Perry Nodelman discusses his philosophy of discussion in the classroom.
Eliza Dresang describes how she organizes small group discussions, and offers some examples of topics for groups to explore.
This is a form in Acrobat format and is only 8K. Perry Nodelman hands it out to students before the end of courses in which discussion is a strong feature. Students' responses help Perry to evaluate work in small group discussion and so on that he has not personally witnessed. To view the document, click here.
Eliza Dresang describes the system she has developed for feedback from her classes. To view this document, click here.
In this activity, Perry Nodelman asked students to bring to class a book (or the memory of a book) that was one of their favorites as a child (or alternately, one they now know is a favorite of someone currently a child). In small groups, the students shared their books with each other, tried to determine what made them pleasurable and memorable, and listed their conclusions. Perry summarized their conclusions in this handout, which became the basis of a discussion of what makes children's books work for children. (The exercise led the students to perceive how little what the books taught affected their interest in them, and thus usefully challenged many of their evaluative principles for children's books.)
Perry Nodelman asked students to find and bring to class materials containing assumptions about children. The materials could be advertisements in magazines, newspaper articles, toy packaging, quotations from novels or psychology textbooks, etc. After sharing their materials with each other, the students were asked to work together on the Exploration found at the beginning of chapter 5 of Pleasures: list the assumptions contained in the materials in the form of sentences beginning "children are (or should be)..." Perry then prepared this handout as the basis for further discussion in the next class; are these statements true or not? What are their implications?
In this activity, Perry Nodelman asked students to discuss with each other in small groups their experiences of learning about literature as both children and adults. After exploring the implications of their experiences, they were asked to produce two lists: what works in teaching literature, and what doesn't work. Perry then compiled handouts listing their conclusions. Here are two sets of their conclusions:
In this classroom activity, Perry Nodelman has students in small groups share their responses to the text they've been assigned to read and to share the questions that have arisen for them in their reading of the text. The object is to focus less on what they do know for sure or understand for sure about their experience than on what they don't know--on what they would genuinely like to understand better. Each group appoints someone to write down a list of questions that they believe it would be useful for the class as a whole to discuss. Perry then organizes and compiles the questions as a handout, which is used as the basis for a whole class discussion in the following class.
This handout lists questions emerging from students' small group discussions of their responses to Charlotte's Web.
In this handout listing questions students had about Baum's The Wizard of Oz, Perry organized the questions in terms of the different strategies for consistency-building described in chapter four of Pleasures. He also added a few topics of his own--things the students hadn't mentioned that he felt it might also be useful to discuss. These are labeled "Perry" in the handout.
For this exercise, Perry Nodelman divides a children's literature class into six small groups, and assigns each group to explore the novel the class has been asked to read in terms of the questions listed in this handout relating to one of the consistency-building strategies. Each groups works on a different strategy and focuses exclusively on it. The groups then report their conclusions to the class as a whole, and thus the class builds up a sense of how one text can be read in terms of a number of different approaches and considerations.
This list records the result of a class conversation in which Mavis Reimer and her students collectively tried to figure out how story and discourse worked in relation to each other in The Wizard of Oz, an exploration that appears at the end of chapter 4. They used Propp's plot structure, as discussed in chapter 10, to categorize repeated thematic elements.
In this exercise, Perry Nodelman asked students to bring one or two different versions of "Cinderella" to the class. He then divided the students into groups of four or five and asked them to compare their different versions in order to determine what they had in common. The object was to develop a sense of which core elements were needed in order for them to identify a story as a version of "Cinderella." Students developed a core story pattern, and listed its elements on sheets handed in to Perry, who compiled the conclusions of different groups into one comprehensive list. This list was then handed out and used as the basis for an analysis of what the story might mean and why it might be so memorable. Later, the students also used the basic pattern they developed in relation to "Cinderella" as a cognitive model or schema to apply to literary fairy tales in order to understand how those tales might be both different and the same.
This is an exercise similar to the one on "Cinderella" above. But in this case, each student had read a different one of R.L. Stine's Fear Street novels. The different groups arrived at somewhat different conclusions, and these apparent contradictions are represented in the handout Perry compiled from the results of the group work as a basis for a discussion of the implications in the following class.
This is the same exercise again, but this time each student had read a different book in the Magic Treehouse series. This is the handout Perry compiled from their small group discussions.
This handout represents further developments based on the "Cinderella" exercise described above. Here, Perry Nodelman listed the basic story pattern as developed by students in a column on the left. Then, in later classes, he handed out this sheet, and invited students to use the "Cinderella" pattern as a schema to apply to other materials--first, to other fairy tales about princesses ("Snow White," "Sleeping Beauty," etc.), then to items in their own repertoire of romance novels and films, and finally, to popular novels and films for both children and adults in which "underdog" heroes win out over more powerful enemies. The object was to see how the same basic pattern underlay a wide range of materials, and to consider the implications of why such stories might continue to be so widely enjoyed. Students were invited to list similarities and differences and to consider the implications of each in a series of small group discussions extending over a number of classes.
The object of this exercise was to make students of conscious of the differences between best-selling formula fiction and the kinds of novels that excite critical acclaim and win awards. The handout is Perry Nodelman's compilation of the conclusions reached in small groups about the similarities and differences in these novels.
In order to focus students in a course devoted to Sendak on the ways in which the three books of his trilogy--Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There--function as variations of each other, Perry Nodelman prepared this handout, and encouraged students to discuss the ways in which each of the books offered variant versions of these ideas and images.
The question here was whether or not these five novels, selected by Perry Nodelman as texts in a Canadian Children's Literature course to represent the diversity of that literature, had anything in common with each other that might identify them as being specifically Canadian. Students worked in small groups to compare the novels in terms of the consistency-building strategies outlined in chapter four of Pleasures. Perry then compiled the groups' conclusions into this handout as a basis for further discussion in the next class.
Is there a Canadian identity? When Perry Nodelman teaches courses in Canadian children's literature, he outlines for students a brief summary of a range of theories people have developed over the years about what might be distinct about the Canadian situation--analyses of the circumstances that might lead to certain tendencies in the character or world view of Canadians. Here is a version of it.
After sharing these ideas with a class, Perry invites students to consider ways in which the Canadian children's literature they are reading might be illuminated by any or all of them. Here are some notes he made for his teaching assistants in a large class to help them in their work as facilitators of small group discussions about Welwyn Katz's novel False Face, which students had been asked to read.
With the help of students, colleagues, and his own reading of some of the scholarly literature about masculinity, Perry Nodelman has developed this extensive list of assumptions about masculinity widespread in contemporary culture. He often hands it out to students as an introduction to their study of how texts of children's literature represent masculinity and confirm or challenge assumptions about it. Perry has written an article explaining the various items on the list and exploring some of their implications:
"Who the Boys Are: Thinking about Masculinity in Children's Fiction." New Advocate 15,1 (Winter 2002): 9-18.
The article is followed by a piece by Perry's student Charlie Peters, an example of how to apply some of the implications of the assumptions to the study of a children's novel:
"Masculinity and the Artist in Wynne-Jones's The Maestro." New Advocate 15,1 (Winter 2002): 19-22.
Daphne Kutzer's descriptions of small group work with fairy tales, focalization, and implied speakers.