It’s so easy to do things as they’ve always been done. Why fix what’s isn’t broken, right? But what if that tried-and-true way of doing things doesn’t work in your classroom or for your kids?
Today’s topic is Rethinking the Literary Canon. While this canon is a general compilation of the best literary works of our time, have you ever thought about whether your classes have any interest in these classic readings, mainly by White male authors? Do they zone out or become entranced in the stories? Do you feel they really teach something new or do they perpetuate the traditional White experience that our students see everyday in their own lives?
In this interview with Jennifer Williams, we discuss how to get our kids more engaged in class by choosing literature that is more current and speaks to their current lives. Jennifer is an Oklahoma teacher with 13 years under her belt and a staunch advocate for rethinking the Literary Canon. While there is a place for the classics that we all read in school, many kids – especially minorities – simply don’t relate to these stories and that’s where you as a teacher need to carefully choose books whose characters are relatable and more current. While it’s important to teach and learn about experiences that are not our own, teaching becomes much easier when the kids have a real interest in what’s happening in the story.
Resources mentioned in today’s episode
- Jennifer’s original article: reThinking The Literary Canon: Part 1
- Best TED Talks For High School Students
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- Unwind by Neal Shusterman
- Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- The reThink ELA Social Justice Writing Project
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my Master’s of Education in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.