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Suggestions for 9th Grade Literature co-op class?

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I'm working on structuring a 9th grade lit class for our co-op. The co-op meets for one hour 20 min once a week for 30 weeks.  I'm thinking of a mix of short stories, at least two novels, one Shakespeare play, and some drama, poetry, and mythology. I'd like to emphasize literary terms and include learning basics of research paper writing (probably a 5-6 page research paper). 

Suggestions for how to structure, and specific literature recommendations?  I'm asking as I've gotten excellent suggestions in the past for other lit classes.

My student is a good reader and likes to discuss literature. I'd like to challenge her a bit. I'm planning on following up with American Lit for 10th, British Lit for 11th, and World Lit for 12th.  But I'm also open to doing semester classes which are more focused.



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For a number of years I have been teaching high school Lit. & Writing for 1.0 of English at our homeschool co-op. It is a somewhat similar set-up as to what you describe: 1x/week, 90-min. class, 15-16 week-long semesters for a total of 30-32 weeks. 

re: structure recommendations

teaching writing -- i.e. the research paper 

If this is meant to be JUST a Lit. class (not a full 1.0 credit English course of Lit. + Writing), then I would solely focus on the literature, and NOT include ANY writing assignments. Or if you do, then just a few short reader responses to some of the works each semester, and YOU are NOT doing the grading. AND you are NOT teaching of how to do the writing.

Why I say this: something that really took me by surprise when I started teaching co-op classes is how MANY of my students are either remedial / have LDs with writing; are struggling writers; or families just haven't done much writing because of the combo of parent doesn't know how to pull it off and student hates to write. I discovered I had to actually teach Writing, alongside with doing the Literature, so I had to completely restructure my weekly class time, as well as the entire schedule for the year, so that for each class I have about 50 minutes to spend on Literature, because I need about 40 minutes to spend on teaching Writing. And the amount of time I spend on grading & providing meaningful feedback on the writing is HUGE -- I mean HOURS a week. 😵

So really think hard about about the idea of offering teaching the research paper on top of the literature.

scheduling of the literature
Another structural thing is you may find you need to spread out novels or Shakespeare over more weeks than originally planned. I find that a lot of my students have dyslexia or other reading difficulties, so I try to provide links to free audiobook versions, or links to YouTube where someone is reading the poem or short story, so students can listen and read simultaneously. The average readers seem to be able to handle about 75-90 pages of a novel per week -- a bit more if it is simply written (example: a YA novel) or if there is not a ton of stuff for literary analysis to stop and dig in to -- a bit less if it is literature in translation or is in epic poetry format (the Odyssey or Beowulf, for example), or has older vocabulary and complex sentence structure (like Dickens). 

class size
One other thing I have found to be helpful structurally is to  limit the class size. I find 8 students to be a good minimum, and 12 a good maximum. At about 10 students, the shy ones start shutting down and don't voluntarily participate, and also freeze up if you call on them. And with more than 12 students, NO one wants to participate -- not to mention that class control/management gets harder with more than 12 students. Also, the more students you have the more time it takes you at home to grade any work they turn in -- and especially to be able to provide helpful feedback on papers. 

Fewer students reduces those problems. I have successfully run a class with just 6 students, but any time 1 or more students didn't come to class (sick, out of town, schedule conflict), it was harder to have discussion or do any in-class activities. (one week I had just 3 students -- discussion was SUPER hard to make happen, lol.) So a minimum of 8 students works well for me, as with inevitable missing of classes, that still leaves you with enough students to carry on with.

re: literature recommendations
I'd recommend using Figuratively Speaking as your "spine" for teaching literary elements. Some of the exercises in the book could be done in your class, all together, as an in-class activity. And you could choose some poetry and short stories to practice some of the literary devices from the big list in this past thread: "Figuratively Speaking paired with short stories".

weekly take-home lesson
Also: students often have no clue when it comes to what to look for beyond plot, and have no thoughts to share for discussion. So I find it VERY VERY helpful (needful, lol) to give them a weekly lesson with some teaching info/background about the work/author or about a literature topic, and then some questions to help guide their thinking a bit as they are reading. Knowing that the questions in that weekly lesson are some of the questions we will discuss in class helps jump start some advance thinking for students who aren't used to digging deeper into the literature

On 6/2/2021 at 7:58 PM, provenance61 said:

... I'm thinking of a mix of short stories, at least two novels, one Shakespeare play, and some drama, poetry, and mythology...

So most of the works I've done with my classes fall in sci-fi/fantasy/speculative genres (US & UK), some realistic fiction (American lit.), and Medieval lit. (British lit.) 

Short stories -- definitely check out that link above. Short stories I've done in with my students:
- "The Monkey's Paw" (Jacobs) -- gothic / horror
- "All Summer in a Day" (Bradbury) -- sci-fi
- "There Will Come Soft Rains" (Bradbury) -- sci-fi
- "Farmer Giles of Ham" (Tolkien) -- long short story; humorous mock epic

Novels -- these are a few I've done with students that went over pretty well, esp. with 8th/9th graders just getting started with digging deeper and discussing literature:
- The Invisible Man (Wells) -- novella; speculative fiction
- Call of the Wild (London) -- novella; usually middle school level, but the older language/sentence structure can be tough
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee) -- realistic
- The Hobbit (Tolkien) -- fantasy
- Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury) -- sci-fi
- Ender's Game (Card) -- sci-fi / dystopia

Shakespeare -- I've only done the one with a class; it's straight forward and shorter:
- Macbeth

A lot of my students don't seem to enjoy the poetry we've done, even when we dig into it a bit and they get some insight. I think it is hard for the black & white thinkers -- poetry is NOT plot-driven, but is idea-driven and is expressed through metaphor and imagery, which can be tough for students to tackle. You might look at Tania Runyan's short book How to Read a Poem to provide some basic help for how to tackle a poem.

I haven't had a chance to include some myths in my classes, but that would be fun! 😄 

BEST of luck as you plan. Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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Our co-op used this curriculum for a lit class, and everyone really enjoyed it. It doesn't have everything on your list, but it does include literary terms, short stories, Shakespeare, and some novels. There is no writing instruction, so you would have to add in the research writing. 


IEW's Windows to the World is also a good 9th grade choice to introduce writing literary analysis. 



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