English 521:  Teaching of Literature and the Literature Curriculum

Fall 2006

Iowa State University


Dr. Donna Niday

431 Ross Hall

515-294-9981 (O)

515-292-4622 (H)

Office Hours:  11:00-2:00 T/Th, 5:30-6:00 p.m.



"Literature is no one¹s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves."                                          —Virginia Woolf


Catalogue Description:  Examination of the roles of the literary work, reader, and teacher in literary study.  Responses to literature.  Place of literature in language arts.  Study and development of curriculum materials for varied levels of instruction.


Course Objectives:

Students will be able to—

·      analyze various curricular organizational strategies and create a curriculum outline for a literature-based course showing rationales for various text selections, analyzing the use of the canonical literature versus literature from historically marginalized cultures.

·      discuss and apply teacher professionalism and ethics to various teaching situations.

·      analyze the benefits and drawbacks of various literature instructional strategies, including questioning and discussion techniques and connections between literature and personal experience, prior knowledge, other literature, writing, non-fiction, film, technology, music, and/or art.







Appleman, Deborah.  Critical Encounters in High School English:  Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents.  New York:  Teachers College Press, 2000.


Rosenblatt, Louise M.  The Reader, the Text, the Poem:  The Transactional Theory of the Literary Work.  Carbondale, IL:  Southern Illinois University Press, 1978.


Wilhelm, Jeffrey D.  ³You Gotta BE the Book²:  Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents.  Urbana, IL:  National Council of Teachers of English, 1997.







Part 1:  What is literature?


We will create a definition of literature individually, in small groups, and as a large group.  We will also examine other people's definitions of literature.




"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously [thoroughly], and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."

                                                                                                —Sir Francis Bacon



Part 2:  What should be included in a literature curriculum?


Selection of texts




"The books we read should be chosen with great care, that they may be, as an Egyptian king wrote over his library, 'The medicines of the soul.'"

                                                                                                —Paxton Hood




Part 3:  What are the best practices of instructional strategies and assessment?

1.     Instructional strategies (literature circles, jigsaws, modeling, groupings, multiple intelligences, visualization, etc.)

2.     Questioning and discussion techniques (literary theories, Christenbury¹s question circle, Bloom¹s Taxonomy, HOTS questions, etc.)

3.      Connections (personal experience, prior knowledge, world events, intertextual, identity, non-fiction, film, technology, art, music)

4.  Preparing teaching unit plans

4.     Action research in literature classrooms (conferences, discussions, e-mail, etc.)

5.     Special populations (special needs, ESL, gifted, etc.)




The four stages of teaching are (1) fantasy, (2) survival, (3) mastery, and (4) impact.  You will have matured as a teacher when you stop asking, "How am I doing?" and start asking, "How and what are students learning?"




Course Recommendations


1.  Attendance and active participation.  Because each class period examines a different topic and because each class period equals approximately three class periods, it is vitally important that you are an active participant every class period.  I expect that only emergencies would require that you be absent and then only for a maximum of one absence.  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 invited to participate in conferences with me to discuss your reading interests, curriculum outline, and teaching unit.

3.      Attitude/Work Habits.  Be the student you would like your students to be.



Writing/Teaching Assignments


1.     One-pagers (written responses to the reading assignment)

2.     Philosophy of teaching literature (1-2 pages)

3.     Curriculum outline with general objectives and text rationales

4.     Teaching unit

5.     Teach classmates 30 minutes (from teaching unit)

6.      Course portfolio (process:  collect, select, project, reflect)

A portfolio is a collection of evidence of your growth as a current or future teacher of literature.  Each artifact is accompanied by a short reflection.

·      Cover page, table of contents, and introductory reflection

·      Philosophy of teaching literature

·      Curriculum outline, general objectives, text rationales for one course

·      Representative pieces from your teaching unit (general objectives, rationale,  accommodations for special needs students, approximately three lesson plans, directions for assignments, assessments)

·      Reflection on teaching experience

·      Representative samples of own literature responses

·      Representative sample of literature paper (from another course)

·      Concluding reflection (optional)








"The student who can begin early in life to think of things as connected, even if he revises his view with every succeeding year, has begun the life of learning."

                                                                                                —Mark Van Doren



Class Schedule—English 521  Fall Œ06




Theme:  Theoretical/


Assignments Due






Introduction to syllabus

Introduction of students

Begin discussing ³What is lit.?²



What is literature?

What are the

characteristics of a ³good reader²?

Have read Eagleton¹s ³What is literature?²

Have read Gere, Shaheen—

Introduction and Part I

Write letter to classmate

Discuss ³What is literature?²

Discuss T. Eagleton, ³What Is Lit.?²

Discuss outcomes of reading—³good reader²




How does literature shape our world (culture, ethnicity, gender)?

How do the NCTE/IRA Standards apply to classrooms?

Have read Gere, Shaheen—

Part II

Have read chapter of choice in Gere, Shaheen (Parts 3-5)

Write letter to classmate


Discuss comments on letter to classmate

Discuss double-entry journal

Share teaching philosophies

Discuss canon vs. diversity

View NCTE/IRA Standards



How do ³engaged² vs. ³struggling² readers differ?

What is

a good class discussion?

Have read Wilhelm—intro.

and Ch. 1-2

Have read preface, Ch. 1-2

of Rosenblatt

Do double-entry journal

Rough draft of teaching


Discuss ³webs²

Share/workshop  teaching philosophies

Discuss one-pager directions

Discuss ways of organizing the curriculum

Discuss class discussions—

questioning strategies




How do efferent vs. aesthetic readings differ? How do teachers make effective text selections?

Have read Wilhelm Ch. 3

Have read Ch. 3-4 of Rosenblatt

Write one-pager on ³What is literature?²

Discuss one-pagers

Discuss webs

Workshop ³What is literature?² papers

Discuss text selections/censorship issues



How do we ³evoke²


How can  teachers accommodate special learners?

Have read Wilhelm Ch. 4

Have read Ch. 4 of Rosenblatt

Do ³web² or graphic organizer of reading (choose

circles, tree, etc.)

Rough draft of curriculum outline due

Discuss Ch. Wilhelm, Rosenblatt

Discuss Howard Gardner¹s ³multiple intelligences²

Discuss special popuations (gifted, ESL, special needs)

Workshop curriculum outlines



How do readers

make literature transactions  (³the poem²)?   How does visualization (drama and art) help readers?  How do teachers create effective units?

Have read Ch. 5-6 of Wilhelm

Have read Ch. 5 of Rosenblatt

Create response to literature

using your ³multiple


CURRICULUM OUTLINE DUE (outline, objectives, rationale)

Discuss Ch. Wilhelm, Rosenblatt

Share ³multiple intelligence² projects

Discuss lesson/unit planning




How do readers

interpret, evaluate, and critique literature? What are effective instructional strategies?

Have read Ch. 6-7 and epilogue

of Rosenblatt

Rationale, philosophy (theories used), calendar, bibliography, and one lesson plan  for unit due

Discuss instructional strategies such as giving directions

Teacher-student conferences on unit



What is action research?

Have read introduction and

Ch. 1-3 of Appleman

Days 1-5 of teaching unit due

Discuss Appleman

Discuss action research—analyze reading conferences, class discussions



What are appropriate teacher ethics?

Have read Ch. 4-5 of


Days 6-10 of teaching unit due

Continue analysis of action research

Workshop unit  plans in class

Discuss teacher professionalism and ethics



How can I show my teaching strengths through a portfolio?

Have read Ch. 6-8 of Appleman


Work on preparing for teaching in class and on portfolio



How can I apply what I've learned to my own (current or future) classroom?

Have read articles given by


1-4 students teach from own unit

receive comments on teaching unit



What can I learn from observing other teachers?

Have read articles given by


5-8 students teach from own unit

receive comments on teaching unit



What are my teaching goals?

Have read articles given by


Revision of teaching unit due


9-12 students teach from own unit




How can I continue to learn as a teacher?

Course portfolio due

13-15 students teach from own unit