Literacy & Adolescent Literature

Literacy

When I think of of the term literacy I think of an individual’s ability to read and write.

Since the moment I began school I was taught with great emphasis on literacy. It was something that could be measured and often was through various kinds of testing. We would have to read a book to a teacher of the school where should would examine our pronunciation and fluency while reading aloud. She would look at what vocabulary we knew from the text by asking a couple questions about our comprehension after we finished reading to him/her. This combined with our ability to write would give our teachers and families a good understanding of how literate we were becoming. This specific example shows how literacy can expand past just ones ability to read and write. Yes, if you can read a sentence that increases your literacy, however how well you are able to understand what you have just read plays an equal part in this as well.

Continuing the expanding definition of literacy, the term can go on to have meaning in other areas. If you are specialized in one specific area you can be “literate” in this field. Such as my dad is very knowledgable with technology where I am not, you could say he is very literate in technology where I don’t have such a literacy in technology. This is another example of how the term is more inclusive in meaning more than just to read and write, but it is largely based on understanding and comprehension as well.

Adolescent Literature

When I think of the term “adolescent literature” I think specifically about text that relates to this specific age group of individuals. I think of books such as the Lightning Thief or the Harry Potter series as examples of adolescent literature. Adolescent literature typically deals with themes that children of this age group go through; it draws these students in by engaging them with relatable emotions and situations. A lot of the books that come to mind that I read when I was in this age group had similar messages and predicaments and I ate each of these up because I was so easily able to relate to one of the characters. In Harry Potter for instance I loved Hermione and was so easily able to relate to her, however my brother always loved Harry because he felt he was more easily able to see himself in that character. Each of these books hold more than one perspective within relatable characters. These pieces of literature are aware of their audience and target the material to fit accordingly.

Adolescent literature can also expand to more than just typical novels. There are magazines such as Teen Vogue that target young teens and aim to relate to them rather than the typical older audience of this type of magazine. Again the material in the text is relatable to this age range. Other television series and movies are aimed for teens by evoking relatable emotions as well.

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Mentor Text Activity Reflection

Plans:

When it came to our plans I was very glad we broke it up into a two day project. It was good to have one day in the beginning to just introduce the text and the idea so that they know what the plan is on Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised with how energetic the kids were with the project and idea in itself. Typically the class has various cliques and they do not intermingle very much, and even though we gave them choice on Thursday with which station they wanted to work with; they all worked together very well. In reflection I wish we had decided on a better way to bring the class back together or give the entire class a 10 minute, 5 minute, 1 minute warning. In the past I remember teachers having an actual timer or flickering the lights at each interval. I think this would have helped each station stay on track and gave the kids a more “fair” warning.

Confirm, Contradict or Amplify:

We were asked to choose an informational text which at first was something I was not sure or confident about. I was wanting to do a more exciting interactive piece and this was not one I thought I’d be comfortable with. I made various attempts at lessons with informational texts and I shared them with Becca and Amy and we all decided we should try something else. We remembered one of the girls kept asking me to make a music video so maybe we could do something with that? We chose an informational text about how to make a music video. This is a good choice because it was something the kids were excited about doing. The text was about 8 pages long so it wasn’t too long that the kids would lose interest however due to the text type being informational we chose to split it up amongst multiple groups. This let each group have a collective job, they had a portion of the full text to do a close reading of. We introduced the text on Tuesday but did a more interactive and closer dissection on Thursday. The text was not a story, you did not need to read it in any specific order and it was sectioned off with different topics, so it made it easy to split it amongst the groups. This activity proved how much easier it is to get the kids to interact with a text they are genuinely interested in. We chose a text that was not too long in total but the way we broke it down was helpful with class management and giving out responsibility. In reflection although we did have the kids interact with the material and I believed they really enjoyed the activity I am afraid they did not dedicate as much to the actual text and it lost “meaning,” for lack of a better word. We knew the music video taping would take up a large portion of the class time so we tried to fit it all together but maybe doing more of the close reading on Tuesday would have been beneficial or doing some taping on both days would allow the close reading to build off the previous day.

Re-Do:

If there was an aspect of the project I would re do I would have tried to put more organization into the stations aspect. I think we underestimated how long a 3 minute music video is. We had various clips but not a lot of cohesion. Having a specified 3 minutes at each station and rotate or the whole class at one station and then we all move on together would have allowed for better understanding between everyone and I think better end product. This is not to say that what we did was not successful because I did enjoy it and the kids did as well, but I think this would have been a smoother way to get the project completed. I would also have liked to be more familiar with the green screen and all that you can do with the app. I think I would have been able to utilize it better and come up with cooler ideas on how to integrate the screen if I was more aware of all of its tools.

Learn About You:

Something I have always struggled with is technology. I am not and have never been very technologically advanced. When we were making the narrative I utilized adobe spark because of how inexperienced I am with making videos and things like that. Now fast forward to our second mini lesson where the basis of the lesson was technologically based. Becca and Amy were not very confident in their ability either which made it harder but a better learning experience for all of us. I enjoyed pushing myself past what I thought my limits were with technology and it was interesting to see all the ideas all the kids had whether it was slo-mo or fast motion? Both terms I did not know of but they did and were able to take control of their own project and show their own ability. I was able to learn thats its okay to push your limits and to take in all the advice you can get, even if its from a thirteen year old.

Mentor Text Analysis

Marchetti and O’Dell give us point by point questions to ask ourselves before we select a mentor text to utilize in our classroom. These questions are used to give the best possible text to use as a way to teach our students. We want to prepare the students the best way possible and these authors discuss how it starts with the materials we bring int o the classroom. There are 5 steps they suggest you go through before selecting the text. I will include these below and my interpretation of each.

  1. Will the text engage my current students? We want our text to engage the students. If the class is interested in the material it makes them more willing to interact with the literature. Another question you could think about would be how relevant is the material to my students lives? My mentor teacher suggested materials that include sibling rivalries for the middle school, since that is a common part of many of their lives.
  2. Does the text pass the highlighter test? By “highlighter test” these authors are referring to your ability to specify specific instances in the text that grab your attention. Is there a line that you connect with? An overall feeling you understand? You want your material to be dissectible by both you and your students.
  3. Is the text accessible to my students? How much scaffolding will the reading require? When selecting a text you want to make sure that the text is appropriately aged for your students, this can include things like vocabulary or material content. You want the students to be able to connect and interact with the text, this is easier when the level of difficulty matches the abilities of your students.
  4. How long is the text? How might the length affect how we use it? As a teacher you want to be aware of how much time you have to dedicate to the text. If it is too long will you be able to go through all that you need to? Can you dedicate more than one class to it? Will you have to assign the reading outside of the class? You want to be aware of how the length can effect your class plans. There are challenges to assigning work out of class but it can also be hard to assign more than one class to going through the text. Just be thinking of the implications of having a text too long or too short!
  5. Is it mentor text gold? Marchetti and O’Dell are referencing how well known the author is and how comparable one piece of work can be against another. With more well known authors you can establish styles, or content preferences of the author where as less known authors may have a smaller pool to pull from.

The text I chose that passes all of Marchetti and O’Dell’s criteria is Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. I chose this text with middle school students in mind.

“Eleven”​ ​by Sandra Cisneros

What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you ​expect to feel eleven, but you don’t.​ You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid​, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And ​maybe one day when you’re all grown up​ maybe you will ​need to cry​ like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

You don’t feel eleven.​ ​Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even,​ ​sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you​. And ​you don’t feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve.​ That’s the way it is.

Only today I wish I didn’t have only eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. Today I​ wish I was one hundred and two​ instead of eleven because if I was one hundred and two I’d have ​known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my desk.​ I would’ve known how to tell her it wasn’t mine instead of just sitting there with that look on my face and nothing coming out of my mouth.

“Whose is this?” Mrs. Price says, and she holds the red sweater up in the air for all the class to see. “Whose? It’s been sitting in the coatroom for a month.”

“Not mine,” says everybody. “Not me.”

“It has to belong to somebody,” Mrs. Price keeps saying, but nobody can remember. It’s an ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a collar and sleeves all stretched out like you could use it for a jump rope. It’s maybe a thousand years old and ​even if it belonged to me I wouldn’t say so.

Maybe because I’m skinny, maybe because she doesn’t like me, that stupid Sylvia Saldivar says,​ “I think it belongs to Rachel.” An ugly sweater like that all raggedy and old, but Mrs. Price believes her. Mrs. Price takes the sweater and puts it right on my desk, but ​when I open my mouth nothing comes out.

“That’s not, I don’t, you’re not…Not mine.​” I finally say in a little voice that was maybe me ​when I was four.
“Of course it’s yours, ”Mrs. Price says. “I remember you wearing it once.” Because she’s older and the teacher, ​she’s

right and I’m not​.

Not mine, not mine, not mine, but Mrs. Price is already turning to page thirty-two, and math problem number four. I don’t know why but all of a sudden I’m feeling sick inside, like the ​part of me that’s three wants to come out of my eyes​, only ​I squeeze them shut tight and bite down on my teeth real hard​ and try to remember today I am eleven, eleven. Mama is making a cake for me for tonight, and when Papa comes home everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you.

But when the sick feeling goes away and I open my eyes, the red sweater’s still sitting there like a big red mountain. I move the red sweater to the corner of my desk with my ruler. I move my pencil and books and eraser as far from it as possible. I even move my chair a little to the right. ​Not mine​, ​not mine​, not mine. In my head I’m thinking how long till lunchtime, how long till I can take the red sweater and throw it over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging on a parking meter, or bunch it up into a little ball and toss it in the alley. Except when math period ends Mrs. Price says

loud and in front of everybody, “Now, Rachel, that’s enough,” because she sees I’ve shoved the red sweater to the tippy-tip corner of my desk and it’s hanging all over the edge like a waterfall, but I don’t care.

“Rachel, ”Mrs. Price says. She says it like she’s getting mad. “You put that sweater on right now and no more nonsense.”

“But it’s not –“
“Now!” Mrs. Price says.

This is when I ​wish I wasn’t eleven​ because all the years inside of me—ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one—are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put one arm through one sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the other arm through the other and stand there with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren’t even mine.

That’s when everything I’ve been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price put the sweater on my desk, finally lets go, and ​all of a sudden I’m crying in front of everybody.​ ​I wish I was invisible​ but I’m not. ​I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody.​ I put my head down on the desk and bury my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming out of my mouth because I can’t stop the little animal noises from coming out of me until there aren’t any more tears left in my eyes, and it’s just my body shaking like when you have the hiccups, and my whole head hurts like when you drink milk too fast.

But the worst part is right before the bell rings for lunch. That stupid Phyllis Lopez, who is even dumber than Sylvia Saldivar, says she remembers the ​red sweater is hers​. I take it off right away and give it to her, only ​Mrs. Price pretends like everything’s okay.

Today I’m eleven. ​There’s a cake Mama’s making for tonight and when Papa comes home from work we’ll eat it. There’ll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you, Rachel, only it’s too late.

I’m eleven today​. I’m eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I wish I was one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven. ​Because I want today to be far away already​, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny—tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.

Engagement of Students

This mentor text is about a girl who is turning 11. This about the age of the middle school students and they can all easily relate to the feeling of growing up and celebrating a birthday. She talks about how she doesn’t quite feel 11 when she wakes up the morning of her birthday and I think that is a common feeling everyone has on their birthday growing up. The text talks about growing up and the parts of you that stay the same and things that change. The context is very relatable since the main character is about the same age as my target audience. The situations that arise in the text are very simple and common, again making it easily relatable.

Highlighter Test

The characters in this short story are dynamic and way Sandra Cisneros uses comparisons and deep descriptions to show the audience what she wants to portray about the characters. This allows for various lines to be attention grabbing either by the elaborate diction or the utilization of an extensive metaphor to explain how the main character grows. By reading this you understand that for an 11 year old she is rather wise about what that means and it is interesting to track this thought the story.

Accessibility

This is definitely age appropriate for a middle school classroom; the content in the story is very typical for a middle schooler. The vocabulary used is pretty simple however there are some words that may be above what they are used to. With the vocabulary words the student may not know the context of the sentence surrounding it should provide enough details that the student can understand and make an inference about its meaning. With the context of this story it can spark meaningful conversation in the classroom about hat growing up means to everyone or maybe some experiences in the past that allows them to relate to the story.

Length of Text

This is a short story so it holds all the components of a narrative yet compacted into a couple pages. This means that this lesson would not take up an entire class period. I chose to use a narrative style text because it is something the students struggle with. They have difficulty creating a coherent story and incorporating dialogue. This specific story has a clear story line and has dialogue placed throughout the text. This is a good text that the students can come back to as an example of narrative style. Its easy to reference since it is not too long, and it still includes all the details of a story.

Writer

One of the primary reasons I chose to use this short story is because of the background of the author. She is an American writer who grew up with both Mexican and American influences, knowing both languages. She actually became a teacher later in life and was a large supporter in writing your story. Various aspects of her life can be seen in her writing. She is a reliable author that the students can use to reference back to, having written a novel and various other short stories. Another aspect of her that I think brings a unique perspective to light is her background in activism. She uses her poetry, novels and some short stories to bring the social issues she’s passionate about to the readers attention.

Pedagogy & Mentor Texts

Mentor texts are perfect for growing and developing writers. This gives the students the space to try on different styles and personas while testing the limits of their own ability and mimicking other published works. Studying and imitating these texts allow students the space to be creative and experiment with different styles. I love the idea of utilizing mentor texts in the classroom as a means of common ground for you and the student to return to as a source. The student can reference the text as a positive model of writing and look for other literary lessons within this one piece of text. As a teacher you are a life long learner, thus your ability to work alongside the student will speak volumes in them seeing the importance of the task and your willingness to grow along side them. You can always improve as a writer and the student can understand that if you are willing to work with them as well, this can be done easily with mentor texts.

Marchetti and O’Dell speak about students finding their own mentor text to transform into their own. I think this can be beneficial in allowing the student to become part of their own learning and possibly striking up a desire to want to write about the given subject. If a student has a favorite poet or author and would like to work off their writing it can encourage them to write and bring a sense of excitement into play, only encouraging them to read and write more. Marchetti and O’Dell also discuss different things to look for if you are to choose a mentor text for a class. It is helpful to know what topics are appealing to students of different age ranges. My middle school mentor teacher suggested we look into texts that include sibling rivalries or pets for the students in her 8th grade classroom. These are two broad topics that many students can connect with. While in a high school classroom students are more likely to connect with text that may include a romantic storyline. When choosing a mentor text for your class it is helpful to know kids interests and lives outside of the classroom to be able to bring text into it that may interest more of your students.

I will definitely include mentor texts in my classroom because it is the perfect opportunity for students to experiment with writing outside of their typical style. I am a stronger reader than writer so I also like the idea of writing alongside my students to grow with them. I think this will showcase the importance of the work we are doing and allow me to share with them parts of my life. I think it is important for your students to be able to connect with you and I this is possible through mentor texts and writing on similar prompts. I also believe it is important for students to have their own space to voice their thoughts and mentor texts can allow them to put their own spin on a specifically styled piece. Finally I want my students to have experience writing in multiple formats and the use of mentor texts accomplishes this goal with ease. You can create various discussions with mentor texts, or easily choose one to support your lesson to bring writing into the classroom.

Kittle’s Influence on Writing

Week 10 Task 2

Looking at our previous readings and tasks I believe that Kittle had the largest influence for me on ideas for the teaching of writing. The ideas she discussed had a large range from simple to more complex depending on the abilities in your classroom and your available resources. Her methods were also very easy to apply to a wide range of students and atmospheres such as her reader writers notebook that we are utilizing in our own class.

Having a safe space for students to write through their feelings, or possibly connect with a prompt or maybe write out of enjoyment. Having a personal notebook only for the students eyes (unless previously made aware that they would have to turn it in) is fundamentally important in trust from student to teacher and brings a sense of truth to their writing. If students have this personal safe space to express themselves they may be more inclined to interact with the work. Writing, like most everything else, comes easier with more practice. The idea of the student notebook allows the individual to write imperfectly and without worry of repercussions. Also having each prompt in one location allows the student to return to previous work if they would like, or possibly see changes in their writing or ability.

“I want to open up possibility with the writer’s notebook, and I want to give them an accessibly, messy vision of the work writers do to explore thinking…I start with my personal notebook tour so they get to know me, as well as develop a sense for how writing comes to be.”

Write Beside Them p.23

The way Kittle views the writer notebook is so wonderful. She encourages teachers to write in theirs as well. She was able to share glimpses of her life with her students by sharing some of her writing in her notebook with them. I think knowing about your teacher and in return you investing in the child’s life allows you to build a trusting bond with your class as a whole. The wide range of topics to write about in the notebook allow for each type of student to connect with the writing and be able to take part in the class.

My biggest takeaway from Kittle is the idea of what writing should or should not look like. She expands writing out of its traditional platform that often times is supposed to look like a constructed 5 paragraph essay rather than an interactive and imperfect piece of work. The writer notebook is a perfect example of writing, however it is not in a traditional format you would expect to be done in the classroom. Another way that she does this is through quick writes. This is a simple task that every student can easily do that allows them to write down what they’re thinking, allow them to develop their writing habits and does not take up too much class time. Giving abundant writing opportunities in the classroom through different writing prompts and expectations allow your students to strengthen their abilities in different ways.

“In Praise of Dreams”

I’m choosing to use Szymborska’s “In Praise of Dreams” as a model for my own dream poem. This was a week 8 prompt that I’m using for my week 9 blog post.

IN THE PRAISE OF DREAMS

In my dreams, I write like Shakespeare.

I speak fluent Italian, and converse with the other side of the world.

I fly a plane, that goes where I want it to.

I am happy, and able to share it will all.

I hear the voices of the past, the ones I miss so dearly.

I can’t complain, my house is filled with love.

I swim to the deepest ocean, and jump the waves with the squealing dolphins.

I find myself on the moon, exploring the unknown.

The brilliance of my mind, curing the wrongs of the world.

I let myself love unconditionally, and find it in return.

I find the beauty in country hills and bustling cities, oceans and deserts, mountains and valleys, and appreciate each new world.

I don’t complain, I am happy with who I am and the life I live.

I feel everything, the pain and happiness life offers equally.

I’m not afraid of what I don’t know, I seek out new experiences.

I speak to God like a friend, in triumphs and sorrow.

I live a judgement free life, not putting others in boxes and not caring when others wrongly place me in one.

A few years ago, I would have dreamt differently.

And the night before last I fell in love with my life, giving me a new perspective on the world.

Little Red Riding Hood

Once upon a time there was the prettiest little girl who lived in the village next my forest. She lived there with her mother who often sent her to her grandmother’s house with a basket of bread. Lucky for me, the trail to her grandmothers house is right through my part of the woods! This little girl was not like any other girl in the village. She wore the most beautiful red cloak so everyone knew her as Little Red Riding Hood.

One day Little Red Riding Hood was on her usual route to her grandmother’s house when I spotted her in the distance. I liked to watch her skip to her grandmother’s. She always looks so happy and free, singing to herself the funniest little songs. I think we’re about the same age but her mom always tells her she can’t play with me since I am from the forest. Her mom worries about her playing with me since I am a little hairier than her. I also have sharp teeth which make a lot of people from the village nervous. But I really just want a friend.

Today when she was walking by I finally built up the courage to talk to her.

“Hi Little Red Riding Hood!” I said.

“Oh, hi Mr. Wolf. I’m so sorry I can’t stop to talk. I have to go to my grandmothers house through these woods. She is not feeling well. I am worried about her.” Little Red Riding Hood said sadly.

“Oh goodness! Well I hope she feels better soon! I said feeling sorry for her.

Thats when I got the greatest idea! I will pick some flowers for her grandmother and meet Little Red Riding Hood at the house! I ran throughout the forest picking the most beautiful and exquisite flowers. I tied up the vibrant bouquet with some twigs that gave off the best woodland scent. I had to remember to be careful when I ran to Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmothers house as to not mess up the wonderful bouquet I made!

When I got to her grandmothers house I realized I had been SO excited that I beat Little Red Riding Hood there! Her grandmother was so nice to me. She offered me something to eat and drink and sat with me while we waited for her granddaughter. We even played hide and seek while we waited. Her grandmother had such a funny idea! She hid when we saw that Little Red Riding Hood was getting close and I pretended to be her grandma sick in bed! We were so excited to see how surprised she would be!

*KNOCK KNOCK*

“Hellloooo grandmother?” Little Red Riding Hood whispered as she opened the door.

“I’m in the bedroom!” I said trying my best to sound like a little old lady.

“Oh goodness…. hi.. grandmother?” Little Red Riding Hood questioned. “Why what big eyes you have.” she said a little weary of who was laying in bed.

“The better to see you with my dear.” I said, trying my best not to let out a giggle.

“Why what big ears you have.” Said Little Red Riding Hood, confused as to why her grandmother looked different than she remembered.

“The better to hear you with my dear.” I said. But without meaning to, I let out a laugh so big that I almost knocked Little Red Riding Hood down.

“HAHA oh my wolf is that you?” said Little Red Riding Hood.

It is! We tricked you! Hahaha, were you surprised? I asked.

“You certainly got me! Where is my grandmother? Little Red Riding Hood wondered.

“Oh we were playing hide and seek. Let’s try and find her!” I said as we raced around the house trying to be the first to find her.

I hope Little Red Riding Hood and I can be friends for a long time. I think her family now knows that even though I look different I am just like them! We both like to play hide and seek. We both like her grandma’s muffins. And we both like to sing and skip around the forest. I had so much fun today and I can’t wait until we can play again!