YA literature and blogs

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the second in a series of posts about Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is April 17.

Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), teen lit day is intended to support librarians in their efforts to raise public awareness about the value of young-adult (YA) fiction, but I think any YA fan will find inspiration among the more than 30 ideas for supporting teen literature listed at YALSA’s wiki.

Suggestion #7 deals with book talks, a topic I took up in yesterday’s post.

I also am intrigued about the tremendous potential behind idea #27: create a YA book discussion blog.

I recently completed a review of the literature on web-based and social media in the secondary language arts classroom. One theme I explored was the pedagogical benefits of using blogs to enhance traditional practices such as writing instruction and literature discussion circles.

There is ample research evidence to suggest that blogs and other web-based media can breathe new life into that tired, old classroom staple known as the book discussion. In a 2003 English Journal article Will Richardson documented his first foray into classroom blogs, which involved students in his Modern American Literature course who were studying a best-selling, contemporary novel The Secret Life of Bees.

Richardson wanted to extend discussions of the novel by giving students time to reflect and comment on classroom activities. To that end, he set up a centralized class blog and asked students to post reflections and add quality comments to others’ reflections as well.

During the project he observed increased motivation and improved close reading of the text by students. The blog provided another dimension of assessment by allowing Richardson to see the extent to which students were following along with oral discussions in class. Ordinarily reticent students opened up and articulated thoughts more easily on the blog.

In a notable departure from literature discussions held in real time and space, blogs make it possible for real-world, authentic audiences to join students in conversation.

Using web space provided by the National Writing Project, Shelbie Witte devised the “Talkback Project,” a collaborative blog in which preservice English teachers and middle school students discussed young adult novels. (See Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, October 2007.)

After a few refinements, the Talkback Project flourished in its second semester, with student effort and collaboration exceeding Witte’s expectations: “The middle school students appreciated the preservice teachers’ thoroughness and the time they were spending to respond to their questions and reflections about the texts.” Word about the program quickly spread, and a father stationed in Iraq began reading the novels and contributing to his son’s weekly blog discussions.

Richardson also reported on the ease with which others outside his Modern American Literature class could engage in conversation with his students. Parents and even the author, Sue Monk Kidd, contributed to the discussions and enriched students’ understanding of the novel. Richardson wrote, “In many ways, the Web logs allowed them to see the work in a real-world context, not just as a classroom exercise.”

Authors and publishers are getting in on the act as well, harnessing Web 2.0 tools and platforms to create interactive environments for YA fans. More on this trend in my next post.

What do you think of supporting literature discussions with blogs?


1 Response to “YA literature and blogs”

  1. 1 YA Lit 2.0 « ThinkTime Trackback on 17 April, 2008 at 6:45 am

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