This book provides a step-by-step guide for teachers to implement an action-based curriculum, using young adult literature to engage students with contemporary issues. In addition to reading, ELA core standards including speaking and writing are addressed within this curriculum. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the curriculum: helping students find their passion; guiding them in collaborative group reading of relevant novels; supporting them in researching, writing, and speaking about their topic; and helping them translate their ideas into action within their school and community. The book is set up in such a way that teachers can follow the curriculum from beginning to end—or, if they choose, incorporate only some of the chapters. The author brings the curriculum alive with teacher and student voices about their experiences. The appendix describes contemporary middle school and high school novels that address a variety of social justice topics. Ultimately, the book supports teachers as they inspire their students to examine issues with empathy, research potential solutions, and exercise agency as they take action to help address issues the students are passionate about.
Alice Hays is an assistant professor of education at California State University, Bakersfield where she works with teacher candidates. As a former secondary English teacher, she sees the importance of co-creating curriculum with educators currently in the classroom in order to support students’ engagement as well as inspiring their own pro-social behavior.
Chapter 1: Finding the Passion
Chapter 2: Reading the Novels
Chapter 3: Supporting Activities
Chapter 4: Taking Action
Chapter 5: From the Field
Appendices: Young Adult Novels by issues
Texts on empathy and agency in the classroom have overly saturated the market, but Hays’s contribution is refreshingly based on a useful, pedagogical approach from actual classroom practitioners. Filled with step-by-step directions, graphic organizers, and heads-up alerts for potential tricky spots, Engaging Empathy and Activating Agency might just be the practical guidebook high school teachers have been waiting for. Hays leads readers through classroom implementation, though practitioners should allow abundant time for planning and consideration before putting suggested pedagogies into practice, owing to the importance of the subject material. Although much of the literature review was left out of this text to focus on implementation over theory (a laudatory choice), a thorough works-cited section provides readers with access to the abundance of research undergirding this work. Readers should also avail themselves of the detailed young adult literature summaries in the appendix as both a starting point and a way to expand currently utilized textual choices. Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Engaging Empathy and Activating Agency is a refreshingly vivid account of how teachers can cultivate students’ inquiry stances to act on their worlds and create change. Through tangible and adaptable activities and detailed and scaffolded instruction, Dr. Hays provides a clear path for those of us wishing to engage students with both literature and life. Accompanied by real-life examples, this work shows us both the successes and challenges of curriculum that pushes the boundaries of traditional classroom settings and offers a way forward in our particularly trying times.
In Engaging Empathy and Activating Agency, Alice Hays demonstrates how young adult literature can be utilized by teachers and students to interrogate social issues and build action plans towards addressing those issues. Hays offers a coherent curriculum unit plan and set of resources for secondary English Language Arts teachers to take up and implement in their own classrooms. The important inclusion of teacher and student voices show the impact of uniting literary analysis with a call to social action.