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Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements: How to Teach What Really Matters About Character, Setting, Point of View, and Theme Paperback – January 1, 2010


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Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements: How to Teach What Really Matters About Character, Setting, Point of View, and Theme + When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 + The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 and up
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Teaching Resources (Theory an (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545052564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545052566
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jeffery D. Wilhelm, Ph.D, is a Professor of English at Boise State University where he teaches courses in middle and secondary level literacy. He works in local schools as part of the Professional Development Site Network, and teaches middle and high school students each spring. He is the author of several Scholastic resources, including Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies, Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension, Reading Is Seeing, and Engaging Readers & Writers with Inquiry. Michael W. Smith, is a professor in the College of Education at Temple University and former high school teacher for 11 years. He has written a wide variety of articles and chapters as well as eight books, including Authorizing Readers: Resistance and Respect in the Teaching of Literature (with Peter Rabinowitz) and Understanding Unreliable Narrators.

Customer Reviews

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Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith show that there is a better way.
Ken C.
Each section contains some great examples of how to introduce and practice these elements in your classroom.
Jon Hampton
If you are a reading teacher with teens and above, I suggest you read this book.
N. Czaja

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 12, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Literary analysis? The very words fill students with dread. They also send said students diving for the mouse and the monitor to hunt up SparkNotes or some other site designed to do the thinking for them.

Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith show that there is a better way. Through inquiry, they launch units with essential questions tailored to the literature in question (e.g. "What makes a good father/friend/hero/teacher?") followed by opinionnaires that invite students to share opinions on issues relevant to the text about to be read. From there, they show you how to follow up with activities designed to be used both during and after the book (or short story, poem, play, etc.).

The number one question teachers ask of a professional development book is what its theory-to-practicality ratio is. Here the theory is posited early and briefly. From there, the authors launch into chapters devoted to four areas: character, setting, point of view, and theme. In addition to their own ideas, Wilhelm and Smith share other researchers' ideas and leaven the mix with plenty of reproducible pages that are both high-interest AND rigorous. If you teach and feel like you've beat your head against the wall trying to get students to see beyond the superficial and the surface items in literature, you owe this book a test drive. Don't expect to be returning it to the dealer, either.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hampton on July 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Over the summer, I tend to order a few professional development books to help spark some creativity in my teaching. At this past year's NCTE, I heard the authors speak of their upcoming book, Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements: How to Teach What Really Matters About Character, Setting, Point of View, and Theme and decided to order it as one of my summer reads.

Overall, I'm impressed with what Smith and Wilhelm have done in their book. They call for some great educational practices, such as establishing context and purpose for instruction, the idea of transfer between the classroom and life, and the use of essential questions to help guide instruction. They go into great detail about how to approach the elements of characterization, setting, point of view, and theme. Each section contains some great examples of how to introduce and practice these elements in your classroom. I'm especially impressed with the activities on characterization and setting.

However, I do have a slight complaint about the book, which is its absence of plot structure. Looking at the end section, the authors give some cryptic remark about how they felt like plot isn't a transferable area...in fact, I think they actually say they are "stumped" as to how to teach plot. I understand that each plot is unique in its own way, but every story (with few exceptions) contains an exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution (if not, the sequel). They are right in stating that some stories do not contain denouement, but I can only think of one novel that doesn't fit into a typical plot structure: Finnegan's Wake.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Friedrich on August 19, 2010
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Smith and Wilhelm offer brilliant ideas for teaching theme, characterization, Point of View, etc.

I was especially impressed by the various activities the authors suggest to help students seriously engage with the full meaning--not the stock definition--of the various literary elements.

One could easily use their book to design an entire thoroughly engaging year of English Literature study. Bravo.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Diane Musick on March 9, 2010
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Offers a viewpoint different from the accepted for approaching the teaching of literary elements to secondary students, especially today's technology-literate students. Wilhelm is THE BOMB!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L. Haghighi on October 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Like the title suggests, this book offers fresh takes on teaching literary elements. I have only completed the portion on character, but my students seem to be understanding character and characterization more through the methods suggested in this book than through my previous teaching methods.

This book really shows how to connect teaching literary elements to students' lives, rather than just teaching them in segmented chunks or connected to a story.

I would recommend this book to any teacher wanting to find new and engaging methods for teaching literary elements.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elvin Ortiz on December 30, 2010
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This book is an eye opener into literary analysis. Although I had already been approaching my units on fiction in a similar fashion to the authors' advice here, its explanations on character, setting, point of view, and theme are quite substantial and meaningful. I do remember the first time I approached teaching literature in a traditional way, through definitions, and now I wish I had had this type of guidance then. The chapter that I found most useful was the one on point of view. Even though I had figured out on my own the meaningful teaching of character, setting, and theme, I always wondered about the first person and third person distinction. I've seen these exercises and they just don't make sense to me. This text certainly clarified this important aspect and it will be helpful in crafting guiding questions for my lessons.
Teachers should also note their explanations on why they didn't explore in depth the concepts of plot and conflict. And I agree with them. After all, you have to deal with these concepts when discussing the other four elements. Character, setting, point of view, and theme are at the essence of literary understanding.
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