Literature and Naivete

by Dolores Millender and Lois Isley

Thomas FitzSimons Middle School

Jeans(1992) "Society expects its teachers to care for students, to care about their learning, to be knowledgeable about curriculum content and to know how to induce learning in others". Johnston, "Fostering Deeper Learning", and I concur, all teachers bring to the classroom an inbuilt informal theory of teaching. Whether implicitly or consciously stated, this theory has implications for the way in which students learn. Some teachers come with the concepts of "developing" and "producing" students which Fox (1983) suggest allows the teacher to assume that it is the student's fault if learning doesn't take place. The more accepted views in the 1990's are "discovery" in which student and teacher learn together and that of guided learning in which students make a significant contribution to their own learning in terms of pace, direction, objectives and process (Constructivism). This theory takes into account past experiences, learning and knowledge of the student. This perspective also allows for multi-intelligences which represents the philosophy "All children can learn, at their own pace and in their own way.

If indeed one can define "naivete" as being a process through which one makes discoveries about bodies of information based on past experiences, then one could readily apply this theory to literature. Literary discussions would then focus on the experiences and exposures of one's personal life experiences as related to the "fictional" character. I place "fictional" in quotation marks because of the Shakesperean reference, and I paraphrase, "we're all merely players on the stage of life; some roles are greater than others". Naivete, then in analysis, is a result of ones perceptions of attitudes, values, relationships and behaviors.

Unit Overview:

Literature was selected for several reasons: interdisciplinary links; the allowance for the inclusion of diverse learning styles (multi intelligences). Literature is one of those meidums that can be approached from both the abstract and the concrete (literal and figurative) and as a result is more open to discussion and interpretation. Also, literature is more "life experience" based. Literature instruction can provide for students who have disabilities such as attention deficit disorder in that it lends itself to such activites as oral reading, creative drama, music, art, movies, debate and discussion. In terms of those with verbal learning disabilities there are literary selections that are math and science based.

This unit is literature based and is approached from two perspectives - closed and open-ended constructions. The structure involves the application of ( Known - students own experiences;Want to know - information on a need to know basis and student interest; Learned - indicators of the learning that has taken place ). This model is inquiry based and constructivist while employing both cooperative and individual techniques in order to accommodate diverse learning styles.

The anticipated outcome is that students will begin to identify similar life experiences and develop an appreciation of the diversity of thought others bring to similar and shared experiences.

Students will discover a variety of generes and be able to relate and make new discoveries about behaviors based on perceptions that result from real life experiences and observations. They will learn to trust others with their experiences by honest sharing. They will learn to respect the diversity that others bring by the use of ground rules which will be used for group discussion (permanently displayed).

Lesson Plan:

A. Closed Constructions:
Students will be provided with a literary selection to be read silently or have a jigsaw experience (different members in the group having separate parts of the story); share a viewing of the same film, or listen to a story. Next, discussion will be generated in small groups, and finally large group interaction.

B. Open-ended:

Students will either read part of a story, hear a part of a story or view a segment of a movie. Students will then in groups write a conclusion to that particular literary piece.

C. Games:

The use of language related games are another mechanism used to include the diverse learner in the discovery process (word games- i.e. Scrabble; Jepoardy; Wheel of Fortune, etc..

D. Technology:

Suggested Literary Works:

African and American Folktales that can be used with Middle School children whose reading levels extend across a variety of levels.

Article discusses 'theories of learning' in terms of teacher and student perceptions and possible outcomes.