This section of the course is titled “Who’s There? Critically Engaging Issues of Diversity in Children’s Literature.” The concept of diversity will be deeply grappled with in this course and we will consider a broad range of diversity including: social class, language, race/ethnicity, learning styles, age, geographic location, religion, learning ability, family type, physical ability, location on the gender spectrum, nationality, and sexuality
All of the text selections, in-class materials, and assignments were crafted to enable to students to deeply consider who is (and isn’t) visible in Children’s Literature published in the United States and to engage in conversations about the impact of the presence and absence of groups and individuals within Children’s Literature.
At the start of this term, as a class, we will be reading/watching a range of theoretical sources focused on providing a framework for thinking about the role and importance of diversity in the field of Children’s Literature. Students will select three of the theoretical pieces that we’ve discussed and engaged together to incorporate into their presentations which will focus on children’s T.V. shows and films, an important aspect of contemporary Children’s Literature. These theoretical pieces will also be engaged throughout the term during in-class discussions and other assignments. The continued engagement with these sources throughout the term will allow students ample practice in applying theoretical texts.
The Children’s Literature texts we’ll be reading together this term are: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Ramona and Her Father, My Many Colored Days, Out of My Mind, We Are in a Book, As Brave As You, and The Only Road. I think the selection of texts will raise a variety to thoughts/ideas about the role of diversity in Children’s Literature and will also really help to demonstrate how the ideas in the theoretical pieces we’ll examine together at the start of the course play out in the reality of Children’s Lit.
Teaching this section of ENG100 was an interesting and new experience for me. In the past, having taught some version of this course at several institutions, students who enroll in Children’s Literature tend to be outgoing and really enjoy in-class conversations the most. Over time I’ve made revisions to instruction in this course to make more space for those discussions.
This term, however, the students enrolled did not gravitate toward in-class discussion, especially in a large group. This meant I had to do a nearly daily revision of what I’d originally planned to do during our class time together, which focused much of our time on discussing texts, theories, and ideas aloud. This really stretched my ability to think on my feet and encouraged me to learn a variety of new tactics and approaches from colleagues and from engaging with pedagogical theory. Some class periods I was able to help students delve into the texts effectively in alternate ways. Other class periods were punctuated by awkward silences. Since many students who enroll in this course are going into some form of education-based career, the wonderful thing about having these things happen in this specific course is that we were also able to treat the days that didn’t go so well as mutual teaching moments that would help all of us become more effective in the classroom.
I think the in-class presentations were the highlight of this course for most of us. The revisions I made to that assignment based on feedback from students in previous terms finally helped the assignment reach a place where the expectations for the presentation were clear, while still allowing for a fair amount of presenter freedom that made the presentations interesting and engaging for the other students in the class. The nervousness that was mitigated by having a clear sense of what was expected of them allowed students to focus more of their energy on crafting and polishing their presentations to be fitting for their audience and clearly tied to the larger ideas of the course. This is an assignment I will be keeping in future iterations of the course.
Students also seemed to really excel in some of the writing assignments in this class, especially ones that asked them to engage in analysis of texts. While I usually see students have stronger analytical skills in the discussions during Children’s Literature, for this class, the strongest analytical skills for most students were apparent in their written assignments. While I always incorporate the homework assignments into our in-class discussions, the shift in analytical strengths that I saw in this class has encouraged me to consider how I might more deeply integrate the written responses students are producing into our daily classroom activities.