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Ediger , Marlow 

The Student, Teacher, and the Literature Curriculum. 
2000-08-04 

8p. 

Opinion Papers ( 120 ) 

MFOl/PCOl Plus Postage. 

Critical Thinking; Elementary Secondary Education; ^English 
Curriculum; Grouping (Instructional Purposes) ; 
Interdisciplinary Approach; ^Literature; Reading Material 
Selection; Student Evaluation; Student Needs 
Purpose (Reading) ; Response to Literature 



ABSTRACT 



The literature curriculum needs to broaden its scope to make 
for a richer set ot experiences for students. First, interdisciplinary 
learnings need adequate emphasis- -this means that students should have ample 
opportunities to relate content from the social science, academic sciences, 
mathematics, the fine arts, and physical education. Second, the literature 
curriculum should assist students to extend their thinking. Third, students 
should experience a literature curriculum that develops interest in learning. 
Fourth, students need to experience a literature curriculum that emphasizes 
critical thinking. Fifth, purpose in reading and learning in the literature 
curriculum is vital. Sixth, self selection of books in literature provides 
situations involving students feeling ownership of the ongoing experience. 
Seventh, meaning theory is important to the reader of quality literature. 
Eighth, students should have a voice in how to be evaluated in the literature 
curriculum. Ninth, balance needs to be in evidence pertaining to homogeneous 
and heterogeneous grouping when studying literature in its diverse 
manifestations. Tenth, students should have ample time to reflect upon what 
has been learned. (NKA) 



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The Student, Teacher, and the Literature Curriculum. 



by Marlow Ediger 



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THE STUDENT, TEACHER, AND THE LITERATURE CURRICULUM 






Objectives for a quality literature need to be selected carefully and 
thoughtfully. Each objective is important for students to achieve in 
reading good literature. Frequently, writers/speakers stress that students 
should achieve the following knowledge ends of instruction: 

1. characterization. 

2. setting of the story or novel. 

3. theme as presented by the writer. 

4. plot or what happened in the literary selection. 

5. irony and/or satire 

6. point of view. 

7. fiction and non-fiction (Ediger, 1988, Chapter Ten). 

These are important objectives, but do no go far enough in a 
quality literature curriculum. Which ingredients may be added to make 
for a comprehensive curriculum? 

Increasing the Scope of the Literature Curriculum 

The literature curriculum need to broaden its scope to make for a 
richer set of experiences for students. First, interdisciplinary learnings 
need adequate emphasis. This means that students should have ample 
opportunities to relate content from the social sciences, the academic 
science disciplines, mathematics, the fine arts, and physical education. 
Students should then be assisted to notice and think of subject matter 
as being related. With an integrated literature curriculum, students 
perceive knowledge and content as being one, rather than as separate 
component parts. The integration of ideas results in being able to 
remember and recall information more readily as compared to a separate 
subjects curriculum. One idea then triggers another idea due to the 
relationship of ideas. If content is perceived as having isolated parts, it 
is more complex to have this triggering of ideas (Ediger, 2000, 20-29). 

Second, the literature curriculum should assist students to extend 
their thinking. The literature selection being taught should provide a 
springboard for students to think of additional content that they would 
desire to read. To extend thinking, learners need to be guided by the 
instructor to identify questions for which answers need to be sought. 
These questions become problem areas to stress a problem solving 
philosophy as a higher cognitive objective. John Dewey (1859-1952) 
was a leader in stressing experimentalism, as a philosophy of problems 
solving with its five flexible steps: 

1. students identify problems with teacher guidance. 

2. students read and gather information from a variety of literary 
sources. 

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3. students develop an answer or hypothesis to the problem area. 

4. students do additional research to check the chosen hypothesis. 

5. students refute, modify, or accept the original hypothesis (See 
Dewey, 1916). 

Extending experiences is a major objective of instruction in 
literature. Problem solving is a vital skill to develop for use in school and 
in society. 

Third, students should experience a literature curriculum that 
develops Interest in learning. Interest is a powerful factor in learning. 
With interest in literature, students have a thirst for acquiring ideas, 
facts, concepts, and generalizations. Within the student there is a desire 
to do more reading without any form of compulsion or force. Intrinsically, 
the student reads quality literature during spare time. Literary works are 
also taken home to read voluntarily. The desire to read is there with 
interest being developed in literature. There are numerous ways to 
develop interest in reading. The instructor needs to model interest and 
enthusiasm for literature by discussing with students what he/she has 
read. 

Fourth, students need to experience a literature curriculum that 
emphasizes critical thinking. Being able to separate facts from 
opinions, accurate from inaccurate information, as well as detecting bias 
and bandwagon approaches is salient. Critical thought is important in 
literature as well as in all of life. Each individual is bombarded with 
messages from diverse media; content here needs to be appraised 
using desirable criteria. 

Closely related to critical thinking is creative thought. Unique, 
novel ideas are presented in the creative thinking arena. Tried/”true” and 
conservative ideas may not work well in life itself. In literature, writers 
present creative ideas which include metaphors, similes, slang, 
analogies, alliteration, onomatopoeia, themes, and ways of presenting 
unique ideas for student reading. Thus, it behooves instructors to assist 
students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate content in terms of 
meanings involved (Ediger, 2000, 503-505). 

Fifth, purpose in reading and learning in the literature curriculum 
is vital. Thus, students need to perceive purpose in consuming literature. 
Reasons for learning are then in evidence. Students who are taught 
purpose for the literature curriculum have an increased energy level for 
reading. Developing reasons for doing something increases the wish to 
achieve, accomplish, and grow. The author when supervising student 
teachers in the public schools has noticed how public school students 
truly do more reading and read on a greater variety of topics and genres 
in literature when purpose is involved. Extending the literature 
curriculum is quite in evidence since learners read more books by the 

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same author or on the same topic. 

Sixth, self selection of books in literature provides situations 
involving students feeling ownership of the ongoing experience. 

Too frequently, students participate in what is assigned to them. With 
self selection of reading materials, the student is empowered and owns 
the literature curriculum. Generally, students tend to choose those 
books which are of interest and on their personal reading level. Many 
students start to read more and enjoy literary selections when they do 
the selecting. Then too, many problems in reading are hurdled when 
the literature being read is on the understanding level of the learner. 

Seventh, meaning theory is important to the reader of quality 
literature. Reading literary selections that are too complex makes for 
feelings of frustration. If the content is too easy, boredom and a lack of 
interest may be forthcoming. Meaning theory stresses students attaching 
understanding to what is being read. The familiar statement of “it makes 
sense” may be expressed by students when the literature being 
consumed is meaningful. Sometimes a student will say, “This just doesn’t 
make sense.” Meaningful explanations or questions of learners may 
illicit meaningful response. If content is not meaningful, it is up to the 
instructor to clarify and explain to make it meaningful. 

Eighth, students should make some kind of use of selections in 
literature which have been completed in reading. The following are 
examples of uses to be made: 

a) perceive specific relationships in literature to another 
curriculum area such as the social studies. Here, the student mentions in 
class how one specifically relates directly to the other. 

b) a student states how a character in a selection is just like one 
that is known to the self. 

c) a learner emphasizes how the setting in the story being read is 
so different from the local area. Here, a comparison was made In 
climate, temperature readings, and rainfall amounts. 

Eighth, students should have a voice in how to be evaluated in the 
literature curriculum. Multiple Intelligences Theory (See Gardner, 1993) 
emphasizes that there are eight different intelligences from which a 
student may select in order to be assessed appropriately: 

a) verbal/linguistic. Here, a student may take a paper/pencil test, 
write a summary or journal entry, showing and revealing that which was 
learned. 

b) visual/spatial. Art products may be developed indicating 
comprehension of content read. Many students can indicate well what 
has been accomplished through making a mural, pencil sketching, 
and/or drawing several illustrations to reveal understanding of the 
literature selection completed in reading. 

c) logical/mathematical. A student may prefer to indicate what has 
been learned through a logical reasoning approach. The philosophical 




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mind may orally wish to demonstrate the logic of lack thereof in the 
author’s reasoning. Logical thing definitely cari be the intelligences 
possessed by the involved learner. 

d) musical/rhythmic Even at a young age, there are students who 
are quite gifted/talented in music. Thus, a poem has been written and 
set to music, based on what was read in a literary selection. Setting 
words to music may be a favorite way of indicating what has been 
learned by those possessing musical/rhythmic intelligence. An 
opportunity is then presented to show in a chosen talented way that 
which has been achieved in ongoing lessons within a unit of study. 

e) interpersonal. Students who prefer to be assessed within a 
group/committee setting may choose this method of assessment. 

Selected students who attain well within a committee may be assessed 
while working together with others. 

f) intrapersonal. These learners possessing intrapersonal 
intelligence do better with individual as compared to group endeavors. 
Here, the individual reveals achievements by providing a 
product/process completed by the self. He/she progresses more 
optimally with an individual piece of work. 

g) bodily/kinesthetic. Those possessing athletic prowess may 
choose an approach involving the small and gross muscles to show 
achievement. Construction objects as items directly related to what has 
been learned might well indicate quality achievement. Industrial arts 
activities, careful planned and implemented, might well show 
achievement and progress. 

h) scientific. This intelligence is well revealed by learners in 
pursuing science units of study with a hands on approach in learning. 
Hands on approaches include using experiments and demonstrations. 
Science and the methods of science are also contained in literary 
selections, in a separate subjects or Interdisciplinary curriculum. 

Ninth, balance needs to be in evidence pertaining to 
homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping when studying literature in 
its diverse manifestations. Thus, there are times when students might 
well benefit most from being grouped with students of similar 
achievement in literature. Or, at other times, students may achieve more 
in mixed ability levels, such as in heterogeneous grouping. The yard 
stick to use when thinking of how students should be grouped for 
instruction is to emphasize optimal achievement for each learner. Under 
which grouping procedure will learners more likely achieve the 
objectives of the literature unit being emphasized presently? This 
question needs answering when implementing a particular plan of 
flexible grouping students for instruction. 

Tenth, students should have ample time to reflect upon what has 
been learned. Reflections involves recalling, creative and critical 
thinking, relating, synthesizing, applying, rehearsing, analyzing, and 

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comprehending. (Ediger, 2000, Chapter Two). 

Students need to experience a quaiity iiterature curricuium. Such 
as curricuium has carefuiiy chosen objectives for student attainment, 
aiigned iearning opportunities, and assessment procedures that truiy 
determine what students have iearned. To have an updated iiterature 
curricuium, instructors need to experience inservice education activities. 
Thus, workshops and departmentai meetings shouid be in evidence. 
These inservice opportunities shouid assist instructors to improve the 
quaiity of instruction, ideas gieaned need to be tried out in the 
ciassroom. instructors shouid report back to the workshop 
participants/departmentai members how weii the new approach in 
teaching benefited students. 

A professionai iibrary shouid be avaiiabie to instructors to 
secure innovative ideas in teaching students. The professionai iibrary 
shouid contain the foiiowing: 

1. professionai journais devoted to improving instruction. 

2. teacher education textbooks with content that upgrades the 
iiterature curricuium. 

3. video-tapes/video disks that instructors may observer to secure 
modeis for instruction. 

4. internet capabiiities to obtain oniine Educationai Resources 
information Center (ERiC) pubiications. Each manuscript seiected by 
ERiC emphasizes some facet of education, whiie many stress teaching 
and iearning research articies or professionai opinions. These can be 
readiiy downioaded in terms of summaries for the different manuscripts. 

5. speciai faciiities need to be avaiiabie for instructors to read and 
share ideas gieaned from reading and observing modeis (Ediger, 1997, 
179-182). 

in addition to a good professionai iibrary, instructors shouid 

1. attend professionai meetings on the state and nationai ieveis. 
There are exceiient sessions at these meetings to secure worthwhiie 
ideas for teaching and iearning in iiterature. 

2. write journai articies to be submitted for pubiication. 

Good teaching suggestions need to be shared with others in order to 
improve instruction. 

3. discuss probiems in teaching with other professionais in order 
to diagnose and remediate deficiencies in teaching. 

4. team teach so that a broader range of ideas for quaiity teaching 
of students are in evidence. 

5. use creative ideas in teaching so that the interests and 
purposes of students are continuaiiy kept in primary focus. 

6. permit student choices in terms of projects to be pursued, as 

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well as discussion in class of student initiated questions. 

7. have high realistic expectations of student achievement and 
progress. 

8. promote student interest and appreciation for good literature. 

9. take much interest in the hobbies, interests, and talents of each 
student as very worthy individuals. 

10. have students feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. 



References 

Dewey, John (1916). J3emocracy and Education . New York: The 
Macmillan Company. 

Ediger, Marlow (1988), Language Arts Curriculum in the 
Elementary School. Kirksville, Missouri: Simpson Publishing Company, 
Chapter Ten. 

Ediger, Marlow (2000), Teaching Reading Successfully. New 
Delhi, India: discovery Publishing House, Chapter Two. 

Ediger, Marlow (2000), “The School Principal as Leader in 
Reading Instruction.” Reading Improvement. 37 (1), 120-129. 

Ediger, Marlow (1997), “Issues in Education.” The Progress of 
Education, published in India. 

Ediger, Marlow (2000), Choosing Evaluation Procedures,” 
Education. 120 (3), 503-505. 

Gardner, Howard (1993), MiiLtlple Intelligences: Theory Into 
Practice. New York: Basic Books. 




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