Re-addressing High School Students’ Novel Needs: Choosing and Using Popular Young Adult Fiction in High School English Classrooms

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  • This project offers designs for lesson plans, based on the popular young adult literature (YAL) and television series Pretty Little Liars (PLL), by Sara Shepard, in an effort to encourage grade 10 English teachers to use YAL that is popular with their students in their classrooms. The individual lesson plans—which can be used separately or mixed and matched to contribute to a unit plan—are based on positive identity formation, transactional reading, student-centered learning, multiple forms of representation and bidirectional learning between student and teacher. The lessons include: identity development as constructed in literature and high school life; analyzing character through found poetry; examining life (or lack thereof) without technology, an autobiographical challenge; comparing and contrasting literature and television; exploring fan culture and its effects on literature, television and film; and a final project in which students collaborate with the teacher to determine what their final project will be, how learning will be defined and how it will be represented. This masters’ project begins by drawing the reader’s attention to the notion that many texts chosen for study in the English classroom go unread because they fail to engage the students. A literature review follows detailing the classic English canon and studies conducted regarding its use and student engagement as well as the benefits of using YAL in the classroom. The literature review then looks at possible reasons why teachers aren’t bringing YAL into the English classroom, finally turning its focus on two areas of literacy research, silent sustained reading and the connection between literature and identity development. The literature review is followed by a description of the PLL books and the TV series, focusing on the differences between the two and the most salient factors in each medium. Reasons for choosing the PLL series for this project are explained, such as: pop culture tie-ins enabling students to take the role of experts in classroom; the plotlines offering excellent examples for a study of identity development; the (mis)use of technology; a TV counterpart; numerous allusions; insights into the opposite sex; and the idea that this series was chosen based on the psychology of the teenager rather than trying to guess what teens may find engaging. The type of teacher who may want to teach this unit is described as one who is willing to collaborate with students, is willing to let students develop their own meanings and one who is familiar with the series. It is intended the project will be disseminated via PLL fan sites.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International