Interacting with Literature

Instructor Image

Teacher: Sara Hinton
Date/Time: Wednesday - 12:45 PM to 2:15 PM
Recommended Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Departments: Language Arts, Sixth Grade Core Classes
Grade Level: Middle School (6th-8th)

This literature course is intended to teach students distinct skills they need to succeed in all English classes. We’ll address these topics using quality, approachable novels that students can engage with, equipping them for future English courses.

This is a novel-based course in which we’ll read an array of engaging classics (including many modern classics) representing various settings. The novels are specifically chosen to be approachable enough that students can easily grasp the content while enjoying the story. Even if your students read some of the selections in the past, we’ll be digging deeper than they likely went during their first reading. These novels will be the basis upon which we build the following skills:

–How to read and understand a novel

To get the most out of the novels they read in an English class, students need to know what to look for and how to evaluate what they find. We’ll look at the elements of literature (such as plot and setting), what impact the author’s life and/or current events had upon the text, and how our own experiences influence our perceptions when reading. Students will do research outside of class to understand the time periods during which the novels are set and actively seek ways to relate to the characters and situations they are reading about.

–How to discuss a piece of literature and actively participate in class

To accomplish this objective, we’ll cover how to prepare for and engage in class discussions. This includes strategies such as taking notes and preparing questions, plus weekly application of these principles during class discussions. Significant student participation is required in this course.

–How to write about a piece of literature

Here, we’ll look at common essay topics students encounter when asked to write about literature, such as an analysis of how a character changes over the course of a book or of a book’s theme. Most of the writing we do will be in the form of short response paragraphs.

–How to collaborate with others

Students will work with small groups in class to accomplish various objectives related to the novels we read. Examples include author presentations and a time period artifact poster.

–How to speak confidently in front of the class

Beyond weekly class discussions of our novels, students will do considerable speaking in front of the class so that they feel confident and prepared when addressing a peer group. To facilitate this, we’ll address how to prepare and deliver oral presentations. An example would be a researched author report. Students will also take turns facilitating discussions and reading aloud with expression.


Every Soul a Star, Mass

Fever 1793, Anderson

Johnny Tremain, Forbes

I Am David, Holm

The Green Glass Sea, Klages

Hatchet, Paulsen

Wonder, Palacio

The Giver, Lowry

When You Reach Me, Stead

Note: This is primarily a literature course, with main objectives listed above. This course should not be confused with a comprehensive language arts course, as topics such as grammar, spelling, and vocabulary are not part of this course. Written response is one of the minor objectives but not the primary objective of the course.

Prerequisites: This is a course with significant in-class group activities, and as such, prospective students must demonstrate both willingness and ability to stay current in the course. If the course grade drops below a B, if a pattern of late work or lack of attendance emerges, or if work habits impede the progress of the rest of the class, a parent conference will be the first step required for the student to remain in the class.

Applications of the Course

The principles taught in this course have far-reaching application. Throughout their scholastic experiences, students will be expected to understand, evaluate, and respond thoughtfully to the literature they read, assessing author techniques, formulating opinions, suggesting interpretations, and defending ideas in a manner that is well informed, thorough, and logical. This course lays the groundwork for these processes, covering “how to” and offering significant practice, equipping students to succeed in English classes for the rest of their academic careers.

Instructor Qualifications

I have a B.A. in political science from Columbia University and an M.A. in The Teaching of English from Teachers College, Columbia University. Classroom teaching experience includes grade 5-8 as well as college, and in addition, I have been teaching online college English courses since 2007. I have published multiple test-prep textbooks that prepare middle and high school students for end of course reading and language arts exams in various states and recently consulted as a subject matter expert in grammar for a software company developing an interactive grammar tool for college students.

Course Details, Cost, and Supplies

Class size: Minimum of 10


$83/month for 9 months


Pay by the semester for a discounted rate: $312 in September and $390 in January

$25 materials fee due in September

*Note that I only accept payment via PayPal (credit/debit cards accepted).

Books: Parents independently acquire a copy of each novel. Students need the current novel we are reading with them in class each week. Novels can be used and any edition (on a device is fine) as long as they are unabridged.

Students should also bring the following to class each week:

a three-ring binder (between 1″-2″ in size) and loose leaf paper, as well as pencils or blue or black ink pens