Applicants for the MAT degree in literature should hold a B.A. in English or a related field (in which critical analysis of literature was a significant component). Ideally, the undergraduate course work includes survey courses that address a broad range of texts from a particular culture or period, and seminars that engage students in intensive study of an author or issue. Applicants who did not major in a field of literary study are encouraged to contact the MAT Program to discuss their undergraduate course work and its applicability to the MAT literature degree.
Sample English/ Literature Courses
Literature 535: Dis/Locations: Immigrants, Refugees, and the Enslaved in U.S. Literature
To migrate, Salman Rushdie writes in Imaginary Homelands, is “to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible, or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul.” However, “the migrant is not simply transformed by [this] act,” he adds; “he [or she] transforms his new world.” In this course we will examine the ways in which first- and second-generation immigrant, refugee, and formerly enslaved writers record and reflect on the various transformations their migrations and dislocations have wrought---in their own lives, on their environments, and on American literature more broadly. We will study texts that dramatize the settlement of the early colonists and the forced migration of enslaved peoples; consider whether and how the (voluntary) immigrant narrative is a fundamental story in American culture, and how it relates to the concept of the American Dream; and explore differences and similarities between immigrant, refugee, minority, and dominant cultures as they are represented in literary works by writers in the US. How do such narratives create a shared experience and identity between writers and readers? Drawing on critical and theoretical texts about migration literature, we will consider such interrelated themes as diaspora and homeland, borders and border-crossings, gender and sexuality, intercultural and generational conflict, race and ethnicity, trauma and memory, language and silence.
Literature 513: Field Experience in Social Emotional Learning and Restorative Practices
Students engage in six workshops and observational learning sessions at Ramapo for Children in Rhinebeck, New York. Sessions focus on fostering meaningful relationships with and encouraging social and emotional skills in youth with a wide range of social, emotional and learning challenges. The sessions will also focus on utilizing restorative practices to de-escalate youth and support them in repairing harm.
Literature 522: The Empire Writes Back
In this course, students will explore how major works in the English literary tradition have variously inspired and trouble 20th century writers outside of English, and how these writers adapted, revised or deconstructed them. Students will examine how the expatriate writer and the writer under colonialism developed a poetics of place that was at once imaginary and true to “home.” While students will focus on how later works relate to earlier, students will also look for connections between a work and its socio-historical context.
Literature 502: Literary Constellations
The contemporary history of the discipline of literary study is the story of an expanding universe of textual possibilities and intertextual connections. But the openness of our field can be daunting to new educators. Faced with a required text, how does one choose what to teach with it? This course consists of two units or “constellations” of texts that are intended to offer possible responses to that essential question—essential, I would argue, for anyone teaching English Language Arts or literature today. My choices within each unit are intentional, and as a future teacher, you should interrogate the groupings as models of practice. What justifies them, what light do they shed on each other, what questions do they raise, and what more is needed? For me, each began with the first work in the constellation, and the titles that I gathered around it were painstakingly considered. However, you may find that as you study the constellation, the literary work that was my point of departure is no longer the brightest. As Stephen Greenblatt
argues in “Resonance and Wonder,” in studies such as this, there is a tendency “for the focus to be partially displaced from the work of art that is their formal occasion onto the related practices that had been adduced ostensibly in order to illuminate that work.”
What do I hope you'll learn from Literary Constellations? Put simply, the course has three principal objectives:
1) You will consider the formal and thematic connections among texts clustered around two
canonical works: Shakespeare's Othello and Shelley's Frankenstein.
2) You will think about the how and why of a strong text set, both by adding to my constellations
and creating your own.
3) You will learn a handful of (online) classroom practices by experiencing them.
Education 515: Literature Teaching Lab I
The primary purpose of lab in the literature strand is to consider how the thinking and learning from the education and literature courses translate into the practice of teaching in the secondary English classroom. Our goal is, in the final analysis, practical: to begin developing a repertoire of approaches to teaching English that is inclusive of all students and their needs.
The teaching of reading will be emphasized in the summer lab. We will give special attention to planning literature curricula and lessons: setting goals, choosing texts, and supporting students before, during, and after reading. You will have an opportunity to write several, connected lesson plans that focus on reading “complex” text and address the current Common Core standards (while not being constrained by them). You will learn what is meant by a “reading level” and examine the relationship among assessment, goals, and instruction.
Education 525: Literature Teaching Lab II
Part of a series with English Teaching Lab I: Teaching Reading, which you completed this past summer. Both labs are intended to act as a bridge between the work in your literature and education courses and the teaching of English in middle and high schools. Here, you will develop practical strategies for the teaching of English that are closely connected to such issues as identity and voice, as well as lesson planning and curriculum development skills that will mirror and complement your work in ED522 (Curriculum and Planning) and your student teaching field placement.
A key focus of the fall lab is writing, both in connection to the study of literature and in various other forms such as creative and expository writing. You will learn about and have opportunities to practice working with strategies for helping students develop their writing abilities for a variety of purposes and goals, including persuasive, analytical, and personal writing; writing in response to literature; as preparation for discussing literature, and as a method for reflection after discussion; writing for standardized tests; writing to learn; and writing to communicate. You will consider various methods for responding to student writing, and for helping students assist one another as peer editors.
In addition, you will complete a series of observation tasks that will help you study and reflect upon the life of the public school in which you will have your first field placement.
You will videotape yourself teaching a short portion of a class during your field placement, and have the opportunity to reflect on that video as well as the student work that resulted from that brief teaching moment. And as you did in the summer lab, you will have an opportunity to plan, execute, and reflect on one 40-minute lesson (30 minutes for the actual execution) by the end of the fall semester.
Literature 555: American Realisms
This course is centered around American literary texts produced between (roughly) 1865 and 1914, by a variety of writers seeking to convey the “realities” of American life and culture in this turbulent period. A conventional understanding of Realism has, for many years, been defined by the works of James, Howells, Twain, Crane, Dreiser, Wharton, and Chopin---a handful of writers whose influential and significant contributions to the aesthetic movement of Realism are uncontested, but whose positionality (especially as white, privileged, and, for the most part, male) severely limited their ability to record, shape, or criticize the diverse whole of “real” American life. Alongside works by these writers, then, we will also examine texts by writers of color, of varying ethnicities, and by greater numbers of women, in order to access and better understand the different realities they were striving to document and influence. Texts by Zitkala-Sa, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, and Sui Sin Far---whose contributions are now garnering attention as responsive to and constitutive of a larger Realist aesthetic---flesh out our shared reading list, enriching and complicating our encounters with American languages, stories, and forms. In addition to the course readings, students will work closely with essays in contemporary criticism to analyze how current scholars wrangle with problems of defining Realism and its offshoots, among them Naturalism and Regionalism. A variety of writing assignments will afford us the opportunity to consider how small groups of texts converse about Realism’s major themes and preoccupations.
Literature 532: Academic Research Project
For this project, you will use the skills you’re developing as a scholar and educator to prepare a portfolio of writing and teaching materials related to a text that is frequently taught in middle and high schools. The main goals of this project are for you to:
- Increase your familiarity with a commonly taught secondary school text
- Think through the reasons why and ways in which this text may be most productively read with adolescents
- Consider how scholarly research---drawn from literary criticism, biography, and historical context---can most usefully inform your teaching
- Prepare lesson plans and a work of reflective writing that illustrates how your scholarship can be brought to bear on your developing teaching practice, and
- Teach one of your prepared lessons to an audience of your peers
You have a choice of one of the following titles:
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Selected stories by Poe or Hawthorne (10-12)
Lois Lowry, The Giver
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Selected poems by TS Eliot (10-12), Emily Dickinson (30-40) or Langston
S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Selected essays by Emerson (8-10)
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
George Orwell, 1984
We realize that there are many other titles on curricula of area schools, but our apprentices often encounter those we’ve listed above. If you have a strong preference and compelling rationale for a text not listed here, we are willing to hear your idea.
Literature 536: Teaching Practicum I
Students act as full-time apprentices and research partners, assuming increasing responsibility for instruction and collecting and analyzing data with their mentor teachers. In a radical departure from conventional student-teaching models, apprentices work closely with their mentors, moving gradually from participant observer to teaching assistant to co-teacher and, finally, assuming primary responsibility for classroom instruction in all its dimensions. The mentor teacher and the graduate adviser observe regularly and provide ongoing formative evaluations in close collaboration with the student. Students also meet with their MAT peers throughout the student-teaching cycle to support each other through shared writing, reflection, and discussion.
Literature 546: Teaching Practicum II
The MAT student completes the apprenticeship cycle with a second mentor teacher during the spring term. The field experience is structured to provide the MAT student with ongoing guidance and feedback from the graduate adviser and the mentor teacher. An apprenticeship model that emphasizes the guided acquisition of teaching competencies, carefully monitored by mentor and adviser, insures that student learning in the public school classroom is not compromised and that the apprentice is held to standards in teaching that reflect program concerns for authentic learning in the disciplines. MAT students continue to meet weekly as a group to share and reflect upon their experiences.
Education 502: Issues in Teaching and Learning
These workshops introduce students to an alternative pedagogical model in which informal writing practices create a culture of learning that stimulates inquiry, focused reflection, and close collaboration among learners. The workshops acquaint students with the kinds of reflective practice that will characterize and, eventually, shape their own teaching practices
Education 512: Identity, Culture and the Classroom
In this course, students consider what it means for them to teach—and for adolescents to learn—in the context of contemporary American society. The course focuses on identity development and how it is influenced by cultural power dynamics around such factors as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability, ethnicity, and language. Students begin by exploring the concept of identity in broad terms, drawing on Erikson's developmental model as well as numerous contemporary writings. The remainder of the course focuses on the ways in which specific identity-related issues affect adolescents' school experiences. The purpose of the course is to move students toward a deeper understanding of the ways identity, culture, and schooling intersect so that they can develop a repertoire of reflective, analytical, and practical strategies to use in their ongoing work as teachers.
Education 516: Teaching English Language Learners
There are approximately 5 million children (accounting for 21% of all students) in U.S. public schools who are learning English. ELLs are the fastest-growing student population group; by 2025, it is estimated that 1 in 4 public school students will be ELLs. An estimated 300 languages are spoken in schools across the country. In this three-part course, students will explore what it means to be an English Language Learner in school today, the social-emotional and academic challenges that ELLs face, and how to provide both rigorous academic instruction and a welcoming, inclusive classroom to one or our most at-risk populations.
Education 522: Curriculum and Assessment
This course emphasizes curriculum design and implementation by looking at how assessment protocols contribute to learning and focuses on essential questions about teaching practices. The course asks the question “What is it we teach in our subject area and how should we teach it?” Answering these questions prepares students for the work of instruction and planning as teachers in a variety of contexts.
Learning to teach is more than learning how to teach. At the center of teaching is a relationship between teacher and learner. To teach means to work from that center where action is borne out of the principles one holds about how and why people learn. To teach means to hold beliefs and understandings that are often evolving rather than static in response to such questions as:
- What are the conditions that support learning?
- Why are some teachers more effective than others?
- What does effective mean?
- How do I and my students come to see learning that has happened?
- How do I create a curriculum that serves students’ learning needs?
- How do my, the school’s, and society’s educational values come into play?
Teaching is a complex activity. It requires that we work with the seemingly infinite details of school life while holding firmly to our core knowledge about students, learning and curriculum. It requires that we have a passion about our students and what they learn, and that we do not lose that passion under the pressures for performance on tests or the demands of keeping up with the pace of the public school curriculum.
Education 524: Language, Literacy and the Adolescent Learner
This course is an introduction to the social, cultural, cognitive, and disciplinary aspects of literacy development, emphasizing the literacies of late childhood and adolescence. The course includes foundational readings in sociological theories of literacy and language rights, as well as cognitive research in language acquisition and reading comprehension. But as a course for classroom teachers, it will be most concerned with the kinds of activities and assessments that, taking these theories into account, best support adolescent students as they read, write, listen, and speak about content in the major subject areas of schooling—history, languages, literature, mathematics, and the sciences. Special emphasis will be given to the needs of students for whom literacy in English is difficult or unfamiliar.
Students will know and understand how
- Current research defines “literacy,” including the social, cultural, cognitive, and discipline-specific aspects of becoming “literate”
- Language affects learning within and across the disciplines, with particular emphasis on vocabulary acquisition for academic purposes
- People learn to read and read to learn—the stages of reading development, models of comprehension, specific demands of reading in the disciplines, and problems in reading
- Writing supports learning within and across the disciplines—the stages of written language development and the principles of writing-to-learn
- Technology has shaped and extending reading, writing, and other literacy practices
- Plan literacy-rich lessons in their disciplines, with goals, activities, and assessments that advance students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking
- Differentiate for students who need additional support with reading, vocabulary, and writing in English
- Address issues of interest and motivation in the literacy-rich environment
Education 535: Teaching Lab Strand III: Problems of Practice
This lab will serve as a forum for troubleshooting issues of planning, instruction, assessment, and classroom management. We will conduct the class using the workshop model. The class will provide students with an opportunity for sharing and receiving feedback from their peers as they work toward completing the spring student teaching placements. In addition, the class will include modules on special education, poverty, charter schools, self-care and classroom discipline.
The primary purpose of lab is to support (and encourage) students’ emerging classroom practice. Support will evolve from the presentations and workshops in class each week as well as individual conversations with the instructor.