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  1. #101

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    But then, how do you introduce them to great literature? Not many of the people who say you shouldn't "force" it in high school ever offer good alternatives.

    I LOVED literature in high school, but I hated math with a passion. But no one ever says you shouldn't "force" math. Too bad for me, I just happened to have the wrong preference.
    There's not much point in introducing great literature to someone who can't and won't appreciate it, or math, for that matter. I think there should be a baseline level that should be taught, but beyond that, the classes should be electives, or people should be left to discover subjects later in life when they're interested and ready to appreciate them.

    At my US high school, we had a pretty big list of options to choose from for book reports, and the teacher was willing to accept out suggestions for additions if they were good ones. In Israel, my school had a program where we got an interdisciplinary approach to history and literature - we would read books either from the period that we studying about, or about it. That seemed to work fairly well.

    They also had us read Shai Agnon - Israeli's only Nobel laureate in literature. I hated it. Then at university 7-8 years later, I took a literature and psychology elective, and came across Agnon again, and it was great. I simply wasn't at the right age and frame of mind to appreciate his work in high school. I also found it much more interesting to approach literature from a psychological perspective rather than a literary one. Maybe the issue isn't what is being taught, but how it is being taught.

  2. #102
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    But then, how do you introduce them to great literature? Not many of the people who say you shouldn't "force" it in high school ever offer good alternatives.

    I LOVED literature in high school, but I hated math with a passion. But no one ever says you shouldn't "force" math. Too bad for me, I just happened to have the wrong preference.
    I didn't say don't give teens good literature to read. I said we need to not force stuff on them that has themes beyond their years. I taught English for 16 years. There are some books that people who make curriculum are convinced teens must read in school that they would grasp better as adults due to the themes. I had to teach Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country to sophomores at one school. That book is amazing. Absolutely amazing. But the conflicted feelings and pain a father experiences over his young adult son's life choices is not a topic that captures the interest of 15 year olds nor does it meet them where they are. Everything about the book went straight over their heads no matter how we taught it.

    I had to teach Dickens' Great Expectations to ninth graders in that same school. Completely over their heads as well.

    Or, for another very easy example, I had a 14 year old ninth grader read Pride & Prejudice for a book report in the fall one year (her mother's choice, not mine or hers). She hated it. She didn't get the humor or irony. She didn't get the context even when it was explained to her. Fast forward to her rereading it as a senior for class in the spring and she fell in love with it. She was ready for it then.

    At my second school, I was part of a group that rewrote the literature curriculum. We chose very carefully and tweaked when needed. Some books we had success with included To Kill a Mockingbird and The House on Mango Street for sophomores. Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies for ninth (seniors were bored by the latter, incidentally, when we moved it to ninth, it worked well). The Things They Carried and The Crucible for eleventh. Our principal wanted some Dickens, so we tried A Tale of Two Cities for twelfth. I taught that and while they weren't in love with it, it definitely was more accessible to them than Great Expectations is to the average ninth grader. Shakespeare also varies in its accessibility. And, as a Nebraskan, don't get me started on how the two Willa Cather novels most often handed out in our classrooms make kids hate her. Both are great books, but not for 9th or 11th graders. I had to read one in 11th grade. I loved literature and was not impressed. Five years later in college, I loved it.

    In my ideal world, literature classrooms would have a range of choices for novels and small groups would read them together, so that while five kids might tackle Austen, six others might want Bronte and the remaining ten Dickens. Books offered would be chosen because they have themes more accessible to high school kids. Give them accessible Shakespeare they can relate to in high school and you will see them at the Shakespeare Festival as adults (true story, I see former students there almost every year). Give them Julius Caesar and they'll run away screaming. The schools I taught at were open to this kind of instruction on the middle level but stuck in the notion that the whole class read the same thing in high school.

  3. #103

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    Well, that IS a good alternative. I appreciate that you've worked on this and have some well-thought-out ideas. In my experience, that's fairly rare in discussions like these!

    I'm not sure I would have personally enjoyed the small groups, just because I don't like doing things in groups. But I can see how this could work if carefully planned and implemented.
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  4. #104
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    Well, that IS a good alternative. I appreciate that you've worked on this and have some well-thought-out ideas. In my experience, that's fairly rare in discussions like these!

    I'm not sure I would have personally enjoyed the small groups, just because I don't like doing things in groups. But I can see how this could work if carefully planned and implemented.
    It might be rare in discussions like these, but in my experience it's not rare in education discussions. The "required reading" issue is one that's dealt with in very successful ways in all the classrooms I've had dealings with over the past couple of decades.

    Doing things in groups, btw, in this context is usually more for the purpose of allowing kids to select from multiple choices instead of all reading the same book. So picture the whole-class chapter-by-chapter discussions you probably had in your school days when everyone in the class was reading the same book -- same idea, only in small groups, where all the students who are reading To Kill a Mockingbird discuss that one in their group, all the students who are reading Dream Wheels discuss that one in their group, etc.

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    Just finished reading Lorna Doone. One of those I missed through the years. I don't think it's great literature. I do think it's a good adventure story - sometimes a bit rushed.

    I think I have mentioned from time to time that I am still slogging my way through Vanity Fair. It's been about two years now. I keep at it because even though I hate the characters and the jaundiced view of Thackery, I do recognize that he was probably the first to take this point of view about the upper crust of England and it is great literature. When I do finally finish, I think I will remember it very well and won't ever have to read it again.

    I recently finished a Hillerman mystery and am currently reading one of the "Haunted Bookshop" Mysteries.

  6. #106

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    Quote Originally Posted by Artemis@BC View Post
    It might be rare in discussions like these, but in my experience it's not rare in education discussions. The "required reading" issue is one that's dealt with in very successful ways in all the classrooms I've had dealings with over the past couple of decades.
    Well, the media doesn't always handle the subject very well. You'll often see a "don't force students to read great literature" article that doesn't offer any alternatives. Except perhaps "don't give them anything hard to read at all," if you count that as an alternative.
    Last edited by Wyliefan; 02-15-2014 at 07:53 PM.
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  7. #107
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    My son just read Macbeth in senior English. He loved it and his teacher raved about his essay on it. Ironically, he didn't tell me about reading it because I'm a Shakespeare junkie and can go off on long tangents about the Bard. He was NOT impressed by Hemingway last year, due to the teacher being a massive Hemingway fan. Seems book geeks annoy teens. Who knew?

    Back to my reading - I just finished Zelda (Fitzgerald) by Nancy Mitford. Kindle book had lots of word errors - diem' in place of 'them', 'die' instead of 'this', 'men' in place of something else I forget. It was weird. That aside, it was a haunting book and a tough read at times. Author spent way too much time on dissecting Zelda's books, but overall, I wanted to go back in time and protect her from her demons. Scott did not come off well.

    Now reading Pat Benetar's autobiography. I needed a change of pace after being depressed by Z.

  8. #108
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    I just picked up William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher. It's exactly what you'd think: Star Wars, written in Shakespearean.

    A sample:

    "Now is the summer of our happiness
    Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack!
    Our ship is under siege, I know not how.
    O has thou heard? The main reactor fails.
    We shall most surely be destroy'd by this.
    I'll warrant madness lies herein!
    The Princess shall have no escape this time.
    I fear this battle doth portend the end
    Of the Rebellion. O! What misery!"


  9. #109

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    That looks good!
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  10. #110
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    That looks good!
    A friend gave it to me for my b-day last summer. It is hilarious.

    Thanks for the compliment. Artemis@BC is correct. Educators who truly care have been talking about this a lot and looking for positive solutions to not kill kids' will to read. The problem is that administrators and people who pass down orders about curriculum usually don't want to talk about it or change anything.

    dbell1--Sometimes teachers who truly love an author or book don't want to give kids room to have their own taste. In my later years of teaching English, it finally clicked with me that saying to kids "this is not my favorite book, but you may like it" or "I LOVE this book, but it may not grab you the same way" is much more effective than the whole "I love it so you should, too" approach that so many teachers get stuck in (often when they don't even really love it). Everyone likes different things and introducing every book as "The. Best. Book. Ever. Published" is actually counterproductive (I worked with a middle school teacher who basically did that with everything she had her kids read). We all know we don't love everything we read. Pretending our kids are supposed to doesn't encourage them to become life long readers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbell1 View Post
    My son just read Macbeth in senior English. He loved it and his teacher raved about his essay on it.
    I recall reading Macbeth in high school and writing a paper that pleased my teacher quite a bit. Then of course came the shock of my first college level English paper getting a B-. I was devastated. Going to the professor's office hours and re-writing helped; so eventually I got an A in the class but I think I am still smarting from that initial shock many years later.

    Still on The Empress Cixi. The Olympics is preventing me from reading as much as I normally do.
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  12. #112

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    A friend gave it to me for my b-day last summer. It is hilarious.

    Thanks for the compliment. Artemis@BC is correct. Educators who truly care have been talking about this a lot and looking for positive solutions to not kill kids' will to read. The problem is that administrators and people who pass down orders about curriculum usually don't want to talk about it or change anything.

    dbell1--Sometimes teachers who truly love an author or book don't want to give kids room to have their own taste. In my later years of teaching English, it finally clicked with me that saying to kids "this is not my favorite book, but you may like it" or "I LOVE this book, but it may not grab you the same way" is much more effective than the whole "I love it so you should, too" approach that so many teachers get stuck in (often when they don't even really love it). Everyone likes different things and introducing every book as "The. Best. Book. Ever. Published" is actually counterproductive (I worked with a middle school teacher who basically did that with everything she had her kids read). We all know we don't love everything we read. Pretending our kids are supposed to doesn't encourage them to become life long readers.
    True. Though sometimes I think it helps encourage a love of reading if the kids can see how much the teacher loves it. I'll never forget my fourth-grade teacher reading us this, and openly crying over the end of it. It blew our minds to see that a book could do that to someone.

    . . . On the other hand, one of my college professors used to rave about Faulkner, and I couldn't make head or tail of As I Lay Dying.
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  13. #113
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    True. Though sometimes I think it helps encourage a love of reading if the kids can see how much the teacher loves it. I'll never forget my fourth-grade teacher reading us this, and openly crying over the end of it. It blew our minds to see that a book could do that to someone.

    . . . On the other hand, one of my college professors used to rave about Faulkner, and I couldn't make head or tail of As I Lay Dying.
    I always read the closing passage of To Kill a Mockingbird out loud to my sophomores and it never failed to choke me up.

    I'm not saying don't let them know when you love something. Just let them know that not everyone loves every book and that is perfectly normal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PDilemma View Post
    I'm not saying don't let them know when you love something. Just let them know that not everyone loves every book and that is perfectly normal.
    ITA. Sometimes just being told that it's okay to not enjoy a book will make a student hate it less and be more open to looking at the merits of a work.

    I will say, though, that I have always had more trouble with students who don't like to read, period, than with students who don't like to read literature. It's not that they don't want to read Shakespeare; they don't want to read, period. It's always a major triumph to help such students find a work that they like; sometimes they can even be convinced to maybe read something else on their own, just because. But I've made peace with knowing that a lot of them will leave class thinking "Thank god I never have to read another book."
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    I had a student who hated to read (alas, it's not uncommon at all...), until he found the Cirque du Freak books. He blew threw the entire series in like two weeks and demanded I find him something else. Some other teachers were horrified, but, hey the kid was reading. Reading a lot.

    I have never been able to make lit circles work in my classroom. I find that one kid reads the book and tells the others what happens. I love them in theory, but I just can't make them work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PrincessLeppard View Post
    I had a student who hated to read (alas, it's not uncommon at all...), until he found the Cirque du Freak books. He blew threw the entire series in like two weeks and demanded I find him something else. Some other teachers were horrified, but, hey the kid was reading. Reading a lot.
    I find things like that really exciting. Even if he isn't reading lit, he has learned that reading can be enjoyable. Maybe down the road his reading tastes will expand. Or maybe not. But breaking down that wall of resistance is always a good thing, even if it doesn't lead them to reading Faulkner .
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.

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    I scandalized TPTB back in 1978 when I had the nerve to tell my 8th grade reading classes that they couldn't possibly hate reading "The Hobbit" more than I did, but since it was on the required reading list for that term, we'd suffer through it together. And the faster they completed the assignments, the sooner we could move onto something more fun ("The screenplay to "Fiddler on the Roof", IIRC). Apparently it was Not Good Form to admit that English teachers didn't love every book ever taught. But the kids enjoyed the fact that not only did I have to read a book I disliked, I had to teach it to three different classes at different times, so that I was stuck with that flippin' book all year. The only classic book I've disliked more is "Huckkleberry Fin" and that's only because I had to read it once in Junior High, once in high school for American Literature, twice in college for different lit classes and again in grad school, and then finally again when I had to teach it to a class of remedial 8th & 9th graders. You could not force me to read that one once more no matter what.

    I'm splitting time between pure fluff "Mary Balogh's "The Proposal" and Dick Button's "Conversation". I love Dick's voice and POV but the font in the book is straining my eyes so I have to keep putting it down, even though I'm enjoying it.
    I'd rather be thought of as absolutely ridiculous than as absolutely boring.

  18. #118
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    i've been reading fosse since the olympics started but i wont make much of a dent until it is over
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  19. #119
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    Quote Originally Posted by PrincessLeppard View Post
    I had a student who hated to read (alas, it's not uncommon at all...), until he found the Cirque du Freak books. He blew threw the entire series in like two weeks and demanded I find him something else. Some other teachers were horrified, but, hey the kid was reading. Reading a lot.
    My son has never been much of a reader until he found A-Z Mysteries (he is 8). He really likes the whodunnits. But he also likes the Sarah Plain And Tall books and had asked me for the sequels. He is a very family-oriented kid and the books are all about family. He is on the second to last of that since he chose them over the Mysteries for now. Harry Potter is next!
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceAlisa View Post
    My son has never been much of a reader until he found A-Z Mysteries (he is 8). He really likes the whodunnits. But he also likes the Sarah Plain And Tall books and had asked me for the sequels. He is a very family-oriented kid and the books are all about family. He is on the second to last of that since he chose them over the Mysteries for now. Harry Potter is next!
    One of the kids wasn't much for reading until he found the Spiderwick Chronicles, which he really liked (he's also 8). Mr Evilynn's reading Harry Potter to them at bedtime now, although we have on occasion found them awake past their bedtimes with the more bookish kid reading aloud for the less bookish kid.

    I had one of my worst ebook experiences reading a Swedish YA book a couple of weeks ago. It was too new to be available at the library, so I splurged on buying the ebook (at the facile price of $29 USD no less - I still find it hilarious when people complain about ebooks costing more than $5 ), only to find out that the damned publisher has added a "breaking copyright is stealing" message in strategical places throughout the entire book! It's not at all kept apart from the narrative and the first time I came across it I was all . "As Minou laid down on her bed, she let the black smoke envelope her and blankness take her. To download this text is a crime against copy right law, which can result in fines or prison time." WTF, I paid through the nose for this thing, why the effing heck are you telling *me* illegal downloads is a criminal offense!? Last time I purchased an ebook from them, from now on I'll just wait for it to be released to the libraries, or buy the DTB.

    I recovered some of my joy of reading with Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, which I had been putting off for a year, because some reviewers said it was slow/difficult (and I have too many things going on right now), which wasn't true at all, IMHO. It was a page turner, and I only wish I would've had more time devoted to read while I was at it. Fantastic characterization, even if I found some of the things the plot hinged on to be a little simple/naive. I know there is a sequel to it, but I sort of don't want to read it, because The Sparrow felt very self contained to me, and I don't want to get some kind of pat answer to the protagonist's grappling with his faith. I'm not even remotely Christian, but I still found the book to be a wonderful read.

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