Category Archives: lifestyle

Novels to Motivate African American Males

tatumreading

By far, one of my greatest struggles this school year lies within motivating my African American boys to read independently during their required SSR time. I know much of this struggle was a fault of my own. These students were unengaged in my bookshelves as well as the school library, not finding the popular sci-fi novels such as The 5th Wave or John Green texts “interesting.” At the beginning of the year, almost every book on my bookshelf featured a white protagonist and became unrelatable to these students. Therefore, one of my professional goals was to research this demographic and find novels that my boys really wanted to read. If you read my last post, the Allison Van Diepen novels proved sufficient in this matter. However I needed more than four novels could provide, both time wise as well as variety.

Many recurring themes appear among the wide body of research regarding adolescent African-American males. These themes identify the struggles these males have, “among the most prominent are issues of self-concept, self-efficacy, and identity development” (Tatum, Literacy Practices from African-American Male Adolescents, p.6). Adolescent African-American males, as do many students, struggle with finding their identity in the world starting in the early middle-school years. It is essential for these students to be able to have access to literature reflecting their background and current struggles.

Literature that influences student motivation, “address[es] a range of experiences, including stories about teen wresting with issues of acceptance based on family gender preferences, ethnicity, immigration issues, and gang and cult membership” (Moss, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.39). Readers, especially the African-American male, have more motivation for reading a text, “contain[ing] well-portrayed authentic main characters who grapple in realistic ways with the challenges of today’s world” (Moss, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.41). Students should have access to highly engaging texts and literature, this in turn allows a lens to explore their own identity and persona through characters that mirror their current lives.

There are many conditions necessary for literacy development with reluctant or struggling readers, including the need for student engagement in the text. In terms of engagement, which corresponds with motivation, “reading intervention classes should be filled with high-interest books that march a wide range of students’ reading interest” to foster a true wanting to explore a literary text. (Wozniak, Voices from the Middle, Volume 19, p.17). Educators, as I have, will likely find success with reading motivation when including texts in their classroom embracing students’ ethnic group identities. These specific texts could enhance literacy experiences and correspondingly could increase reading achievement and standardized testing scores.

Overall, research indicates males become more motivated with a literary text when the basis is upon connecting or making the literacy life-like and relatable. This form of connecting to the text, or seeing the text as life-like, allows students to mirror their own life in the story in some context. The emphasis on including historical literary and traditional texts, especially with the African-American male population, is critical to engagement and motivation within a chosen or class-taught text. It is imperative that educators are “honoring and respecting students’ cultural backgrounds” and integrating historical and traditional African-American texts (Flowers, Urban African-American Students, p.166). This is central to actively acknowledging the various cultures.

Historical accounts of the earlier African-American life display the “types, characteristics, and roles of writing embraced by African-American males as they sought to protect their dignity in a racist society” which is still current and relevant in student’s lives today (Tatum, Literacy Practices for African-American Male Adolescents, p.13). Students can analyze historical writing to interpret how politics, race, class, and sex were woven together in the works of writers and themes of literacy and liberation are evident among various historical texts, in which both are placed heavy emphasis upon. African-American males learned to read and write to provide different perspectives on current events and historical emphases leading the actions in their lives. Integrating Fredrick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Ann Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl provides students with the urgent and life-changing reasons to pursue and become proficient in reading and writing applicable in their own lives as well. Types of selections as these, which honor and respect the African-American traditional texts, open up a classroom for cultural safety, identity discovery, and rich discussions on the value of literacy in life.

In my next post, I will provide specific examples of texts I used in my classroom to supplement traditional literature to engage these students. Be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks! If you have had success with specific texts in this demographic, I would love to know and collaborate with you!

 

-Stephanie Branson

References:

Flowers, T. A., and L. A. Flowers. “Factors Affecting Urban African American High School Students’ Achievement in Reading.” Urban Education 43.2 (2008): 154-71. Web. 1 May 2016.

Moss, Barbara. “Fitting In or Standing Out: Finding Your Place in the World of Adolescence.” Voices from the Middle 19.2 (2011): 39-41. NCTE. Web. 1 May 2016.

Tatum, Alfred. “Helping Struggling Readers: Reading for Their Life.” YouTube. Heinemann Publishing, 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 02 May 2016.

Tatum, Alfred W. “Literacy Practices For African-American Male Adolescents.” Students at the Center. Jobs for the Future, Mar. 2012. Web. 1 May 2016.

Wozniak, Cheryl L. “Reading and Talking about Books: A Critical Foundation for Intervention.” Voices From the Middle. NCTE, Dec. 2011. Web. 1 May 2016

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

June 2, 2016 · 8:47 am

Lumos

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 2.48.43 PM.png

 

Graduate school has started back up for me. I have been studying my own reading and writing history so that I can find and analyze implications of said history in my teaching. I know it has been a while (two years?!) since I have posted, but I have really been thinking about bringing this short lived blog back! If you don’t know already, I am an avid reader. AVID. Possibly borderline obsessive. Probably borderline obsessive, actually. I have made a goal for myself this year to read 24 books which I intend to talk about on this blog to keep myself accountable. Right now I am reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. Both so far are excellent and I would recommend! However, I am not done with either so take that recommendation how you will.

I recently wrote about how Harry Potter changed my life in a graduate assignment and I thought I would share some of that here, since I don’t actually have a book to rant or rave on:

             Some people read, some people write, some do both, but I just read. Reading has always been my passion and world. Thus explaining my decision to eventually become an English teacher. I have had moments in my life this far involving books at the pinnacle of shaping who I am personally and professionally.
             My journey began when I entered first grade. I was already a reader, or so I have been told. However, I struggled this first year at school. I was always getting into trouble and consistently had parent-teacher conferences within the first few months. I would tote around my Arthur and Magic Treehouse series books in my backpack to bring out at recess to read. However, at one of these parent-teacher conferences, my first grade teacher attempted to convince my mother that I needed to be enrolled in the D-1, “developmental first” grade class. In essence, this class was a remedial first grade class, intended for students who were in kindergarten, who were “not ready” for true first grade yet. This baffled my mother. How could her child, who was reading chapter books in first grade, need to be moved into the “D1” class? Well, long answer short and after much testing, I was moved into an advanced reading workshop during reading time from my first grade classroom. “Testing” proved that I was simply bored. This was the first real push that I gained towards enjoying and becoming wholly obsessed with reading.
             All throughout elementary school, I went about reading all of the Little House on the Prairie books. I had hit true misery when I finished that series and realized that I needed to find something new. This was daunting task because, what I now realize, I am captivated by books in a series especially books that I deem “good.” Here enters the Harry Potter series.
             I can single-handedly say the Harry Potter series changed my life and projected my future path to where I am today. In my earlier years, this series would be to blame for my staying up too late, getting grounded, and detentions. I could not put these books down. I imagined myself in the world of Hogwarts, trailing behind Ron, Hermione, and Harry down the giant halls into the Gryffindor common room. I obviously was a Gryffindor. Here, I truly learned to visualize a story and to teleport (or take the Floo Network) into a story as if I were a character there. My glittering imagination allowed me to enter a world of paradise, thrill, and friendship.
             However, venturing into my adult years, Harry Potter has taken a significantly different meaning. This series turned into a “safe place” of sorts for me. I learned how to deal with and work through my emotions and trials through passages and quotes written by J.K Rowling such as, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
I learned to navigate friendships that were at times tough and strained, “Those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.”
 I finally came to understand the limitless bounds of a parent’s love, “Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”
I am overcoming the grief of loss and death of a close friend through the profound weight and wisdom of the words, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
             I am still finding new ways that my literacy history impacts and lingers upon my students. The first and foremost being my passion for helping students find that “just right” book or series to fall spellbound by. This is shown in my extensive classroom library and amazon tax receipts of books I just have to purchase for that one kid I know will love. I hope that my passion in unpacking and grappling with a short story or novel is as evident to my students as I feel in the moments I am teaching it.  I know that my history with literacy and reading with continue to impact my students in a way that hopefully draws them closer to finding their passion for reading, even if it’s just that one book.

 

Do any of you have that one book or series that changed your life or was super impactful? I would love to hear about it!

-Stephanie

1 Comment

Filed under books, lifestyle, literature, teach

Simplicity

Image

“Why do nice people choose the wrong people to date?

Are we talking about anyone specific?

[Charlie nods]

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Can we make them know they deserve more?

We can try.”

–Stephen Chbosky The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I recently paid homage to one of my favorite new(ish) young adult literature novels at the wedding of my husband and I. I, obviously, am a sucker for good, emotional quotes.  Ever since I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I have had a really difficult time clearing the novel from my mind. So many of the words resonate deeply within me. Therefore, I find myself returning to what I really feel is a true representation of art.  The writing is brilliant and the themes, unfortunately, ring so true with the teens of this day and age. Authors JK Rowling and John Green have such marvelous and uncanny abilities to relate to the mindset of young adults, tying in difficult and relevant themes that not only allow for great entertainment but also lends clarity for young minds struggling with adolescence and who are diving deeply into their literature.

Stephen Chbosky has this same rich ability. Chbosky develops characters that are real and transparent. Characters that foster the same personas as friends I could have had in high school. Personally my favorite is not even “technically” considered a main character, but he is simple and honest. His transparency allows for a slight flicker of hope to be placed into Charlie, a freshman in high school attempting to overcome an arduous inner struggle.  Mr. Anderson, Bill, never becomes more than Mr. Anderson. He simply is a compassionate teacher who gives out good books and good advice.  This compassion and simplicity leaves a meaningful legacy onto Charlie that I crave in teaching.

As romanticized of a teacher Mr. Anderson is in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I truly hope that one day I will have such a meaningful and intense impact on one of my student’s lives as he had with Charlie.

Just one student.

I think this profoundness is what drives me deeper into my passion for students. I am not saying I am trying to be a lifesaver, to vastly alter the paths that some troubled students are walking along, or to be some sort of life-long influence in the future of a student.  I simply want to exist as a constant positive in a student’s life, and sometimes give out novels that left a lasting effect on me to students that seem in need of some extra care.

I know I cannot force my students to love literature as much as I do.

I know I cannot force students to have such life altering experiences from novels as I have had.

But as a teacher-and simply a caring teacher- I hope I can be a ray of hope in some student’s life, even if I never know the influence I had on anyone. All I can ever hope for is my wisdom, compassion, or advice to live on as my legacy.

Until next time,

Stephanie

Leave a comment

Filed under books, lifestyle, literature, teacher, young adult literautre

Marriage and Romance Novels

Image

“But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” -John Green Looking for Alaska

Marrying my husband set a whirlwind of emotions inside of me that I have not been able to quite shake. If I could sum up my emotions on my wedding day the phrase that resonates within me would be that of pure joy. I’m sure all of our close family and friends that attended would qualify that notion by how huge Scott and I’s smiles were throughout the day. I was promising my life to the most compassionate and caring man I have ever come to know, making the covenant we now hold sacred.

Recently there has been an uncanny shift in the type of novels that I usually choose to read. My go-to for the past few years or so has been in the Sci-Fy/Fantasy YAL genre. My obsessions usually included the Harry Potter series, The Maze Runner series, and anything dystopian/vampy/zombie fiction. So, with this background information, it should come as a complete and utter shock that I have really been delving into romance novels. For this, I blame my wedding.

For some reason or another I find myself reading novels and craving romantic scenes with the characters. My real life love and enamor with my husband seems to project onto what I want of my literature.  My kindle, my most prized possession, usually holds titles such as The Maze Runner, Divergent, Ender’s Game, and Brave New World along with classics that I am trying to catch up on for my new teaching career. However, upon pulling up my home page, Wuthering Heights (a lovely classic), Redeeming Love (such a fantastic example of true love), and Looking for Alaska (teenage love tugs at my heart) all attest to my recent change in genre. Instead of techno/science action scenes, I find myself finding comfort in intimate, “kissy”, steamy, true and pure love scenes. Again, I blame this on my wedding.

I suppose this new shift in what I want for my reading materials comes from the profound and pure love that I am growing into with my husband. Every day breeds new experiences and trials that our love explores, deepens, and perseveres. Reading about fictional character’s love allows me to gain ever-changing perspectives and allows me the opportunity to explore beyond what I “think” love should be.

Most recently I read Redeeming Love. The beauty of this novel, usually categorized as inspirational romance, is not just the powerful, biblically rooted love story that engages between Michael and Angel. It is about rising up from the ashes of despair in your life and finding and knowing that you are worthy.

I am worthy. I am worthy not only to my husband but to my Creator as well. This knowledge leads us to the unparalleled ways that love and faith can conquer all, and that my marriage is going to be a loving and fulfilling journey for years to come.

Until next time,

Stephanie

3 Comments

Filed under lifestyle, Marriage

The Green Light.

Image

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And then one fine morning—  So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby

The idea of “the green light” has resonated within my mind since turning the musty, worn pages of The Great Gatsby in my junior year of high school. My wonderful, knowledgeable, and compassionate teacher, Mrs. Forthun, unknowingly planted a seedling in my mind that would not know real growth until my sophomore year studies at Louisiana State University.

For years F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words haunted me. Every year since high school, I went back to the first true novel I fell deeply in love with. Unknowingly I was more like the character Gatsby than I had ever imagined. I constantly chased after my “green light.” I too lived in the same notion of disillusionment that was so closely associated with the glamorous and lively 20’s. I chased lofty, unreachable goals, much like Gatsby’s chase of Daisy. We both failed at attaining our green lights miserably. Living for the past is poison to the furthering of our lives.

Re-reading The Great Gatsby, as I did at least once a year, three years ago changed my outlook on life. I realized I was living a life seemingly paralleled to Gatsby’s. I was living for an end I would never attain. My true passions stared me in the face taking the form of black ink on a worn, yellowed piece of paper. Since that moment, I knew I was destined to be a teacher. To help shape young minds, just as mine was shaped by the most influential teacher I studied with. My passion for English was obvious and that same passion became my devotion to school and my life with the loving support of my husband. Gatsby’s disillusionment followed him to his end, but I was not going to let that same end befall. My green light slowly faded into the darkness and transformed into a real hope, a real dream, and a real future.

As of now, my real future consists of the loving husband I recently vowed to love for the rest of my life.

As of now, my real future consists of the teaching position I recently took to teach 6th graders in a very low-income school in Denver, CO.

Stones have been set to line the path of my future and I could not be more excited, enthralled, and scared for what is before me. But, I hope that you will be following my steps and learning from my mistakes along the way.

Until next time,

Stephanie

3 Comments

Filed under lifestyle