Using Literature to Connect to Contemporary Social Justice Issues

03/14/2020 - 9:00am to 4:00pm

Grade levels: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Content areas: English Language Arts, Reading

Topics: English language arts, language arts

District/Organization: Lewis and Clark Graduate School

This workshop is for English/Language Arts teachers who hope to use literature as a tool to engage with issues of social justice, in addition to teaching literary analysis. We will first examine how text selection impacts the diversity of contemporary social issues that a class can explore.

While some teachers may agency in their text selection, we will develop strategies for identifying contemporary connections when the syllabus is already set. For teachers who are considering teaching a controversial novel, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, we will discuss the pros and cons of selecting a particular text.

We will explore the use of tools, such as Anticipation Guides, Socratic Seminars, and using supplementary texts (articles, film clips, podcasts) to help students connect works of literature to contemporary issues. We will also look at how to create a summative assessment, such as persuasive writing, that utilizes this connection.

The afternoon of this workshop will be devoted to giving teachers time to identify a work of literature that they’d like to use in the next school year, brainstorming possible contemporary connections their students could make, and building a unit plan.

Participants will leave the class with:
- An identified work of literature that they plan to use in class next year as a vehicle for exploring issues of social justice; including possible connections that students could make between that work of literature and contemporary issues
- A new unit plan(or additional lessons or a book the teacher has taught in the past), utilizing the tools taught in the course to make connections between a work of literature and contemporary issues of social justice

Following this workshop, participants will have the ability to:
- Examine how text selection impacts the diversity of issues a given class will explore
- Develop strategies to identify contemporary connections when a teacher does not have much agency in text selection
- Discuss the pros and cons to picking certain controversial texts
- Explore the use of tools and supplementary texts to help students connect works of literature to contemporary issues

Instructor: Emily Keller, MAT
Cost: $125, by 2/20, $150 after. includes 6 PDUs. Lewis & Clark Alumni save 20%. Student rate: $50

About the Instructor
Emily Keller, MAT is in her eighth year teaching at Jesuit High School. She teaches English to freshmen and juniors and her passion is helping her students to discuss issues of social justice as they read works of literature. She also feels privileged to have lead groups of Jesuit students on 5 international service trips to Latin America with the non-profit Courts for Kids. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching from Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling.