Understanding Students’ individual differences

Who are our kids?
1. Conducting a case-study analysis of an adolescent. Select an adolescent that you have access to—someone in the school in which you are observing, a relative/sibling, or someone who you know. Interview this adolescent about their perceptions of school; the amount of time they devote to reading, viewing, computer use, game-playing, etc.; and their reading/viewing preferences or interests, making note of specific titles they mention.
2. Reading autobiography. List some books that appealed to you in middle/junior high school, high school, and college. For each title, describe the specific aspects of a book that appealed to you and how that appeal reflected differences in your reading interests, needs, attitudes towards reading, and purposes for reading in middle/junior high school, high school, and college. Then, describe changes in your reading interests, needs, attitudes towards reading, and purposes for reading and how any school experiences influenced those changes.
3. Responses to young adult novels. Read some young adult novels and describe your responses specific aspects of characterization, plot, setting, language use. Predict the degree to which each novel would or would not appeal to early adolescents and reasons these novels would or would not appeal. Then, judge the literary quality of characterization, plot, setting, language use of each novel, citing specific evidence to support your judgments. Contrast the appeal and quality of each book, i.e., the fact that a novel may have high appeal even though you may judge it to have low literary quality, or vice versa.
4. Responses to characterization in young adult novels. Describe the characterization of main and minor characters in some young adult novels. Assess the degree to which these characters are developed through the use of subjective first person versus third person point of view, dialogue, descriptions by other characters, and use of setting/cultural contexts. Predict whether adolescents would be engaged with these characters and reasons for their potential engagement.
5. Book reviews of young adult novels. Based on some young adult novels you have read write some short book reviews to share with other students in your class. Provide a brief summary of the storyline, focusing on those specific aspects of the novel that might appeal to adolescents. Then, provide an overall judgment of the appeal and quality of the novel, noting specific reasons for the appeal and quality. Share you reviews with your peers on a class Website, email, or by posting them on a bulletin board.
6. Comparison of an older versus more recent young adult novel. Read a young adult novel written in the past times, analyzing the novel’s language, story development, roles, settings, and implied cultural assumptions. Then contrast this novel with one written in recent times, noting the similarities and differences
7. Analyzing school districts’ book selections. In the local school districts in which you work, obtain a copy of the secondary literature curriculum that specifies the required texts used at each grade level or books recommended for leisure/summer reading. Describe your reactions to these book selections in terms of their potential appeal, literary quality, difficulty level, currency, and other factors that might shape these selections.
8. Sharing responses to books with adolescents. Set up an online or IM’ing exchange with some adolescents about their responses to young adult novels. Have them share their reasons for liking or not liking certain novels. Share your own reasons with them. Then, compare your reasons with the reasons cited by adolescents, noting similarities and differences. What does this comparison suggest about choosing young adult novels for your students.

9. Studying a popular young adult author. Select a popular young adult author. Read information about this author, noting the different books written by this author, and the themes portrayed in these different books, as well as an author’s use of a particular genre.
10. Studying young adult novel genres. Select one young adult literature genre: mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy, comedy, horror, science fiction, etc., and research authors who write within this genre.
Describe the specific features of this genre in terms of prototypical character types/roles, settings, storylines, and themes/value assumptions. Identity some titles that represent what you believe to exemplary representatives of this particular genre and describe reasons for your choice.

11. Studying adolescent development/socialization in young adult novels. Many young adult novels portray the development of adolescents as they attempt to define their identities through demonstrating their competence or maturity in accomplishing certain tasks or goals. While initiation of adolescents were clearly defined in traditional societies and supported by mentors, in contemporary society, such initiations are less clearly-defined. It is also the case that, rather than defining themselves in terms of one autonomous “self,” adolescents learn to adopt different identities consistent with the demands of a particular social context or world often in terms of gender, class, or racial differences. To acquire practices and attitudes valued in these contexts or worlds, adolescents may be mentored in relationships with peers, family members, teachers, and other adults. Analyze the influence of other characters on the main character’s socialization and the criteria that serves to define successful display of competence in these contexts or worlds. Consider the ways in which gender, class, or race influences the main character’s socialization.
12. Develop a lesson plan for a young adult novel. Select a “teachable” young adult novel that you could teach to an entire class. Define some objectives for your instruction related to some topics, themes, ideas, issues, or worlds that are portrayed in the novel, as well as the use of certain critical lenses and/or certain literary aspects of the novel.
13. Develop an individualized reading program. Devise a plan for developing an individualized reading program for a particular grade level. Discuss in detail your objectives; procedures for selecting books; communications to students, parents, and administrators; strategies for promoting books through book talks and displays; uses of reading-interests inventories; and methods of evaluating students.
14. Conduct a reading-interests survey. Conduct a reading-interests survey of a group of friends and/or students. Then, summarize your results for your particular group and define reasons for your students’ interests based on their age, gender, reading ability, access to texts, and inter-textual links with media/games. Define some implications for setting up an individualized reading program or classroom instruction.

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