English 396:  Teaching the Reading of Young Adult Literature

Spring 2007

Iowa State University


Donna Niday

Office:  Ross 409  (O) 515-294-9981

(H) 515-292-4622

Office Hours: 11:00-1:00 T, TH; usually 2:00-3:30 T,Th; and by appointment




If books could be more, could show more, could own more, this book would have smells . . . .  If books could be more and own more and give more, this book would have sound . . . .  And finally if books could be more, give more, show more, this book would have light . . .  If books could have more, give more, be more, show more, they would still need readers, who bring to them sound and smell and light and all the rest that can't be in books.  The book needs you.                                                            --Paulsen, Gary.  The Winter Room 



Objectives:  Students will

€ create a philosophy of teaching, showing classroom culture.  (State standard #1)

€ uses concepts, themes, relationships, and different perspectives  and uses reading across content areas to relate ideas and information within and across content areas. (State standard #2)

€ uses resources to develop and sequence instruction and sets high expectations for success (#3)

adjusting instruction to meet students¹ special needs. (State standard #4)

works collaboratively to improve professional practice and student learning. (State standard #7)



Pedagogical Framework

The course is taught using John Dewey¹s theoretical concept of experiential learning.  We will experience a reading strategy and then analyze it.  For instance, we will participate in whole class readings, small group readings (literature circles), and individualized reading (student choice) and then compare and contrast the various forms.  I would encourage you to set a goal of reading as much and as widely as possible. 



Course Recommendations


1.  Attendance and active participation.  Because each class period carries a different theme and because many class projects are completed as a group, it is vitally important that you are an active participant every class period.  I take attendance during every class meeting, and I expect that only emergencies would require that you be absent and then only absent for a maximum of TWO class periods.  If you absolutely cannot be present, you are to call me in advance of the class meeting.  Office phone: 294-9981


2.  Student-teacher conferences.  You are required to attend the first conference with me in order for us to discuss your reading interests.  You are invited to have a second conference to discuss final projects; this conference is optional but highly recommended. 


3.  Assignment due dates.  It is advisable to maintain a reading schedule and compile the portfolio pages during the course.  The attached schedule can aid you in meeting the requirements.



Definition of Young Adult (YA) Literature

Definition of Young Adult : The Young Adult Service Division of the American Library Association (ALA) defines the age range of an adolescent or young adult as ages 10-19. 

            Early adolescence (elementary or middle school or grades 5, 6, 7)

            Middle adolescence (junior high or grades 8, 9, 10)

            Later adolescence (high school or grades 11, 12)




Definition of a Young Adult Literature:   Literature written for and marketed to young adults.  Young adult literature is usually given the birth date of 1968 with the advent of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.  Other forms of literature prior to this date may have had young adult protagonists (such as Huck Finn), but it was usually intended for an adult audience.  According to Beach and Marshall, characteristics of a young adult novel usually include several of the following:

            € a teenage (or young adult) protagonist

            € first-person perspective

            € adult characters in the background

            € a limited number of characters

            € a compressed time span and familiar setting

            € current slang

            € detailed descriptions of appearance and dress

            € positive resolution

            € few, if any, subplots

€ an approximate length of 125 to 250 pages




What Is Not Young Adult (YA) Literature:  "While young adults . . . will read 'classics' with teen protagonists--such as Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn . . . or Louisa May Alcott's Little Women or even William Golding's Lord of the Flies--such novels are not strictly considered YA literature.  Similarly, contemporary novels popular with adults and young people, such as those written by Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King, are also not in the category of YA literature." (Christenbury, Leila.  Making the Journey:  Being and Becoming a Teacher of English Language Arts.  Portsmouth, New Hampshire:  Heinemann, 1994.)  The "classics" mentioned above do not fit into the young adult literature category because they were intended for adult audiences.  The popular fiction of Steele, Clancy, and King usually have adult characters.  Remember the two-part definition for young adult literature:  ³written for and marketed to young adults.²






Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.  Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible.  They are engines of change, windows on the world, and lighthouses erected in the sea of time.  They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind.

                                                                                    Barbara Tuchman, The Book                     



 Required Texts


(Books are available at the University Book Store in the Memorial Union and at Campus Book Store.)







Lowry, Lois.  The Giver.  New York:  Bantam Books, 1993.  On Jonas' twelfth birthday, he is chosen to be trained to be The Giver, the individual who holds all of the memories of both pain and pleasure.  He must decide how he will use this new gift.  (Newbery Medal recipient)


Creech, Sharon.  Walk Two Moons.  Harper Collins, 1994. This book features a story within a story as a young Native American girl, with her grandparents' help, comes to terms with her mother's leaving.   (Recipient

of five awards including the Newbery Medal) 








Myers, Walter Dean.  Monster.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1999.  Steve Harmon writes a movie script and journal entries about his trial for being an accessory to a murder and robbery.  (American Library Association Best Book Award)


Crutcher, Chris.  Whale Talk.  New York:  Laureleaf, 2002.  With scars on her face and hands, Sarah Byrnes shares a special relationship with overweight Eric.  When Sarah's tragic past causes her suddenly to stop speaking, Eric attempts to uncover her secrets.  (Author received the 2000 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contributions in writing books for teens.)


Spinelli, Jerry.  Stargirl.  New York:  Scholastic, 2000.  Leo discovers that Stargirl is really different from his other peers.  She gives of herself to others continually, even cheering for both teams at games.  Leo finds himself falling in love with her, but will their relationship work?









Draper, Sharon.  Romiette and Julio.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1999.   As an African American-Hispanic couple, Romiette and Julio discover that the local gang and their parents disapprove of their romance.  Their story parallels that of Shakespeare¹s Romeo and Juliet.


Oates, Joyce Carol.  Big Mouth & Ugly Girl.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2002.  When Matt is questioned by the police about making terrorist comments, Matt proclaims his innocence, but the entire school now treats him suspiciously.  Ursula, who refers to herself as the Ugly Girl, becomes Matt¹s defender, both to her and to Matt¹s surprise.  The story is told in alternating perspectives of Ursula¹s first person narration and Matt¹s third person narration.










Hesse, Karen.  Out of the Dust.  New York:  Scholastic, Inc., 1997.  A teenage girl growing up in Oklahoma faces a terrible accident and the ravages of the Dust Bowl.  This book, set in narrative poetry form, contains themes of family, identity, and hope.  (Newbery Medal recipient)


Park, Linda Sue.  A Single Shard.  New York:  Yearling, 2003. Tree-ear, an orphan in Korea, lives under a bridge with Crane-man, a one-legged man, and spends his days assisting Min, a master potter.  While Tree-ear toils at chopping wood and digging clay, he learns of a secret new type of inlaid pottery.  His biggest test comes when he journeys across mountains and forests to take pieces of pottery to the ambassador, hoping for a royal pottery commission for Min.  (Newbery Medal recipient)



Course Requirements




Individualized Reading

You will also be expected to read a large and wide variety of young adult novels; the expectation is approximately one to two books per week.  A course pack which includes an annotated bibliography for your individualized reading can be purchased at Copyworks.  The reading log sheets and circle graph at the back of the course pack are to be completed as you read and are to be included in your final course portfolio.  Because young adult books tend to be short and relatively easy reading, I will expect students who really want to have a solid background in this area to read a large variety of texts.  Therefore, to be considered for a(n):

                                    A or A-, you will need to read at least 26 books

                                    B+ or B, at least 23 books

                                    B-, at least 21 books

                                    C range, at least 15 books

(The above numbers include the nine required books, the literature circle book, and individually chosen books.)





1. Reader Sketch (approximately 5 double-spaced pages—there is no maximum length, so it can be longer).  You are asked to describe your history as a reader from early childhood to today, noting your attitude and experiences in reading.  Describe the people who encouraged or discouraged your reading.  Tell your reading goals for the future.  You are required also to attach a one-page reflection of writing the reader sketch.   One or more examples of reader sketches will be shared in class.  We will prewrite ideas for the reader sketch during class time, and then you are asked to bring a rough draft of the reader sketch and reflection to class for a PQP workshop time  (praise, question, polish) with a small group of class members.  A rubric will be provided.  See the course pack for the following items:  (1) Reader¹s Sketch questions, (2) Explanation of reflective writing, (3) Reader Sketch Rubric, (4) PQP Sheets.


2. Philosophy.  Using either a current or future perspective of a parent, teacher, student, or community

member, state your beliefs (and supporting reasons) about young adult literature.  You may either write in list

form (³I believe that . . . .²) or in paragraph form.  For instance, you might include how literature is chosen or

the guidelines adults might use to encourage young adults to read YA literature.  Example:  ³I believe that

young adults should read a variety of young adult literature.²  (We will spend part of a class period

brainstorming ideas for your philosophy.)  Approximate length:  two-thirds to one page  (See the course pack

for more specific directions.)


3.  Book Sheets

A book sheet is required for each book you read for the course, including required books, literature circle books, book talk books, and free choice books. Book sheets are one single-spaced page (no less), in a font no larger than 12-point Times.  (If you tend to write a lot, you can make the margins small and the font as small as 10-point, but don¹t go over a page.)  You will turn in book sheets on the day we begin talking about required books in class, and you should plan on turning in other book sheets on a regular basis during the semester. You must turn in at least one book sheet per week.  When you have completed a book, write a book card, print two copies, and place them in the book card folder.  I will respond to one copy with my reader's comments and return it to you.  The other copy will be filed in a cumulative file by category; you may use the files to decide which books you would like to read.  You may turn in no more than two book sheets a class period—you MAY NOT turn in a whole sheaf of book sheets at the end of the course. 

Book sheets, cont.

Your book sheets should look like this:



Your Name at Right Side

ENG 396-Date Turned In


Book:                Author¹s Name.  Title of the Book.  City: Publisher, Copyright.


Genre:               Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Biography, Memoir, Science Fiction, etc.


Audience:           Approximate age range of readers, for example, ³7th or 8th grade.²  (Don¹t go by amazon.com—this is often way off—use your own judgment.) The grade level is usually two years younger than the protagonist's age--students like to read about older characters to know what is ahead for them in life.  If a protagonist is 14 years old, the audience is usually 12-15 years old. 


Read Alouds:      List a few page numbers containing interesting examples of style, humor, emotion, etc.


Summary:          In one paragraph , write a brief, five to seven-line plot summary.


Themes:             Writing in paragraphs, describe two to four ideas or themes you consider might be                                   important for you or another teacher using this book.  Each theme requires a separate

                        paragraph.  You must have at least two paragraphs.


Connections:      How might this book be compared to other books you have read, or useful in connection

                        with other teaching materials or other subjects?


Your Reaction:    In a paragraph, describe your own reader response to this book.   Did you like it?  If not,

                        what type of student might?


Others¹ Reaction: Look on amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com.  What have critics and readers said

about this book?


The most important sections of any book sheet are the summary, themes, and connections, so do your best to do an excellent job.


4. Capstone Project: Unit Plan.  You are to compose a ten-day unit plan using five books connected by theme, topic, or author.  Choose one of the books for your whole class book.  The other four books you will use in a following unit consisting of literature circles, so you will only need to list these four books and explain why you chose them.  A complete packet will be given to you describing each step of the unit plan.





1.     Book Talk with read-aloud.  For one day during the course, you are asked to give a book talk and read aloud a section of a book.  Your book choice is to accompany that day's theme (see attached schedule) but cannot be a required class book.  You will have a time allotment of five minutes.  Help us visually see the book title, author, and characters by writing information on the board or overhead transparency and by showing the actual book itself (one visual required).  Work on using eye contact and voice inflection so that your book talk will receive the audience's attention.  Think about a creative way to introduce your book--lights off, background music, posters, inviting audience members to perform parts, etc.  The purposes of the book talks are to give you ideas of books you may wish to read and to broaden your concept of young adult literature.

















2.     Literature circle presentation.  Your literature circle will read a commonly shared novel, give a brief presentation, and correspond with eighth grade email partners.  You will individually write a reflection on the literature circle experience (to be included in your portfolio). During the days that your literature circle meets, you may share and discuss the literature, talk about your email correspondence and its successes/problems, and determine how you will present this book to the class members of English 396 (videotaped for eighth grade partners). Book choices include Briar Rose, Deathwatch, Dunk, Ironman, Seventh Son, Speak, and Words by Heart.


3.     Book group presentation.  Five group presentation books are listed on the syllabus.  On the Student Choice Sheet, please select your preferences for a book that sounds interesting to you.  Your choice of a novel will determine your group.  We will devote five class periods to these panels, and you will have flexibility in determining how your group would like to present your novel.  Possibilities include small group discussions or art work (collage, etc.), large group discussions, individual work (journaling, etc.), and/or brief presentations by group members.  You are required to involve your audience in the presentation, use at least one visual, and include interesting and learning-filled (critical thinking) activities.  You may wish to use handouts, a poster, overhead transparencies, maps, costumes, etc. for the visual.  See the course pack for instructions on the accompanying reflective piece.  (You will be given class time to meet with your group to plan your presentation.)


4.     Capstone project (unit plan) presentation.  At the end of the semester, we will devote three class periods to hearing a ten-minute presentation for each individual¹s unit plan.  A visual aid is required (in addition to showing the books used in your project).  Make your presentation attention-getting and interesting for the audience. For instance, students who have made a teaching unit may lead the class members in one of the short activities.  You may give a handout to your classmates (such as a bibliography) or you may wish to think of ways to make your presentation visual and exciting.  The presentation is a requirement to pass the course.




 State Standards Portfolio


The Iowa Teacher Quality Act lists eight standards in which education students and practicing teachers must show they have competence.  (The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners originally listed eleven standards, but these have now morphed via the Teacher Quality Act into eight.)  These are the eight (abbreviated) standards:


1.              Demonstrates ability to enhance student academic performance.

2.              Demonstrates competence in content knowledge.

3.              Demonstrates competence in planning and preparing for instruction.

4.              Uses strategies to meet the multiple learning needs of diverse students.

5.              Uses a variety of methods to assess student learning.

6.              Demonstrates competence in classroom management.

7.              Engages in professional growth.

8.              Fulfills professional responsibilities established by the school district.


Students who will be accredited teachers must compile a portfolio with sections for each standard.  Each standard section will contain artifacts (called DPIs, or Designated Performance Indicators J) from completed classes, with accompanying arguments showing that the artifact demonstrates competence for that standard.  The final portfolio will therefore have eight sections, each section containing a number of DPIs with their accompanying arguments.   Since assignments for English 396 can be used to demonstrate competence in some objectives of several of the state standards, for your final assignment you will compile DPIs for your portfolio and write commentary/arguments to accompany them.  The English 396 portfolios for all English Education majors will be given to Bob Tremmel, and he will start portfolio files for all of you, so it is imperative that you do your best work.  Elementary Education students can collect your portfolios from me sometime next semester so you can turn them in at your next collection checkpoint.


Each standard in the Teacher Quality Act has several specific objectives listed.  Though you won¹t be able to meet some of these objectives until you are in an actual classroom working with students, you can meet some objectives now with class work from English 396.  For each standard below, I¹ve listed some of the objectives for which English 396 assignments could provide DPIs.


Standard 1:  Demonstrates Ability to Enhance Student Academic Performance


396-relevant Objectives:


d.          Accepts and demonstrates responsibility for creating a classroom culture that supports the learning of every student.

e.          Creates an environment of mutual respect, rapport, and fairness.


DPI:      Statement of Philosophy of Teaching and argument


Standard 2:  Demonstrates Competence in Content Knowledge


396-relevant Objectives:


a.          Understands and uses key concepts, underlying themes, relationships, and different perspectives related to the content area.


DPI:      Reader Sketch (reading interest and ability) and argument

DPI:      In-class writing for midterm (writing ability) and argument

DPI:      Book talk(s) AND Unit Plan Presentation (oral communication ability) and argument


  c.        Relates ideas and information within and across content areas.


DPI:      Book Sheets (perhaps three of your best) and argument


Standard 3:  Demonstrates Competence in Planning and Preparing for Instruction


396-Relevant Objectives:


b.         Sets and communicates high expectations for social, behavioral, and academic success of all students.

d.          Selects strategies to engage all students in learning.

e.          Uses available resources, including technologies, in the development and sequencing of instruction.


DPI:      Unit Plan and argument



Standard 4:  Uses strategies to deliver instruction that meets the multiple learning needs of diverse students


396-Relevant Objectives:


c.          Demonstrates flexibility and responsiveness in adjusting instruction to meet student needs.

d.          Engages students in varied experiences that meet diverse needs and promote social, emotional and academic growth.


DPI:      Panel Presentation and argument



Standard 7:  Engages in professional growth


396-Relevant Objectives:


b.         Works collaboratively to improve professional practice and student learning.


DPI:      Literature Circle Presentation and argument


The final portfolio will have eight DPIs.  Each DPI will be accompanied by an argument, or commentary.  These commentaries will fully explain each DPI and the circumstances under which it was written or presented.  Each commentary will present arguments with specific evidence making the case that the DPI demonstrates performance level ability for the specific objective of the particular standard.  Each commentary should be stapled to its particular DPI. 


How should this all be put together?  Each standard should have its own labeled section (no handwritten labels, please), with separate labeled sections for each DPI within that standard, so for this class you¹ll have five main sections, one for each standard we¹re addressing.  Each DPI with commentary should be clearly connected to its proper objective within the standard.  Your name should be on each DPI as well as on the folder.  Your final result should look neat and professional.  For yourself, you should begin to keep a separate computer disk solely devoted to your portfolio.  Keep all portfolio files on it, and keep it backed up.  Or alternatively, you can show your competence to the world by keeping it all on a website.


Knowing about these standards and competency objectives within the standards should help you plan the work you do for this course.  If you know, for example, that you¹ll be using your Reader Sketch as an artifact to demonstrate your competence in a content area of language arts, it focuses the mind.  How can you write that Reader Sketch in such a way that it demonstrates your competence?  How can you write it in such a way that you make it easy to write the commentary for your portfolio later?  If you know that your Unit Plan is going to be used to demonstrate competence in three different objectives within a standard, you should obviously design a plan that will address all those issues.  If you know you¹re going to be using Book Sheets ³to relate ideas and information within and across content areas,² you should write them with that goal in mind.


Course Grading:

Overall reflection  on the course  10 points                          

Philosophy and goals    8 points                                       

Book talk   10 pts.                                                          

Reader sketch/reflection  50 points                                     

Midterm  20 points                                                         

Group presentation/reflection  20 points

Email correspondence and reflection  20 points

Literature circle presentation/reflection  20 points

Book sheets 72 points (3 points per book sheet)

Unit plan/reflection  50 points

Unit plan presentation  20 points

Standards Portfolio   50 points

Total Possible  350 points


Note:  Remember that you must have the required number of points to be considered for a particular grade.  Your attendance and turning in assignments on time (including book sheets) are also essential elements of your grade.






 ³Read in order to live.²  --Gustave Flaubert



English 396 Class Schedule  (Spring 2007)










Tues., 1/9



Introduction/Complete Student Card

Discuss syllabus and class requirements


Thurs., 1/11


Student Choice

Sheet (complete sheet

 in class)

Discuss book card requirements

Discuss literature circle choices

Pre-writing for reader sketch


Tues., 1/16


Have read The Giver

Book card due—The


Discuss book talks/meet with partner

Lit. circle groups meet—receive/obtain books,

make book predictions; see lit. circle roles

Large group discussion of The Giver


Thurs., 1/18





Lit. circle groups meet briefly

Small group/large group discussion of

The Giver, cont.

Discuss censorship and other themes

in The Giver


Tues., 1/23


Receive literature

circle book

Book card due on


Reader sketch pre-writing (examples shown)

Literature Circles meet (Day 1)—discuss

predictions for book

Discuss Monster



Thurs., 1/25


 Bring photo ID and

proof of address

Field trip to Ames Public Library



Tues., 1/30

Science Fiction

Lit. Circle book card


Literature Circles meet (Day 2)—use

literature circle roles


Thurs., 2/1



Lit. Circle groups meet (Day 3)--work on



Tues., 2/6



Lit. Circle groups meet (Day 4)–work on



Thurs., 2/8



Rough draft of reader

sketch and reflection

PQP (Small group peer response) of reader

sketch and reflection—share all or portions

of paper



Tues., 2/13

Banned Books


Book card on a Chris

Crutcher book

Attend Chris


talk in the Union

Lit. Circle Presentations--Part 1


Thurs., 2/15

Middle Eastern


Book card—your

group presentation


Lit. Circle Presentations--Part II


Tues., 2/20

Native American







Discuss capstone project

Discuss book group presentations

Book presentation groups meet


Thurs.,2/22        10




(Be reading books for

capstone project)

Book presentation groups meet

Midterm (in-class essay)







Tues., 2/27



Book card—Walk

Two Moons

Walk Two Moons

Reminder:  By this point, you should have

turned in 13 book cards if you are working

toward an ³A² grade.



Thurs., 3/1


Sexual Identity

(Be reading books for

capstone project)

Discuss censorship issues


Tues., 3/6


Book card—Stargirl

1st Panel—Stargirl


Thurs., 3/8

Historical Fiction


(Be reading books for

capstone project)

Discuss philosophy



Tues., 3/20

"Coming of Age"


Book card-Romiette

and Julio

2nd Panel—Romiette and Julio


Thurs., 3/22

Latino/a American


(Be reading books for

capstone project)

Discuss young adult literature connection

to the classics



Tues., 3/27

Physical Problems


Book card—Whale


3rd Panel—Whale Talk


Thurs., 3/29

African American


Work on capstone


Discuss capstone project


Tues, 4/3



Book card—A Single


4th Panel—A Single Shard


Thurs., 4/5

Short Stories,



Workshop (PQP) capstone projects


Tues., 4/10


Celebrate Poetry


Book card—Out of the Dust

5th Panel—Out of the Dust


Thurs., 4/12


Book card—Big Mouth

& Ugly Girl





Discuss Big Mouth & Ugly Girl



Tues., 4/17





Open discussion—student choice (if time)


Thurs., 4/19



Project presentations—Day 1 (5 min. each)


Tues., 4/24


Last day to turn in

book cards

Project presentations—Day 2


Thurs., 4/26



Project presentations—Day 3


Finals Week


 Attendance required

Bring class to closure--essay in class




Text Box: "Sometimes when I stand in a big library, I feel a sober, earnest delight which is hard to convey:  These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves."  
							 --Gilbert Highet