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Teaching Literature in Community

ENGL 381.401
instructor(s):
M 2-5:00

"Teaching Literature in Community" comprises two parts: the study of an African or African-American text and strategies for teaching it and a six-to-eight week assignment teaching the text at one of a few community sites, including The Center For Literacy, Project H.O.M.E. or a church-based reading group. The common text will be works by poet June Jordan . Ms. Jordan is scheduled to appear at Art Sanctuary, an African-American lecture and performance series designed to bring the creators of contemporary black arts and letters to the Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. In April, at the end of their semesters, the scattered-site classes will meet together at Art Sanctuary for a group workshop/presentation preceding Ms. Jordan's lecture. These presentations may take any form that the students and teachers decide is appropriate: acting out a section of a story or play, presenting response papers or poems, or sharing responses in the form of visual arts, for instance. Art Sanctuary will invite Ms. Jordan to attend the "Literature in Community" reception; the presentation section of the reception, at least, is also open to the public. In this way, the community classes help students (and student-teachers) become active builders of a bridge to join local arts and letters with the larger, professional, nationally recognized African-American arts community. In addition, Ms. Jordan will appear the next day at the Writers House in conjunction with English 88, "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry," taught by Dr. Al Filreis.

The course is designed to accomplish these goals for its many students: (1) Penn students will learn from each other and from their practical experience how to teach in a non-university setting a sophisticated text or excerpt of texts. (2) Non-university scattered site students will learn literacy and textual analysis skills in a familiar setting. (3) The mixture of Penn students and students highly motivated to improve their literacy should provide everyone involved with a challenging intellectual atmosphere in which to study the work. (4) At the group workshop presentation all scattered site students will meet and learn from others doing a structured, but no doubt differently focused, non-traditional, classroom experience. (5) All students will meet and talk with the author.

Note, re: Penn Students: It is likely that this class will require four hours of classroom work during the teaching phase of the course, but homework during that time will not be burdensome. In addition, student teams of two or three will have to travel to the community sites. Written requirements will include lesson plans, a teaching journal, and a final paper.