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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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About the Author
Jeffrey Wilhelm is coauthor with Michael Smith and James Fredricksen of Get It Done!; Oh, Yeah?!; and So, What's the Story?. Jeff has cowritten or coedited four other Heinemann books, Going with the Flow, "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys," Strategic Reading, and Imagining to Learn. For Chevys he and coauthor Jeff Wilhelm received the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. Jeff is an internationally-known teacher, author, and presenter. He is driven by a desire to help teachers to help their students to more powerful literacy and compassionate, democratic living. What he most wants for teachers to get out of his work is motivation, a vital passion and impulse to continue experimenting and learning about teaching, as well as ways to frame instruction so it is meaningful and compelling to students. A classroom teacher for fifteen years, Jeff is currently Professor of English Education at Boise State University. He works in local schools as part of a Virtual Professional Development Site Network sponsored by the Boise State Writing Project, and regularly teaches middle and high school students. He is the founding director of the Maine Writing Project and the Boise State Writing Project. He has authored or coauthored numerous books and articles about literacy teaching and learning. In addition to the Russell award, his "You Gotta BE the Book" won the NCTE Promising Research Award. Jeff has worked on numerous materials and software programs for students including Scholastic's e21 and ReadAbout, and has edited a series of 100 books for reluctant readers entitled The Ten. Jeff enjoys speaking, presenting, working with students and schools. He is currently researching how students read and engage with non-traditional texts like video game narratives, manga, horror, fantasy, etc. as well as the effects of inquiry teaching on teachers, students, and learning. Jeff grew up on a small strawberry farm in Northeastern Ohio. He loved the Hardy Boys as a boy, and has continued to love reading ever since, progressing through Hermann Hesse, John Steinbeck, and James Baldwin as literary mentors. In high school he was named a Harrier All-American for cross-country and track. He was then a two-time Small College All-American in Cross-country. He has competed Internationally in cross country, track, and nordic skiing. He now enjoys marathon nordic skiing and whitewater kayaking.
Deborah Appleman is Professor of Educational Studies and Director of the Summer Writing Program at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Her primary interests include adolescent response to literature, multicultural literature, and the teaching of literary theory to high school students. A high school English teacher for nine years, Deborah works weekly with high school teachers and students in both urban and suburban schools. She is the author of Critical Encounters in High School English.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Highly theoretical, not practical. Writing style is very verbose, little substance.Published 4 months ago by Lissa Parker
I have been assigned chapters to read, but have found myself reading the entire text. I am a teacher, and have been for almost 20 years, but am learning from this text. Read morePublished on February 1, 2014 by N. Czaja
Outstanding ideas and activities to help kids really understand WHY learning about literary elements is worth their time. Read morePublished on July 8, 2013 by Elisabeth Guimbarda
I used this book to teach the literary elements to 5th through 8th graders. They enjoyed the lessons and produced excellent work. Read morePublished on May 31, 2013 by teachinreadin
I wish the handouts in the book were typed so I could use them more easily - a lot of the book is formatted in a way that isn't super accesible. Read morePublished on February 8, 2013 by Optimistic Reader
This is the best book I have seen on literary elements. Each element is presented in depth with new insight and sparks meaningful discussion.Published on November 16, 2012 by Linda E.
This book has proven to be a very valuable resource. I currently teach 7th grade Language Arts and have shared some of the information with my colleagues and we have started using... Read morePublished on November 25, 2011 by seh0818