Friday, November 16, 2007

Chapter 11

Journal Entry # 11

Now that you have read a number of works for young adults, identify characteristics of this genre. Reflect on the similarities and differences with more traditional works.

YAL is written for and about young adults. The protagonist in YAL is young, realistic, and someone who young adult readers can relate to. The other characters such as adults or parents are often undeveloped and they are presented through the eyes of the protagonist. YAL usually deals with issues which are related to young adults such as friendship, inner and outer conflicts, dealing with peer pressure, searching for identity, dealing with parents and other adults in authority, dealing with drugs, alcohol, and sexual experimentation.

The language and register used in YAL are contemporary and authentic which young adults can also relate to. The setting often involves the places where young adults spend a lot of their time such as schools or recreational places. YAL usually have a single plot line which is realistic and fast moving with a lot of dialogs.

Traditional works on the other hand, deal with adult issues such as parenting, marriage, or divorce. Both traditional and young adult literatures share some common issues like romance, friendship, and even dangerous substance abuse. The traditional works, however, have multiple plots, slower pace, longer time frame, and are more complicated.

The protagonists of the traditional works are adult. The language used in more traditional works such as words, style, and sentences can be too complex or even alien to young adults. Thus, traditional works make young adults connection more difficult and they are less enjoyable reading materials for them. Therefore, curriculum developers must take this issue into consideration if life-long learning and love for reading are to be instilled in young adults.

Chapter 10

Journal Entry # 10

How does discussion help you understand your feelings and clarify your thinking about a selection you are reading? How does writing help you understand your feelings and clarify your thinking about a selection you are reading?

Nobody, including our professors and lecturers, know everything, but everybody knows and can contribute something. This is the essence of discussion where students share knowledge among each other. No scholar could write or teach anything without the work of other scholars. In the same way, group discussion clarifies the course materials more fully than any student could do alone. Discussion opens a whole new opportunity to express our feelings about what we read. In addition, a well organized and thought out discussion helps students develop higher level thinking skills.

Writing on the other hand, helps us reflect on issues which we have read. Writing also helps us to stay focused and alert. Thus it prevents us from daydreaming, losing our train of thought, or worse, falling asleep. Writing forces us to think through clearly the thoughts we are trying to express because our readers are unable to ask questions to clarify what is written. When we write we will usually reread what we have written to check for clarity and then rewrite to improve our writing. This process will lead to deeper processing of what we have read.

So both discussion and writing help us to understand our feelings and clarify our thinking about what we have read. Discussion does this by providing a sounding board for our ideas as well as providing contrasting opinions. Writing does this by forcing us to reflect more deeply and clarify our ideas for an audience that will be unable to ask for clarification.

Chapter 9

Journal Entry # 9

How do you think that your understanding and appreciation of literature can be enhanced by working either in pairs or in small groups?

Two heads are better than one. Our understanding of an issue is very much influenced by our own past experience. Since other people have different experiences from us, their understanding of the same issue might be totally different from ours. Therefore when we work in pairs or in small groups to discuss our reading with others, we can share the differences and we can look at the issue in another person’s perspective.

Group work and pair work allow us to exchange ideas with the group members, which in turn fosters the sense of belonging and respect for each. We also learn to be tolerant especially if our points of view differ from the others. That does not mean that they are wrong. If we keep an open mind and are willing to accept these differences we will have more enriching and meaningful lives. So our understanding and appreciation of literature is enhanced by working in pairs or small groups because we get to hear other people’s ideas and share our ideas with them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chapter 8

Journal Entry # 8
Examine several YAL books. Identify and explain the factors that influence whether or not you will read a book.

I never really thought about this issue before. One thing for sure is that I never judge a book by its cover, although Brown and Stephen said that book covers are effective in influencing students’ reading selection. I guess I do get wiser as I become older, because looks do not deceive me anymore. However, I do read the synopsis or the comments at the back cover of the book to see what the story is all about. Another factor which influences my interest is the plot of the story. I do prefer a relatively fast paced story to the one which drags on the same issue for too long. I also like humor, contemporary realistic fiction, and adventure.

As mentioned by Brown and Stephen, qualities such as “authentic dialogs, clarity of language, vivid images, rich but not effusive descriptions” also influence my reading choice. I think the novels Hero, Ganesh, and If You Come Softly do have all these qualities. They were so riveting that I simply could not put them down until I finished them. Beethoven in Paradise does have the clarity of language but I found it not as riveting as the previous three novels. I like Chinese Handcuff but it could be a bit confusing at the beginning because it has a lot of flashbacks which can interfere with the chronological flow of the plot. I think Chinese Handcuff is also very “American” and I wonder if students and even some of the lecturers at my college would understand some of the phrases and words used.

Chapter 7

Journal Entry # 7
Describe your favorite K-12 teacher of literature, the methods used, and the learning environment established in the classroom.

I wish I could say there was a favorite literature teacher of mine from my adolescent years. But the truth is I had never taken any literature classes until the one that I am taking now. I guess my only favorite literature teacher has to be you Dr Edwin. I didn’t know that I would love a literature class as much as I do. Previously, when I read novels I never bothered to pay great attention to the details such as the descriptive part of it. But now, whenever I read I become more critical. I guess that’s the difference between those who learn and those who do not.

Being a part-time student and a full-time wife, mother, and employee does take a toll on my sanity at times. However, I do feel a great sense of satisfaction every time I am done with my assignments. I think it really helps the fact that we have many little assignments rather than one or two big ones. It especially helps when the final exam only carries 20 percent of the total marks. I like group work, workshops, and presentations which are the regular features of the class.

The learning environment is also very relaxing. I feel comfortable asking questions and sharing my opinions with the rest of my classmates. I really enjoy reading the novels and sometimes I feel guilty because I caught myself spending more time reading them compared to reading and reviewing other text books for my classes.

Chapter 6

Journal Entry # 6
Recognizing the range and diversity of readers in a classroom, how do you think YAL can help a teacher to meet their needs?

Teaching English in Malaysia is a real challenge. There are so many different types of learners in a classroom, from a very low to a relatively high proficiency. Some like to read mystery and others prefer contemporary realistic fiction. Some love to read novels while others like poetry or short stories. Their proficiency levels depend a lot on their family background. Although I am not a teacher, I often share the frustration of my teaching colleagues about the problems they have with their students’ English proficiency. Students who grew up in a family where English is widely used as a means of communication definitely have a better command and understanding of the language. The area where they grew up also plays an important role in determining their English proficiency. For example, students who grew up in a big city such as Kuala Lumpur definitely have more exposure to English as compared to those who grew up in a remote FELDA settlement.

However, teachers can make full use of variety of genres and different levels of language difficulty in YAL which are available to them. As we all know one key to getting students to read is by providing access to the types of materials they want to read. Teachers must try their best to elicit their students’ interest through distribution of a questionnaire in their class. Once the teachers obtain this information they can make arrangement with the school or college librarian to order many different genres of books to satisfy the many different types of readers they have.

Chapter 5

Journal Entry # 5
What benefits do you receive when you have opportunities to share what you are reading with others? What ways of sharing do you enjoy the most?

Knowledge is meant to be shared. Unlike material possessions, knowledge will not be depleted when it is shared with others. In fact, the more people we share our knowledge with, the deeper our understanding about the subject will be. Different people have different ways of looking at things so when we share our readings with others we get different feedback and see the same issue in different perspectives.

Besides improving our own understanding about certain issues, we can also help others solving their problems by relating the solutions mentioned in our readings which deals with similar problems faced by the people we are sharing with. I believe that helping others is a form of therapy because it gives us a sense of usefulness and purpose in our lives.

I have shared the novels which I read for this class with my eldest son who is thirteen years old, my husband, and friends. There are many ways of sharing what we are reading with others such as through discussing the issues with a group of friends or students, sending emails, writing in electronic and conventional journals, writing book reviews in the newspaper, being a member of a book club, and chatting on the internet. Personally, I like sharing by talking directly to others because in that way I get immediate feedback and it is really satisfying.

Chapter 4

Journal Entry # 4
Reflect on the YAL you are reading along with this textbook. What insights into yourself or others have you gained from these readings?

The moment I read the synopsis of the novel If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, I knew I would enjoy the book. The novel was beautifully written about an inter-racial relationship between a Caucasian girl of a Jewish background named Elisha and an African-American boy named Jeremiah.

As open-minded and sophisticated we think we are in this modern world, there are certain things which people still frown upon when they happen. One such thing is an inter-racial relationship. Being a person who has gone through a similar situation, I do find that this kind of relationship is very challenging and not everyone is cut out to go through it successfully.

Similar to the story, my husband’s family was very much open and accepting towards the idea. Unlike the story, my relationship ends with a happy ending whereas theirs ended up in a tragedy caused by the death of Jeremiah. Elisha’s fear of informing her parents about their relationship seems so real because I was also going through the same feelings of apprehension facing my parents twenty years ago. I remember the time when I was feeling so scared to inform my parents that I had a special friend from a different race. Somehow, I managed to gather my strength and told them about it. Their initial response was exactly as what I had expected which was a definite no. Patience and perseverance were the only weapons I had and they worked.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Journal Entry # 2 and 3

Journal Entry # 2

I have read quite a lot of novels, some of which are marvelous, and some are ok, and a few are not worth mentioning at all. If I were to choose 2 authors, I would definitely choose Arthur Hailey and John Grisham. Since I can only choose one, I just tossed a coin and Grisham won. I have to give this man a lot of credits for making me read more and more of his books although law was not my cup of tea and still is not until today. Somehow Grisham has managed to make me understand more than just a few legal terms and got me interested enough to spend quite a lot of money to buy his books. He makes the legal jargons seem bearable to a lay person like me.

I also like the way he introduces his characters and the way he merges the plot together. The language which is used in his books (at least the ones which I have read) is not so offensive because I dislike books with too much offensive words. Most of them are unnecessary anyway.

Journal Entry # 3

I was never a reader during my secondary school years, especially reading materials in English. I contributed that habit or lack of it to my poor command of the language. However, I picked up the habit when I was studying in the US. I was impressed with the westerners who seemed to be reading endlessly, at the airport, at a bus station, in a fast food restaurant, at a bank (while waiting in line), and even under the trees around the campus. I guess my subconscious mind was succeeded in persuading me to start reading.

I read quite a bit of novels and magazines but nothing really stuck to my mind until I read a book titled “Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa” by Keith B. Richburg. The author is an African American journalist going on a tour to write a story on the African continent for the Washington Post. Before setting foot in the continent, he always dreamt of Africa being such a wonderful country where his ancestor came from, “like the adopted child imagines the birth parent”. His imagination encountered such a rude awakening. He witnessed so much suffering and senseless cruelty. When he finally got out of Africa three years later, he realized that black skin is not enough to bind him to Africa and that he is first and foremost a true American.

The great lesson which I learned from the book is that to always be grateful for what we have because the grass on the other side of the fence is not as green as it looks when you get to it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Chapter 1

Journal Entry # 1
Describe any experiences you have had with young adult literature. What do you think of when you hear this term?

Young adult literature… What? Literature? That term used to scare the daylights out of me. The first thing that comes to my mind when ever I hear the word literature is Shakespeare. The funny thing is that I didn’t even know what Shakespeare is all about, and still don’t know. I guess my fear was definitely related to the fact that my English was very bad when I was growing up. In case if any inquiring minds want to know, I got a 7 in my SPM back in 1980. Wow, has it been that long ago? I guess time really flies when I am having fun.

Well, let’s get back to our original topic, young adult literature or YAL. Frankly, I had no idea what I was heading for. But lo and behold, the first day of Dr Edwin’s lecture was riveting. I was thinking to myself… Hmm, this subject is not bad at all. If only I knew that, I would have taken one or two literature classes when I was studying for my first degree. I guess the old adage still holds true i.e. it’s better late than never.

I guess if I ever decide to become a lecturer at a college or university (by the way, I am currently working as an administrator at a college), I will definitely include many extracts from YAL novels as regular materials for my class. I really believe that reading is such a wonderful activity especially among the young ones. When you read, you are instantly transported to another world which is known only to you and the pages that are being flipped.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hello everyone

Just testing my newly created blog..