Tag Archives: teaching

In Search of the Novel

In Search of the Novel is a series of 8 one hour videos produced by Annenberg Media. From the series introduction:

Discover creative strategies for bringing novels to life for middle and high school students with this workshop, featuring the words and works of 10 novelists, including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, J. K. Rowling, and Toni Morrison. Within the framework of real classroom practice, the workshop offers interviews with contemporary authors, literary critics, teachers, and students, as well as film clips from adaptations of the novels featured. In Search of the Novel poses basic questions that can help you examine the genre from multiple perspectives and bring it to life for your students.

If you’re a teacher serious about implementing an engaging experience with novels, this free on-line resource is a must-see. As a first time user you are required to sign up, but that’s it. You can then view the videos at your leisure with no software or video player downloads needed.

You also have the option to purchase the series on DVD or VHS with learning guides. This would make a great topic for a professional study group at the middle or high school level.

A synopsis of the individual workshops is listed below:

Workshop 1. Who Owns the Novel?
(illustrating how each reader makes a novel his or her own, depending on the reader’s culture, class, generation, gender, and personality)

Workshop 2. What’s the Story?
(how an author spins a story and why it is the most important aspect of the novel)

Workshop 3. Are Novels Real?
(must a novel bear some likeness to reality?)

Workshop 4. Where Do Novels Come From?
(the genesis of characters, plot, themes, and interpretation from the novelist’s point of view)

Workshop 5. Why Do I Have To Read This Book?
(the workshop’s ten novels are examined to see why they appear on recommended reading lists; also reasons for reading)

Workshop 6. What’s in It for Me?
(ways to help students respond to novels on deeply personal levels)

Workshop 7. Who Am I in This Story?
(examining the complex ways readers identify with characters in a novel)

Workshop 8. Am I Getting Through?
(teachers examine their effectiveness in helping students comprehend and appreciate novels; teachers also discuss and demonstrate strategies for evaluation)

9 and 10. Authors’ Notes
(contemporary authors — including Orson Scott Card, Horton Foote, Ernest Gaines, Arthur Golden, Daniel Keyes, Katherine Paterson, J. K. Rowling, and Leslie Marmon Silko — reveal even more of their own writing process)

In Search of the Novel is a little-known gem which you’ll come to treasure!

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Story’s Privileged Status

“I have read that the mind treats stories differently than other types of information. It seems obvious that people like listening to stories, but it’s not obvious how to use that in the classroom. Is it really true that stories are somehow “special” and, if so, how can teachers capitalize on that fact?”

The answer to this question is well worth a read for any teacher desiring to put the power of story into their daily instruction. Cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham addresses the topic of story in his excellent article The Privileged Status of Story, one of his many Ask the Cognitive Scientist columns at the AFT’s American Educator.

Daniel first defines story using four features commonly agreed upon by professional storytellers (playwrights, screenwriters, and novelists). These features (sometimes called the 4 Cs) are Causality, Conflict, Complications, and Character. Even if a teacher chooses not to tell “stories” in the traditional sense, employing just one of these features can have a profound impact on every lesson, helping to create learning that is interesting, memorable, and easier to comprehend.

Although his role is to point out the theory and research behind the well-deserved status of story, Willingham writes like a practitioner, offering suggestions which are practical and simple to implement. For you fans of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, this article is a concise, highly accessible how-to guide for putting story to work in your instruction.

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Top Ten YouTube Videos for the Classroom

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.

Tara Seale has compiled a nice list of the Top Ten YouTube Videos for the Classroom over at her Enhanced English Teacher blog. If you’re a middle or high school English teacher, you’ll find some great resources and insights there.

For example, those of you who have had the immense pleasure of attending my Teaching that Sticks workshop or my How to Teach a Novel workshop have heard me mention Joseph Campbell’s “Hero Myth.” The clip below features a discussion of the Hero Myth as it appears in The Matrix. Christopher Vogler, author of The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writersand Using Myth to Power Your Story takes over where Joseph Campbell left off. This snippet of video serves to set up this topic up for classroom discussion.

Thanks for the list, Tara! Visit her site and give her some suggestions for building it to a Top Twenty!

(Missed my How to Teach a Novel workshop? Visit my How to Teach a Novellens over at Squidoo.com for an abbreviated run-down).

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