Author Archives: Francesca Teora

Blog #4

For my final project, I’m creating a series of lesson plans for high school students, with a personalized introduction to each one that outlines my rationale for using a particular primary text. Although this isn’t for a thesis or capstone project, I think it’ll be useful for me to get more experience on the practitioner end of teacher training. So far, the research I’ve done supposedly informs my teaching practice, but with the gap between research and practice in education, it’s no surprise that I’m already finding this to be a bit of a challenge.

I thought introducing each lesson plan would give some context to you all, but also force me to really think about why I wanted to incorporate certain texts into the high school classroom at all. Some guiding questions that I’ve been using are: What does this text provide that is not done so in a better way by anything else? is this text developmentally appropriate for the students I have decided to create lessons for?

I’ve been inspired by some of the work I’ve reviewed so far in class. I’m considering expanding the introductions into journal entries of sorts, where I really hone in on things that I learned through engaging with the text at different stages of my life, and how that has led me to prioritize certain information or “lessons” I want my hypothetical high school students to learn from my lesson plan.

Thanks so much for taking a look at my very rough draft, I look forward to talking through it on Thursday.

Blog #3

I realized this was sitting in my drafts and I never posted it!!

I chose Lemony Snicket’s “The Bad Beginning,” his first of 13 books in the Series of Unfortunate Events. He is a master of morbid humor through sarcasm and irony. McGillis talks plenty about the use of bigness to convey characters in a “fearsome,” exaggerated, and sort of gross way (pg. 261). Villainous Count Olaf is described in this manner, as “very tall and very thin, dressed in a gray suit that had many dark stains on it. His face was unshaven, and rather than two eyebrows, like most human beings have, he had just one long one (pg. 22).” The whole description, but the unibrow in particular, is humorous insomuch as it’s incredibly obvious who we are supposed to hate from the very beginning of the text.  Similarly, Olaf’s henchpeople are described in “grotesque” ways (pg. 267). The hook-handed man is a personal favorite — how does he do anything with two hooks for hands??

Throughout the book, Snicket isn’t didactic so much as comically instructive. He literally defines words for young readers, but then will use this method with a sly humor. For example, he doesn’t actually define the word “adversary,” he simply writes “…adversary, a word which here means Count Olaf.”

The “sheer nonsense (pg. 265)” McGillis describes is present throughout the text, from Count Olaf thinking himself a magnificent actor, to Mr. Poe’s ridiculous cough (and name…Edgar Poe!) to the use of alliteration (the children are at Briny Beach when they hear of the terrible fire that destroyed their home, Count Olaf puts on the play A Marvelous Marriage to legally marry Violet so that he can get her fortune).

McGillis describes the “freakish” nature of children’s literature and how it lends itself to humor. This is evident in the descriptions of the three orphans themselves, especially Sunny, who is an infant but has razor sharp teeth that she uses to bite through things like tree trunks! She also babbles but is completely conscious of what is going on around her, and her babbling is understood by her siblings, who regularly translate for her.

Snicket’s work embodies a lot of what McGillis describes, in a way that leaves readers feeling uneasy about the fact that they’re laughing at the terrible plight of three young orphans. Whether they are reading about “a greedy and repulsive villain” or “cold porridge for breakfast,” young readers are sure to be entertained, even if they’re not sure what’s so amusing about the shenanigans three kids get into trying to stay alive.


Alexie Discussion Questions

  1. We’ve been talking about the strengths and limitations of language with each of our texts, and I wanted to discuss it again in this context. Junior overtly laments the limitations of words, and describes the various ways the people in his life make up for those limitations (Rowdy fights, Junior draws, etc.) How does the absence of adequate words lead Junior to change the way he makes connections with his peers on the reservation and at his fancy high school?
  2. The way Alexie presents the narrative highlights structural and institutional issues that many young kids in the U.S. aren’t always exposed to (i.e. rates of alcoholism in native populations, the misconceptions of the government pouring money into native populations). Can we talk about this? Do we feel like Junior is teaching the white kids, and by extension, the reader? Is this a didactic text?
  3. The version I read had an author’s note at the end for the 10-year anniversary of the book. Alexie describes how there are two heroes in the text: Junior and Rowdy. How is Rowdy heroic? Does he represent what Junior left behind, or point to Junior’s future?
  4. Access is explored in really interesting ways. Junior’s experiences remind young readers that a basketball game isn’t always played on equal grounds, even if both teams are “good.” During the class protest where everybody dropped their books in defense of Junior but left him in the class, I was reminded of the misguided protest by the students at Star’s school. Does it make sense that the white kids are as sympathetic to Junior as they are, after treating him so badly just a few months before? How are we supposed to feel about these students overall?

Secondary Source: Using YA Fiction to Teach Noncognitive Skills

I chose this text because I felt it provided practical guidelines for incorporating YA fiction into the classroom to build students’ “social responsibility” and promote a culture of inquiry in schools. A popular focus of education research these days is strengthening students’ social-emotional and noncognitive skills in a deeper way than allowed in a 45 minute lecture from the guidance counselor. As Christopher mentioned in his summary, we can’t forget at whom these books are aimed. It was fun to see several of our primary texts mentioned.


Discussion Questions for Kidd article

  1. Kidd describes the “two traditions of child relation in queer theory, one concerned with queering the child or exposing the child’s latent queerness, and the other more interested in underscoring the Child’s normative power (p. 183).” I found myself trying to fit both Aristotle and Dante into each of these traditions. How are Saenz’ characters examples of these traditions (I’m more curious about the Child’s normative power)?
  2. A large part of Kidd’s critique includes the assertion that queer theory could be doing more to interrogate children’s literature. I couldn’t help but wonder how a queer theorist might analyze Ari’s coming out, which isn’t really “voluntary” in the sense that it doesn’t come from him, but rather from his parents telling him he’s in love with Dante (p. 348).
  3. Kidd mentions Stockton’s conceptualization of the gay child as being “born backward…emerging only after the individual has left childhood behind (p. 186).” Age and the passage of time feature heavily in ADDSU. How do Aristotle and Dante fit this idea of growing up in order to discover their queerness, or subvert it?