Youth Voices and Discussions of Literature in the ELA Classroom
Hi, my name is Paul Allison. I’ve been a teacher in New York City since 1985 and I helped start Youth Voices in 2003. There are two things I want you to know about Youth Voices.
First: The site represents a national network of teachers who are constantly tinkering and reimagining the possibilities for their students to raise their voices and to engage in conversations that matter to them.
Second: You are now on a team that is in charge of Youth Voices. As a teacher registered on the site you have access to everything. You can edit and create anything you want to on the site. We want you to change Youth Voices to fit your needs and the needs of your students. To that end, I have an invitation at the end of the video that I ask you to take seriously. I want you to tell me what you want students to be able to do on Youth Voices.
Now for a quick tour of some of the things ELA teachers have invited their students to do on Youth Voices in connection to Literature.
Let’s start by looking at posts from three different schools.
Orange Cove High School is a rural school in Fresno County in California and many of the students who have been posting on Youth Voices are new to English Language and often post in Spanish. Each Wednesday, they write about the books they are reading and comment on each other’s posts: https://www.youthvoices.live/2020/03/04/la-diferencia-entre-el-amor-y-la-amistad/
Harvest Collegiate High School is on 14th Street in New York City, and its student body reflects the demographics of the city (an unusual accomplishment in New York). This is also an example of a response to a self-chosen book in an independent reading program. In this case, you can see traces of one of the guides the teacher provided for her students. https://www.youthvoices.live/2020/01/02/tracking-characters-in-all-quiet-on-the-western-front/
Here’s the guide: https://www.youthvoices.live/guides/literature/trackingcharacters/ But more about that another time.
Okemos High school is a suburban school in a community near Michigan State University. In this case, the novel, Women of the Silk is one resource in a larger inquiry: https://www.youthvoices.live/2019/11/20/years-of-womens-rights/
We chose these three posts to highlight how teachers and students use Youth Voices in different ways, yet all three have comments that begin to connect youth beyond their schools.
Just to re-state, this is only an introduction to Youth Voices. I want these examples to inspire you to think about how you want to use the site. So here’s another:
These were posted by students from the U School using the category given the title of the novel, The Hate You Give — and other students published using this category as well. See this essay by a youth at Okemos High School https://www.youthvoices.live/category/writing-communication/books/the-hate-u-give/
Here’s another example of a set of posts by students at P.U.L.S.E. an alternative high school in the Bronx where they were reading To Kill a Mockingbird: https://www.youthvoices.live/category/writing-communication/books/to-kill-a-mockingbird/
It meant a lot to Oscar to receive some comments from his people in his own school and others from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City: https://www.youthvoices.live/2019/04/02/being-black/
Here’s a set of posts that analyze Huck Finn:: https://www.youthvoices.live/category/writing-communication/books/huck-finn/
These point-of-view, re-tellings of “Everyday Use” were written by a group of students new to English at ELLIS Preparatory High School in the Bronx: https://www.youthvoices.live/category/writing-communication/point-of-view/eveyday-use/ The comments each student received from their peers are where they did most of the learning about the story.
The 543 posts on the poetry pages are a delightful mix of poems written by youth and literary essays in which youth analyze published poems that they have chosen to study. https://www.youthvoices.live/category/writing-communication/poetry
And there is more, of course, but the point of this introduction is to invite you to imagine how you could use this site to invite your students to grow in their online discourse about literature. What can you imagine students making and writing to post on Youth Voices? How might they connect with students in their own classes, in their schools, with students in schools in this project, and beyond?
So now I would like you to let me know what you are thinking. As I said at the beginning you are in charge of Youth Voices. What do you want your students could do on it? I can’t wait to see how you and your students transform Youth Voices.