In Class Prompts

You can find our in-class prompts and quotes here. You may find this helpful to guide your reading.

Week 1 (Jan 25-29)

Course Introduction: Purposes of literature and reading.


In the Williams’s article, the author comments on the way we construct “readers”:

“If literacy is not an autonomous set of skills but rather a concept whose definition is fluid and always determined by its cultural context, what does it mean to identify our students (or ourselves) as readers? What characteristics do we as teachers assume someone possesses when he or she is (or is not) a reader? And how does that affect what we expect from students when we assign them a text to read?”

What do you understand him to be saying here? 1) Paraphrase his words and 2) discuss: How do his ideas compare with your experiences with reading in and outside of school?

Find another passage in the Williams article that is puzzling, interesting, curious to you. As a group figure out 1) what does that passage mean and 2) why does it matter? Share out with class.

Week 2 (Feb 1-5)

Read: “What Bugs Said to Little Red Riding Hood” and Tatar “Little Red Riding Hood” cycle (Tatar pp. 3-24). *With the fairy tale cycles, you might find it helpful to make a chart to keep track of the versions of the stories (especially when we write riddles). Here’s an example (yours doesn’t have to be this detailed, of course).

To Do in class:

 1. Consider the following quotes:

“The whole point of stories is not ‘solutions’ or ‘resolutions’ but a broadening and even heightening of our struggles.”

 “Often stories embody the moral contradictions and inconsistencies in our personal lives, and thus give context and meaning to the social and political narratives of society at large.”

          –Robert Coles, child psychiatrist, author The Call of Stories

If Coles is right that “the whole point of stories is not ‘solutions’ or ‘resolutions’ but a broadening and even heightening of our struggles,” what might stories in the “Little Red Riding Hood” cycle be about?  What kinds of human struggles, both real and metaphoric, do these stories address and explore?  Refer to specific details from at least two of the stories in the cycle in your response.

2. In the introduction to the book, Tatar lays out the debate around the cultural role of fairy tales. She explains, “Some advocate for the recuperation and critique of the classic cannon; others have called for the revival of ‘heretical’ texts (stories repressed and suppressed from cultural memory) and the formation of a new canon; still others champion rewriting the old tales or inventing new ones” (xiii). She goes on to quote Dworkin who sees fairy tales as imprinting cultural absolutes; Dworkin argues that we take the roles offered in fairy tales as “real identity.”

Unpack this debate given your reading of the Little Red Riding Hood Cycle; what is afforded by these various “tellings” of this story? What are the implications of these tales in terms of identity construction? What roles are offered in the tales for children to imagine? How is this helpful/problematic?

3. In your opinion, is Red Riding Hood better off following Bugs Bunny home in “What Bugs Bunny Said to Red Riding Hood”?  Why or why not?  Explain your thinking.

Have someone in your group tweet out the group conversation. Use #chico341

Read: “Cinderella” cycle (Tatar pp. 101-137), “Cinderella’s Life at the Castle,” and Donoghue’s “The Tale of the Shoe”

To Do during class:

1. Tatar identifies two kinds of tales that folklorists say belong to the “Cinderella” cycle: stories where a young woman is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and stories where a young woman must fend off the illicit advances of her father. Investigate these stories for ideas about gender roles and relationships—write out your ideas about the ways each kind of story reveals social attitudes towards women, men, and their relationships.  Use at least two stories from the “Cinderella” cycle as evidence for your ideas.

Week 3 (Feb 8-12)

In what ways does Emma Donoghue undermine the conventions of the fairy tale? In what ways is the Cinderella in her story the same as other versions? In what ways different?

2. Compose your own revision of Cinderella by writing a poem. You could imagine your version taking on the perspective of the prince, the step-sisters, step mother, mice, fairy godmother, etc… Or change the setting or tell us what happens after the wedding.

In Search of Cinderella

From dusk to dawn,

From town to town,

Without a single clue,

I seek the tender, slender foot

To fit this crystal shoe.

From dusk to dawn,

I try it on

Each damsel that I meet.

And I still love her so, but oh,

I’ve started hating feet.

— Shel Silverstein

…And Then the Prince Knelt Down and Tried to Put the Glass Slipper on Cinderella’s Foot

I really didn’t notice that he had a funny nose.

And he certainly looked better all dressed up in fancy clothes.

He’s not nearly as attractive as he seemed the other night.

So I think I’ll just pretend that this glass slipper feels too tight.

Judith Viorst

Bring Miller’s Reading in the Wild. Read Introduction and pages 1-4 and chapter 1.

QW: What are the take-aways from reading Miller? Do you see yourself in any of the readers she describes? Is there anything that surprised you in her first chapter or ran counter to the way you experienced reading in school?

As a group, share quick writes: point us to a place in the text to consider. What does it say and why does it matter? Have someone tweet out ideas too using #chico341. You can even cc @donalynbooks.

Week 4 (Feb 15-19)

Series Books

Come with questions about your series. Here’s some to get you started:

  • What do you know about your series so far?
  • What roles are played by adults (parents, teachers…)?
  • What’s the tone (the feel/mood) of the series?
  • What identities are offered to kids in your series?
  • What does this series seem to want its readers to talk about?
  • What are the underlying theme(s) of the series?
  • What connections did you make when reading this series (connections to your own life and experiences, connections to other texts like books, films, etc., connections to your knowledge of the world). How did making those connections help you better understand the book(s) and what it seems to be saying? 

Do a close analysis of one of the characters from the series:

  •   What are his/her physical characteristics?
  •   How does he/she interact with other characters?
  •   How does he/she interact with the world around him/her?
  •   What are this character’s behavioral traits?
  • Choose a sentence or two that is significant for this character. What do we learn about this character from the passage you’ve selected? What do we know about children/childhood from this character?

What would be the appeal to kids who read this series? How might you use this text in an elementary classroom—what does it afford? SHARE OUT

Week 8-9 (March 23-April 4)


As you read Love That Dog, look for clues about Miss Stretchberry’s pedagogy. Please discuss with your group:

What is she doing with her students?  How do you imagine her classroom being arranged?  What activities do you think go on in connection with the poetry unit?  Why is her work with students effective?


Excerpt from Brown Girl Dreaming: 

Week 10-11 (April 6-15)

Graphic novels

Share your text with others. What’s it about? What do you like/dislike?

What is it like reading a graphic novel? How does it change the way you read?

How do the visuals contribute to the tone of the text or the meaning of the text?

Book Clubs (Elementary books and YA books)

*Key Elements of Literature Circles/Book Clubs

  •   Students choose their own reading materials.
  •   Small, temporary groups are formed based on common book choices.
  •   Different groups read different books.
  •   Groups meet on a regular, predictable basis to discuss their books.
  •   Kids use their own notes to guide their readings and discussions.
  •   Discussion topics come from the students.
  •   Group meetings are open, natural conversations about books, so personal connections, digressions, and open-ended questions are welcome.
  •   The teacher is a facilitator, not a group member or instructor.
  •   Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self-assessment.
  •   A spirit of fun and playfulness should accompany the book meetings.
  •   When books are finished, groups share with classmates and then choose new reading circles.

From Harvey Daniels, Literature Circles (2nd Ed., 2002)

You’ll also create an artifact to share with the class that highlights your elementary chapter book. See assignments.