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OWP Young Adult Literature Workshop

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Sample Project

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Using Young Adult Literature and the House System to Raise Awareness about Issues Affecting High School Students




  • To raise awareness about sociological issues affecting our students.


  • To use young adult literature to spur meaningful dialogue among teachers and students.


  • To foster unity, awareness, tolerance, and respect among students within the framework of the individual mentor groups and houses.




  • During first semester, each mentor group will engage in reading a young adult novel aloud on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Within each house, every mentor group will be reading the same novel.


  • The teacher, mentor leaders, house captains, deans, and other house members may take turns reading aloud to the mentor group.


  • The content of the novel itself should be able to promote discussion between and among students and teachers.


  • Essential questions can be used to discuss any of the novels.


  • The novels (list attached) have been selected with the intention of highlighting specific issues confronting today’s teens. 


  • Each student and teacher should be provided a copy of the selected book or an e-book for the semester.


  • Books should be returned upon completion of the activity and can be used by a different house the following semester or year.



  • Books, matched with issues, are listed on the attached table.


  • Essential questions that can be utilized in discussion are attached, as well as FAQs for teachers.





Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Acceptance / fitting in

Marika by Andrea Cheng

Religious and ethnic intolerance

Letting Go of Bobby James, or How I Found My Self of Steam by Valerie Hobbs

Self esteem / abuse

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Rape and recovery

Cut by Patricia McCormick

Cutting / self abuse

Smack by Melvin Burgess

Drug addiction

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Peer pressure

The First Part Last by Anglea Johnson

Teen pregnancy and parenthood

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Macker

Body image / weight

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper

Peer pressure

Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jaime Adoff

Bullying/ racism/ ostracism

Perfect Snow by Nora Martin

Racism / white supremacy

Project X: A Novel by Jim Shepard

Guns / violence

Devil’s Toenail by Sally Prue

Bullying / revenge

Walking Naked  by Alyssa Brugman

Social ostracism

Alt Ed  by Catherine Atkins

Weight / ostracism

The Misfits by James Howe

Homosexuality / bullying

Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan


Is That You, Miss Blue by M. E. Kerr

Religious and ethnic intolerance

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

Abuse / anger


Essential Questions


The following questions can be used to generate responses to any of the above pieces of literature.

  1. Which character do you like best and why? 
  2. Which character do you sympathize with most?
  3. Can you make any connections between the book and something from your life or a friend’s life?
  4. What do you think the author wanted us to get from the book?
  5. What is really important about this story?
  6. How did it make you feel?
  7. What did it make you wonder about?
  8. How did it surprise you?
  9. Which mental images were the strongest?
  10. What did this story teach you about the world, yourself, and others?
  11. If you were going to write a novel or story about a similar issue, how would you do it differently?
  12. Do you know anyone who should read this book?
  13. What parts of the book seemed most realistic?  Most unrealistic?
  14. How would you have behaved differently or similarly to one or more characters in the book?
  15. How did you picture each character?  Who should play the each character in a movie version of the book?
  16. Pick out a line of dialogue from an antagonist (a character who opposes the main character) in the book.  How do you picture the antagonist saying this line?  Try it out on the class.
  17. Should the book have ended differently?
  18. How does the cover of the book reflect the story?  Does it fit with the story?
  19. What does it take to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?  Did the book allow for this in any way?
  20. In what ways did the book make you think or reevaluate? 





Why use young adult literature?

YA literature has several key advantages when utilized in the high school classroom:

  1. The content is almost always applicable to the age group.
  2. The reading level is such that most high school students, including ESL students, will be able to benefit from the oral reading.
  3. The reading level enables faster-paced reading, making the works applicable to the short span of a mentor period.
  4. Many YA authors write with the idea of oral readings in mind; therefore, the books are more suited for reading aloud.
  5. Teachers of all subject areas can feel confident about the project and more confident in reading aloud.


What if my students aren’t receptive the issues brought forth from the reading?

Not every student will want to discuss the book, and that’s ok.  The main objective is to read the book together in hopes that individuals will at least think about the social issues involved. 


What if one of the students in my group makes fun of a sensitive issue?

Assess the situation or comment and then address the problem as you would in any other classroom. 


What if my students aren’t enjoying the book?

Try to change up the routine.  Perhaps you could alternate readers or make a contest for the most interesting reader.  Those in classrooms equipped with an LCD projector might try projecting the text from an e-book. 


We’re finished with the book, what now?

Follow-ups are not necessary, although some houses or mentor groups may want to think about how to spread awareness regarding issues brought up through the course of reading the book.