National Writing Project

Literature for my Classroom: What's Out There?

By: Ed Osterman
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 6, No. 2
Date: March-April 2001

Summary: Teachers at the New York City Writing Project compiled an annotated bibliography of fiction and nonfiction, with suggested activities and related resources.


Literature for My Classroom: What's Out There? is an annotated bibliography of fiction and nonfiction with suggested activities and related resources. It was compiled by middle school and high school teachers who participated in the New York City Writing Project Advanced Summer Seminars, 1996–1998. These summer seminars were the result of several needs. First, many New York City teachers had grown tired of the books that sat on the shelves of English department book rooms, acknowledging that many of these books were now regarded with indifference by the students. Second, we realized that we needed to broaden the kinds of literature that we brought to classrooms to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse student body. Finally, teachers admitted that they simply did not have enough free time during the school year to read.

The advanced seminar was created to address these concerns. We believed that we could find new authors and works of literature that might excite our students if only we had the time to read and consider them. Although the introduction to the monograph provides a detailed description of the three summer seminars (the format, activities, and outcomes), the goal of the seminar was simply defined: find literature that one could bring back to the classroom. With this aim in mind, the participating teachers joined book groups centered around themes or grade levels and remained with these groups for the duration of the seminar. In these groups, participants selected and read a range of literature, maintained reading logs to generate discussion about the books, identified themes, discussed pedagogical issues, and brainstormed potential reading/writing activities to support these texts. At the culmination of each seminar, book groups shared their findings with the rest of the class through some form of dramatic presentation and assembled an annotated bibliography of everything they read. All of these small-group bibliographies were then compiled into one publication for the entire seminar.

This monograph combines work from the publications of all three summer seminars. The material has been organized into three major sections. First, there is a bibliographical list of authors and titles by themes, historical period, and/or cultural and ethnic categories. Next, there is an annotated bibliography of every title in the book. Finally, the longest section is a description of selected works with suggested classroom activities and related resources. The suggested instructional activities are only briefly listed, and there are two reasons for this. First, since the book was written by and for teachers associated with the National Writing Project, we assumed that excellent, experienced teachers would know how to prepare for and deliver most of the instructional activities mentioned with an understanding of the specific needs and abilities of a particular group of students. Second, space constraints prevented exhaustive detail on each suggestion. Thus, while we think new teachers will find this book to be a good resource, they may need some support in thinking through how to use some of the writing and learning activities included.

One final note, the editorial team, which was comprised of seven participants representing each summer, did not include every entry from the original publications. Though some of the original material has been omitted from the finished product, we think this monograph can serve as a useful reference for any teacher, whether or not he or she participated in these seminars.

About the Author Ed Osterman is associate director of the New York City Writing Project at Lehman College.

How can you get a copy of this book? Copies of Literature for My Classroom: What's Out There? are available for $15 each from the Institute for Literacy Studies, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY, 10468-1589. Ph: (718) 960-8758. Fax: (718) 960-8054. Checks should be made payable to the Research Foundation of CUNY.

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