Tag Archives: reading curriculum

Getting Graphic

For those brave souls who dare enter the world of (gasp!) graphic novels, you’ll find that Get Graphic is a comfortable place to start. In addition to the helpful Teachers’ Pages, the site features an extensive and impressive A-Z offering of annotated titles, complete with recommended grade level, a short summary, and web site.Getting Graphic

I’m a fan of graphic novels and I fully support their use in the classroom (see my lame attempt here to expound on the subject), but I won’t even pretend to be an expert. This site, however, offers me a fighting chance of keeping up with those crazy kids and their eclectic literary pursuits.

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The Hero Myth

One topic which I casually mention in my How to Teach a Novel workshop that stirs a lot of interest is the Hero Myth as described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

According to Campbell’s introduction,

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Described in greater detail, the journey of the hero typically includes most, if not all, of the following stages:

  • call to adventure: the character leaves his ordinary, exceedingly common life to enter an unusual and often supernatural world;
  • road of trials: there he encounters a number of tribulations, and often one exceedingly difficult challenge (he is often trained or advised by an older, wiser mentor);
  • the goal or book: a reward the hero receives as aa result of his trials, usually accompanied by a new knowledge of self;
  • the return to the ordinary world: the hero must consciously decide to return to his world, knowing what he now knows;
  • the application of the boon: the hero applies his new skills, powers, and understandings to somehow make his world a better place, or to right a wrong which he was previously under-equipped to face.

Sound familiar?

It’s the plot line of hundreds of books and movies, most easily recognized in Star Wars, Gladiator, the Matrix (see my cool post over at the Teaching that Sticks blog), and the Odyssey.

Less obvious is its appearance in The Lion King, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Dirty Dancing.Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing? Absolutely. Our heroine Frances, so naive to the ways of the world that she’s called Baby, enters the strange and sexy world of the Catskills resort employees. Arriving wide-eyed and innocent at the steamy after-hours dance carrying watermelons (I’ll leave you to analyze that), Baby suddenly realizes that the world she thinks she knows is just a facade. She is indoctrinated into this brave new world by street-wise and somewhat jaded Johnny Castle, who helps her discover herself in many ways, both G and PG-13. She returns to her world (and Daddy) with new knowledge about herself, and the ability to stand up for what is right.

Isn’t it nice to find that your guilty little pleasure is following in the footsteps of the Hero Myth?

Teaching students about this literary pattern really opens their eyes to just how many stories utilize its conventions. Student writers may also find that it’s useful for identifying weak points in their own stories.

A great place to start exploring more about the Hero Myth (or Hero’s Journey as it is alternately called) is by checking out the collected sites and activities at The Web English Teacher. And of course, for you purists, nothing beats the book.

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Tools for Teaching

You’re reading this post at the old How to Teach a Novel site. Continue reading this post or the most recent post at the new site.

mosaic-toolsTeachers often email me asking for ways they can help their students organize thoughts during the reading process. Yeah, that’s about as specific as the requests get. But not a problem; I wrestle with the same challenge in my fourth grade class and when working one-on-one with older students in tutoring situations.

My advice? Check out the resources at the Mosaic Email Group’s Teaching Tools. If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for, or if you’re simply interested in investigating what has worked successfully in other teachers’ classrooms, this is a great place to start. You’ll find dozens of assessments, lists, organizers, prompts, posters, and more in both Word and pdf format. While there, visit the main page to learn about the origins of the site and to join their email group. This is an excellent way to collaborate with like-minded professionals who are seeking to bring their professional practice to the next level.

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Handling a Group of Witch-Hunting Grown-ups

You’re reading this post at the old How to Teach a Novel site. Continue reading this post or the most recent post at the new site.

Book burning in Berlin. Lesson lost on some, apparently.

Book burning in Berlin. Lesson lost on some, apparently.

This stuff still happens? In a way. This brief article posted at the School Library Journal provides some guidance for librarians dealing with parents who want to remove “objectional” books from the library. Definitely of interest to teachers who use novels which might be deemed controversial.

Be sure to read all the entries. One parent group concerned about gang activities at the local mall wants to remove all books dealing with gang themes from the library. First of all, does this mean that modern-day classics like The Outsiders and time-honored treasures such as Romeo and Julietwill be banned for the gang-related topics? And secondly, are Bloods and Crips really turning to the public library for how-to advice?

My take on this? First, educate parents. Provide them with information which summarizes the books you’re teaching, while at the same time providing a rationale; in other words, why this book and not another? Second, have a fall-back book for those students whose parents object to the title you’re using. For example, if a parent objects to The Devil’s Arithmetic, substitute another Holocaust-related novel. The two books can address identical themes, and be assessed by nearly identical means. This respects the parents’ wishes for their children while maintaining control of the instruction and curriculum within your own classroom. Third, be sure that all books you’re using have been approved (including read-alouds and micro-texts). You want the district behind you should an offended parent come out swinging!

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