narrative details. And, as usual, I’ll drop the lowest quiz grade at the end of the semester. Here’s a video on how I design my reading quizzes.




Literary autobiography

Students will consider their literary journey from childhood to the present moment at the very beginning of the semester. They can simply write a short narrative of their literary experiences and how literary narratives have affected them, or they can create a creative version of this autobiography using genres like lists, infographics, prezi, etc. This is a small activity to get students thinking about the influence literature can have on individuals and/or on societies. Here’s a full description of this autobiography assignment.



A Literary Analysis Paper/Presentation

Students can pick what they want to write about, as long as it’s on the list of potential texts that I will give them. This list will include YA books, movies, and tv shows we have not discussed in class. They also have the choice to analyze a literary genre instead, as long as they specifically write about its connection to YA literature. Students will need to pick between writing and submitting a formal paper or creating a literary analysis presentation to present to the class at the end of the semester. I’m still considering what will be required for the presentation version.



A Group Project

Students will form groups of three and will pick one novel or genre to present on for 25-30 minutes. The form of the presentation is up to them, as long as the focus is on analyzing the novel or genre. As part of this project, students have to write a rationale explaining their design and content decisions. They also have to write a short reflection on how their activity went. If they are presenting on a genre, a short annotated bibliography of their sources will also be required. Here’s a full description of this group project.



Short Reading Responses

Using the class website’s discussion forums, students will need to write short analytical responses to three of the required texts. They can complete more than three, and I’ll only use the three highest grades for their overall course grade. Students have free range in what they can discuss about the text.




This category is for small, written, class and homework assignments, along with their attendance rate and participation during class discussions.



Extra Credit Activity: An Adaptation

As part of my research concerns the use of fanworks in the classroom, and I believe writing an adaptation helps students think more critically on the assigned readings, my students can pick one of the class novels and write a short adaptation based on it. I’m thinking of requiring them to use the POV of a secondary character, but I’m not sure if that will still be the case by the time I assign them this extra credit option.



Final Thoughts



I still have plenty to think about in regards to this new design. Still, I’m excited to work on my lesson plans over the holiday break. This class will be my first YA literature course, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it differs from teaching children’s literature (K-8th grade). Edit: Now that I’m lesson planning during my break, I’ve decided that slightly reducing the amount of writing required in this class will hopefully give students more time to engross themselves in reading/watching the required texts. Update: Now that I’ve taught the course, you can read all about the final version on the webpage linked above in this paragraph.


If you have any book or assignment suggestions, let me know in the comments! Also, feel free to share your own experiences on teaching YA lit.

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Lesson Planning: Designing My First Young Adult Literature Course