Course Exam—ENGL 305 (Literature for Children)

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ENGL 305 is a six-credit senior level English course that “introduces the student to children’s literature, its history and development, and its rich variety of forms and techniques.  The required reading is not exhaustive but acquaints the student with some of the more important and representative forms, authors, and works of children’s literature.” The course requires ENGL 211 and ENGL 212 as pre-requisites or equivalent first year English course(s).  The course is also available for challenge.

Who Should Take This Course and Why

For this course we had the opportunity to interview Jessi Crawford, who started attending AU just before the pandemic as the first step to obtaining her degree in Education.  Although AU does not have the degree Jessi needs to become a certified teacher in Alberta, they offer many courses that can transfer over into the degree she is pursuing.  In addition, AU has made it possible for Jessi to start her education journey while working full time to support her family.  Jessi has three daughters who are now in their teens, so she has more free time to work on her classes.  Jessi lives in Southern Alberta and will eventually transfer into the University of Lethbridge to complete her Bachelor of Arts, a General in Humanities major, as well as an English Language Arts major in the faculty of Education.

When we asked Jessi if she would recommend this course to AU students she stated, “I would absolutely recommend this course to any student who appreciates stories.  However, I understand English courses are not for everyone and their post-secondary journey.  I believe that anyone pursuing education, or an English major would learn a great deal from this course, even if they don’t want to work with children in the future.”

I asked who she would recommend this course to she said, “I have already recommended this course to my eldest daughter.  She will be attending the University of Lethbridge in the Fall as an English major and has read my papers, seen the course books, and decided she will take this course over the U of L’s similar course because of its depth and reading materials.” Jessi also elaborated, “Who isn’t excited to read The Lion, the With and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, or the Harry Potter series? The best part was finding new favourites within the required readings, such as The Great Gilly Hopkins, which made me cry.  There are many beautiful readings!” She also wanted to emphasize to students, “If it wasn’t apparent in my previous answers, I highly recommend this course.  Don’t let the reading list deter you, it is easier than it appears.”

Course, Assignments and Final Exam Details

ENGL 305 includes fourteen lessons that explores the historical background, folktale, high fantasy, novels, cultural context, non-fiction, nursery rhyme, poetry, and much more.  Students are required to write three essays each worth 10%, 15% and 25% respectively.  The first essay is 500 words, the second is 1000 words, and the last essay is 2000 words.  Essays require students to delve into the readings and help students prepare for the exams.  There is a midterm and final exam for the course worth 25% each.  For the exam, students are provided with ten definitions, and they are required to define five and write three 500-word essays.  Jessi advised students that, “this may seem overwhelming, but the tutor is fantastic and tells you how to prep for the exam.”

The course also includes two practice quizzes that are not worth any marks which aim to help students learn and understand the various of definitions that are required to know for the exams.

How to Be Successful in the Course

Course Tutor’s Advice for the Course – Dr.  William Thompson

Dr. William Thompson has tutored ENGL 305 since 1998.  He has loved Children’s Literature since first reading J. R. R.  Tolkien’s The Hobbit at age ten.  He went on to a complete a PhD in children’s literature in 2004, and he likes nothing better than reading and talking about children’s and young adult books.  He has written papers on L. M. Montgomery, J. K. Rowling, and C. S. Lewis.  Some of his favourite authors include Jonathan Stroud, Ursula Le Guin, and J. R. R.  Tolkien; he also has a particular interest in dystopian and climate change fiction for young adults.  Dr. Thompson is blind and does all his work digitally.  Finally, he considers coffee a food group, and he loves to walk and read, usually at the same time.

When we asked Dr.  Thompson what ENGL 305 is about he stated, “ENGL 305 is a survey course in children’s and young adult literature.  this means the course attempts to introduce students to the history and traditions of children’s literature in English.  One course can’t possibly cover all of children’s and young adult literature, but ENGL 305 gives students a firm grounding in the genre and how it developed over time.  As students approach this course, I generally try to reassure them as to the multitude of names and dates they will encounter.  Students certainly don’t need to remember them all.  However, history and social context is crucial in understanding a genre such as children’s literature.”

Dr. Thompson elaborated, “Perhaps the most daunting part of the course is preparing for the exams.  Again, students can get overwhelmed by the names and dates listed in the course manual.  I’m always happy to help students navigate the manual.  My best advice for students is to keep track of names or key concepts they aren’t sure about, then get in touch with their tutor.  All of the tutors for ENGL 305 are approachable and highly experienced with this course, and all are happy to help.”

He also suggests that when preparing “for studying and exam writing strategies, every course has its challenges, and ENGL 305 is no different.  The midterm and final exams are marathon in nature—you will be asked to write five short paragraphs and three essays.  Once you have the terms sorted, you will want to break down the literature for the course into manageable chunks.

“The midterm, for example, always includes a question on the folktales in the course.  Get to know four or five folktales well; you can also take the time to review several folktales of a particular type, such as the Cinderella story.  Group the novels according to themes or motifs, such as coming of age or quest patterns.  This will make it easier when you have to write about the books on the exam.  Finally, remember that I’ve read the books too, so do your best to avoid summary on the exams.  If exam anxiety takes over, you may find yourself describing the plots of several novels.  At this point, the best thing to do is to ask yourself why such details are important, which should help you get back on track.  Enjoy the course, and remember that a whole world of children’s and young adult literature is waiting for you once you complete this course.”

Student’s Advice for the Course – Jessi Crawford

When we asked Jessi for her advice for the course she stated, “The most challenging thing for me in this course was finding the time to read and not get distracted.  As I said, I have a house full of people who would see me reading a good book and not consider the fact that I was actually studying!  Another challenge for me was narrowing down the topics for my essays.  There is so much to discuss I had to really focus and stick to the point.  The easiest was the assignments; once I got my outline started, the materials inspired me.  Studying for the exams was also easier because my tutor, Dr. William Thompson, has a website he sends to his students that explains in great detail what he is looking for when it comes to learning outcomes for the exams.  If you pay attention and follow his suggestions, you are sure to do extraordinary on your exams.  Remember, everything relates to the course and, more specifically, Children’s literature.

“My biggest suggestion is to do the reading, even if it is time consuming.  If you read your novels, and the study guide you will have a very good idea of what to expect in the exams.”

Jessi also added that, “English 305, Children’s Literature, is a senior-level six-credit course covering the history and evolution of children’s literature.  The readings assigned may seem overwhelming, but the books are well chosen and interesting.  I read through many of them in as little as a day or two; another student I spoke with would listen to the audiobook while she cared for her children.  As a future teacher, I appreciate the beginnings of my teacher library that this course has given me! The books that my 12-year-old and I were reading at the same time were Hatchet and Tuck Everlasting; this shows that these books are still relevant in today’s classrooms.  It was lovely to help my daughter with her novel study because I had more profound knowledge and appreciation of the book beyond its entertainment value.  A student in this class can expect to learn how to break down symbolism in the stories, to identify common themes throughout children’s literature and, in my case, turn around and teach it to a younger age group.  You will also learn the history of how children’s literature became a thriving market.”

When we asked Jessi about her experience with the course coordinator or tutor, she stated, “My tutor for this course was Dr. William Thompson.  He was wonderful.  He always responded to my emails within 1-3 business days with a thoughtful response.  He was even willing to give me feedback on my essay before I submitted it for marking.  His feedback has made me a better writer and literature analyst.  I would take any class he would offer based on his support and willingness to discuss your exams or essays.  I have heard good reviews about other tutors in this course, with similar comments from other students.  In this course, you will not be left to your own devices; support is available through email or phone.”

Questions?

If you have any further questions regarding the course, please do not hesitate to contact the Course Coordinator at dbuchanan@athabascau.ca.  Happy learning!

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