Thursday, March 22, 2007

From Hinton To Hamlet*

It seems my function in our English Department is that of chief software/website/methodology book test pilot. I have about 3 discs and that many books to peruse so I can share my thoughts with the Department.

It's because of this job that a copy of From Hinton To Hamlet: Building Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and The Classics landed on my desk (and here is where I offer my apologies, because it's presently on my desk at school and I am on Spring Break. I promise to update this entry with more content when I get back into my classroom...). I seriously was able to read it in the time it took to get a pedicure and am very taken with some of the ideas in the book...

  • The book begins with the basic premise that many of the kids in our classes who aren't readers today were at one time. Their interest, the book claims, decreases when the choice of books they read is no longer theirs.
  • Student interest in books is killed through book choices that seem irrelevant, and through those required vocab lists and comprehension questions. Telling students the theme of the story, it argues, is nothing compared to a student discovering and identifying with a theme.

Sound familiar? Most of the book is a series of lists with suggestions for a ton of YA fiction that links thematically to the canon of HS literature as we know it. There's probably ten books for each of the Shakespearean plays that are generally studied along with novels like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. I'll share some of those lists later either here or via email, let me know if you're interested.

The approach the book advocates is a sort of guided independent reading. The teacher has, say, three copies each of ten or so books for a class and the students respond to the books through Reader Response Journals and Literature Circles. Then we experience the "classic work" together, noting the similarities in theme. I'm very excited at the possibility of this sort of activity paired with all we learned last Summer.

So I'm interested in your thoughts here.

  • First, have any of you had luck with Reader Response or Lit Circles? What advice would you give before I begin the projects? Are there other strategies that lend themselves well to a class reading several novels at once?
  • Second, there's always funding to worry about. I'm nearly positive I could get a grant my district offers, but I'd apply for it next school year and wouldn't get the books until the following year. That's just too long for me! Are any of you aware of other funding sources that would get me about 100 copies of YA novels?

I'd really love your ideas here, let's call this your check in!

*This seems to be a requirement for all the NITS-ers in "fly-over" country, so I'll say it here: SE Hinton? From Oklahoma.


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