Friday, August 14, 2015

What Does it Mean to "Teach" a Novel? (Part I)

It was a knock-down, drag-out fight, and it lasted for months. We wrestled. We argued.

The issue? To Kill a Mockingbird.

Teachers--one from each middle and high school in our large district--gathered for The Great Debate over who got to teach what pieces of literature. Does eighth grade or ninth grade get Mockingbird? Will Lord of the Flies be at ninth or twelfth? I was criticized for teaching Faulkner. Another teacher was slammed for Shakespeare overkill.

Why do we get so emotionally attached to the novels and plays we teach? Why, when I was a curriculum specialist, did teachers regularly call me because someone at a feeder middle school was teaching--you guessed it--To Kill a Mockingbird? (We had one diehard who refused to play nicely.)

I have my favorites: Things Fall Apart, Great Expectations, The Bluest Eye, Catcher in the Rye. Plays? I could teach Medea, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Julius Caesar all. day. long. Ask me to recite Marc Antony's funeral oration. Just ask. My favorite literature lesson to teach is the background for Oedipus. Their faces!

As this hemisphere gets back to school, my blog will be dedicated (for a week or two) to the teaching of the novel. What does that even mean? What should it look like? What should a novel study (or novel unit) include? Do we focus on skills or content? Reading or writing? What should assessment look like?

Follow along and join the debate.

1 comment:

  1. I have had the same "discussion" when there was a 5th grade teacher who refused to stop teaching Hunger a games because the lexile fell within the fifth grade range. I taught the same book to my 8th graders because of the content.