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Lesson Plan

Joining the Conversation about Young Adult Literature

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Joining the Conversation about Young Adult Literature

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jennifer Buehler, Ph.D.

Jennifer Buehler, Ph.D.

St. Louis, Missouri


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • choose a novel to recommend on the basis of its thematic content and literary quality.

  • identify the literary and thematic elements that distinguish the novel as relevant and worthy of classroom study.

  • consult secondary sources (such as reviews, Websites, and critical essays) to find further evidence of the novel's worth.

  • synthesize research material, develop an argument, and support ideas with evidence.

  • create an argument that will appeal to and persuade a specific audience.

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Session One

  1. Explain that students will be drawing on their experience as readers and their emergent knowledge of young adult literature in order to take part in shaping English Language Arts curriculum decisions.

  2. Frame the discussion by saying that new literature is constantly being created, and bringing new books into the classroom is a way to keep the conversation fresh and relevant.  Curriculum lists periodically need to be updated, but updates need to be made in relation to the existing curriculum.  Turn to the list of books currently in use.  What kinds of stories and life experiences are represented?  Whose voices are missing?  What stories are not being told?

  3. Discuss what makes a book relevant for classroom study.  What qualities should such books contain?  List qualities on the board.

  4. Divide students into small groups.  Ask students to brainstorm recent YA books that fit the criteria for classroom study.  Books might be ones they have read or heard about through reading workshop, literature circles, classroom booktalks, or teen programs at their local library.  Students should note the ways in which nominated books fit the criteria of relevance for classroom study.  Alternatively, teachers who want to establish boundaries for the discussion could present the class with a list of 10-15 titles to work with that match the brainstormed criteria. (See Sample Booklist of new young adult titles).

  5. Tell each group they must come up with a short list of 3-5 titles to recommend for inclusion in the curriculum.  The short list will eventually be narrowed down to one title after groups have researched the books under discussion.  As students nominate titles to include on the short list, they should write a rationale explaining how each book matches the criteria of relevance for classroom study.  Alternatively, groups could compile a menu of 5-7 titles to recommend for a literature circles unit.

  6. Visit groups as they brainstorm, assisting groups in articulating rationales as needed.

  7. Each group should turn in its short list at the end of class with a brief written rationale for each title on the list.  Prepare for the next session by collecting copies of short-listed titles along with a preliminary set of secondary resources on each one. Alternatively, assign students to compile such resources. Use the Online Resources for Student Research and Teacher Web resources as starting points for resource compilation.

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Session Two

  1. Inform students that in this session they will research their short-listed titles by consulting book reviews, professionally prepared discussion guides, critical essays, author statements or interviews, or other resources in order to select a single title (or a set of titles) that best fits the class criteria for relevance.  If necessary, teachers might establish a set number of sources or a specific list of types of sources that students are required to consult.

  2. Depending on available resources, students could peruse copies of short-listed titles checked out from the classroom, school, or local library, reading excerpts and examining the way the book is packaged.  If students have access to computers, they could search online for background information on short-listed titles through author Websites and book review blogs using sites recommended on the Online Resources for Student Research. If students do not have computer access, they might consult a packet of book reviews and author information provided by the teacher. 

  3. Distribute copies of the Research Evaluation Sheet and stress to students these large questions to consider while they conducting research:

    • What is the book about?

    • What themes or big questions does this book explore?

    • What aspects of the book might be considered controversial or need defending?

    • What have reviewers said about this book?

    • What aspects of this book would appeal to, engage, challenge, and enrich the thinking of teen readers?

    • How does this book enhance or extend the existing curriculum?
  4. Ask students to record information from their research on the Research Evaluation Sheet.  Students may want to record information on index cards by category: they can store cards for individual books in separate sandwich bags, then sort and rearrange the cards later in the process of shaping their argument.

  5. As students work, meet with groups to discuss the information they are finding and how it shapes their thinking about the most relevant title on their shortlist.

  6. Students should discuss, debate, and deliberate in order to select just one title per group to recommend.  Groups must provide reasons to support their selection in the form of evidence about the book's merits as recorded on the Research Evaluation Sheet, complemented by student testimonials and explanations of how the book would enhance and extend the existing curriculum.

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Session Three

  1. Begin the session by reviewing the elements of persuasive writing using the Persuasion Map Planning Sheet.  Share with students the Persuasive Letter Rubric to clarify expectations for persuasive letter.

  2. Then begin a discussion of how a group of teens might convince a curriculum decision-maker to adopt a new title for classroom study.  How should a persuasive letter or speech be constructed in order to persuade this audience?  List ideas on the board and come to agreement on a set of criteria for this group of persuasive arguments.

  3. Decide to whom the letter should be addressed by finding out who makes curriculum decisions in this school or district.  Do students need to address a department chairperson, an assistant principal, a central office administrator, or some other person?  Also, in what form and setting should the argument be presented?  Should students write a letter and send it to the administrator in charge?  Should they invite the administrator to their classroom in order to present arguments orally?  Or should students attend an English department curriculum team meeting and present their arguments publicly?  Finally, should the class select the one most persuasive argument to present out of all the group arguments submitted, or should each group have the chance to present its work, allowing the administrator or curriculum team to hear about multiple books?  Make decisions about the recipient, the form of argument, and the number of arguments to present based on your local context.

  4. Once these decisions are made, have students return to their small groups and develop their arguments using guidelines adapted from the ReadWriteThink lesson Persuading an Audience: Writing Effective Letters to the Editor.  Depending on classroom dynamics, students may compose individual letters or collaborate to write a single group letter.  Remind students to include information they gathered during their research and recorded on the Research Evaluation Sheet as supporting evidence. You may wish to have students use the Persuasion Map tool as they draft their ideas.

  5. Circulate throughout the room to confer with students as they draft their persuasive letters or speeches, referring them back to the list of ideas for effective persuasion that was brainstormed on the board at the start of this class session.  Remind students that their task is to use their research on the group's selected title in order to mount a persuasive argument about the book's thematic relevance, literary value, and student appeal.

  6. Tell students that they should finish the draft of their letter for homework and that letters will be exchanged for peer review tomorrow.

  7. Students can use the Letter Generator to prepare their letters.

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Session Four

  1. Remind students of the decisions they have made as a class regarding the audience and format for their persuasive arguments.  Then ask students to return to their small groups and read their drafts with their designated audience in mind.  Have them identify the strengths and weaknesses of each draft using peer review guidelines adapted from the ReadWriteThink lesson Persuading an Audience: Writing Effective Letters to the Editor.

  2. After students have received feedback, allow time for them to revise their arguments. 

  3. When revisions are complete, ask students to read over all the arguments that have been produced and select one or more to present to their intended audience based on the quality of the research and argumentation.  Students must justify their decision with references to specific aspects of the chosen argument.

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  • Have students interview a department chair or curriculum director to find out how curriculum decisions are made and the process by which new titles are introduced and adopted.

  • Help students conduct a survey of students in other language arts classes to bolster arguments about characteristics of literature that appeal to teens as well as issues teens want to explore and discuss. See the ReadWriteThink lessons And the Question Is ... Writing Good Survey Questions and And the Question Is ... Evaluating the Validity of a Survey to facilitate this process.

  • Assist students in researching instances of nominated titles being taught in other districts. This can be done through the author's Website, publicist, or assistant, or by surveying area curriculum supervisors.

  • Rehearse oral arguments and offer students coaching in preparation for a persuasive speech presentation before an English department or curriculum team.  Then arrange a meeting with the district curriculum coordinator or present the argument orally at a curriculum/department meeting.

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  • Use the Persuasive Letter Rubric (which may be adapted with the ideas generated through student discussion in Session Three) to evaluate persuasive letters.

  • Ask students to reflect on their work in nominating, researching, and recommending new YA titles for the English Language Arts curriculum.  Suggested questions include:

    • What aspects of their argument do they think will be most persuasive to the designated audience? 

    • What obstacles do they face in convincing their audience to act on the basis of the argument? 

    • Based on the arguments they have seen, how might they frame their argument differently next time?

    Ideally students will complete the reflection after they have received a response from their designated audience.  Another option is to have students revisit their reflection once they have received a response.

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