Thursday, May 2, 2013

Powerful Literature

As a junior high English teacher, I have the opportunity to introduce my students to some GREAT literature! It is the #1 reason I chose certainly wasn't for all the papers I have to grade!! :(

This year, I have built my units around the concept that ANYONE, even an 8th or 9th grader, can be someone's hero. It's really worked out GREAT and I think the kids are really getting it which is the best part of teaching!

In my HONORS ENGLISH 8 class, we've studied:
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

In my ENGLISH 9 classes, we've studied:
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Romeo & Juliet 

along with a variety of short stories

It's been a GREAT year with a lot of discussion around which character(s) could be viewed as a hero and what they did to earn that "title." I've always tried to tie it back to what THEY...the students...could do. I feel like I've pretty successful with most/all of the students.

After Spring Break in April, we began reading our last novel: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt. It's the "sequel/spin-off/companion" novel to The Wednesday Wars. Without going into a lot of detail about either book, The Wednesday Wars is centered around a 7th grade boy named Holling Hoodhood and his 7th grade school year. He learns some powerful lessons from teachers and from studying Shakespeare. (YAY!!) In this book, there are several other students who are part of his adventures...both good and bad...and you really get to know and either love them or hate them. One of these boys is Doug Swieteck who is a bully in the beginning but eventually becomes someone Holling could consider a "sort of friend." Okay for Now is Doug's story as he moves away from Holling, the others, and Camillo Jr. High to Marysville, New York. We learn Doug's story from him...POWERFULLY written in as the first-person narration of an 8th grade boy who has a very rough life! He learns lessons from some great adults in his life and through the Audubon bird plates. We realize why Doug was a "bully" and come to love him!!

Today, we read an incredibly powerful scene in the novel. The students have had some amazing reactions to what they learned about Doug. The discussions have been FABULOUS!!!!!!!! I can't wait to continue and see how their understanding of the power of literature, text-to-self connections, deeper meaning, etc., etc., etc. I've also realized something I needed to be reminded of: Every child, every student, every adult, every teacher, EVERYONE...has a story! NO ONE is exempt from trials and crappy things that help shape us into the people we become. Sometimes, it takes persistence and a lot of hard work to figure out how to help someone but as teachers, adults, leaders, we can TRY to make a difference!!

NOTE: Even if you don't teach English, EVERYONE should read this book!!! I'd recommend reading The Wednesday Wars first but you don't have to...Okay for Now can be a "stand-alone" book.