middle school english questions...
I said i was a lurker, and Iíve been doing a good job of it till now. I'm graduating inside in about 2 weeks, and have started to apply for a teaching position, mostly with private and catholic schools in the area. I'm hoping I get some calls back, even though I'm not an education major (i noted I'll be applying for my temp certificate this summer).
I'm guessing I'm going to have to give a break down of what I would do in the position (6-8th grade literature). When i was in middle school English lit and grammar were two different classes, so I'm not sure if I would end up teaching grammar as well.
The question is though, what to teach to the youngins? I want to introduce them to Shakespeare for one, I figure a comedy, maybe A Midsummer Nightís Dream, for 6th grade, a darker comedy, The Tempest, for 7th, then a tragedy, Macbeth, for 8th grade. I hope to be able to move away from the god-awful textbooks I remember in middle school, and get the kids to see books as portable entertainment. I mean, honestly, who wants to lug around a 7lb hardcover? (in high school, i refused to carry my copy of the norton anthology simply because it was oddly shaped and heavy. it made a good place to rest my lunch in my locker ) I also want to introduce The Hatchet. I read it in 6th grade and ended up reading the rest of the series on my own. I also would like to get the kids reading some classics, introduce them to it before the high school teachers do. Other authors Iíd like to be able to teach would be Hemmingway, Vonnegut (I am devastated to hear that the man died!), and maybe Huxley for the older students.
To be honest, Iím taking from two of the most influential English teachers I had; both taught literature in a way to encourage the students to think as existentialists. I like that idea, taking responsibility for yourself and your own ideas. Donít be a Sheep is a good motto, I think.
However, do you think Iím putting the bar too high up for 12-14 year olds? I know at that I age, I was reading anything I could get my hands on, but not every student is going to be a voracious reader, so I want to encourage reading by teaching relevant books, short stories, and poems. I just figure if I bring interesting subject matter into the classroom, the students will enjoy it more and thus learn more. I know not everyone is going to enjoy every book, especially on the first time reading it (donít ask me about Heart of Darkness, version high schoolÖ Heart of Darkness in college was much more enjoyable and much more passable).
Ok, thatís enough of my rambling. Iím off to research age appropriate books to start making a list for interviews of what I would teach.
Hatchet, certainly - very age appropriate for grade 6 or 7. As far as Shakespeare goes, I've done some Reader's Theatre using the Shakespeare that has been "translated" for lower reading levels. I don't personally feel that MOST kids are ready for Shakespeare in grade 9 when they start teaching it here, let alone before that.
In my class, the only novel we read as a whole class are the ones I read out loud to them. Reading levels vary far too much to have a whole class novel study. Perhaps your area is different, but doing Huxley with my kids would be utterly impossible - they just aren't "there". I have a couple kids I would (and have) recommended stuff like 1984 and Brave New World to, but it's a COUPLE kids out of the 96 I currently teach (grade 7/8)
Honestly, kids aren't going to learn to love reading if they are trying to choke down books that are beyond their reach.
First, you need to see the standards for your academic area. Those are what need to be addressed and you need to find out what novels address them. Usually schools have class sets of novels designated by grade level. At my school for
8th grade we read Nothing but the Truth and Ten Little Indians. In 7th grade they read Hatchet, Maniac Magee, and The Outsiders. In sixth grade they read Something Upstairs, The Cay, and The Weirdo. These are just a few that I recall. We read them together in class for the most part, assigning a few chapters to be read independently with during reading strategies such as Predict, Questions, Summarize, and Clarify. You should also look into Literature Circles and Socratic Circles (google them).