Tag Archive for Catcher in the Rye

How to Use Art in the Classroom

Before students can begin connecting the artwork to literature they have to have a thorough knowledge of the image itself.  An easy way to do this is to ask them to apply the SMEARS acronym profiled on Tuesday.  Depending on the ability level of the students and the difficulty of the image, students might need to work in groups or answer questions to help them complete the acronym.  Then, after they have a firm understanding of the image, you can incorporate the texts suggested yesterdayRead more

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Argument Analysis: Literature Connections

While the GRE prompts and suggestions for this week are great for an AP English Language class because of the focus on argument, these prompts could also work really well when partnered with literature. The pool of “Analyze an Issue” prompts tend to work better when pairing with literature because of the nature of the prompts and the brevity of the statements.  The beauty of these prompts is that they could be used at any point within a novel; however, I think they serve as an excellent way to introduce the text.  Similar to what was stated yesterday, I struggle to write my own quality statements for anticipation guides; they tend to be generic and fairly short-sighted.  Now I just use GRE prompts because they are complex enough to generate really meaningful discussion.

Consider using some of the suggestions on Tuesday and Wednesday to incorporate the below prompts as a form of an anticipation guide or use some of the suggestions from our week on anticipation guides.  You could have the students thoroughly analyze or debate one of the below issues or compile multiple statements into for students to consider the extent to which they agree with each.

TEXTS WITH MAN v. SOCIETY CONFLICT-like The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath, Pygmalion, and Crime and Punishment

  • People’s behavior is largely determined by forces not of their own making.
  • Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models. Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society’s highest ideals.
  • The increasingly rapid pace of life today causes more problems than it solves.

TEXTS WITH MAN v. SELF CONFLICT-like Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye, Hamlet, and Lord of the Flies

  • Unfortunately, in contemporary society, creating an appealing image has become more important than the reality or truth behind that image.
  • As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and mysterious.
  • It is primarily through our identification with social groups that we define ourselves.
  • The luxuries and conveniences of contemporary life prevent people from developing into truly strong and independent individuals.

TEXTS WITH MAN V MAN CONFLICT-like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Separate Peace, and To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.  Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.
  • In any situation, progress requires discussion among people who have contrasting points of view.
  • Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.

TEXTS WITH POLITICAL UNDERCURRENTS: like All the King’s Men, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, and Julius Caesar

  • The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.
  • Governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear.
  • Leaders are created by the demands that are placed on them.
  • Claim: In any field—business, politics, education, government—those in power should step down after five years.  Reason: The surest path to success for any enterprise is revitalization through new leadership.
  • Some people believe that in order to be effective, political leaders must yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise. Others believe that the most essential quality of an effective leader is the ability to remain consistently committed to particular principles and objectives.

Non-Fiction to Pair with Coming of Age: Examine the Teenager

Image from Vivian Chen

Teenagers love themselves and all are, to some degree, self absorbed.  Seriously.  If I had a $5 Arby’s gift card for every time a student made some self-important comment I’d be rolling in Beef ‘N Cheddars.

But I don’t fault them.  That is the perk of being a teenager, right?  Living without consequence or fear or responsibility.  Yet, because of their narcissistic view, they often struggle to see the big picture because they struggle to see outside of their immediate lives.  This certainly causes a problem for interpretation.  As a teacher of teenagers, I feel it is my duty to make them more self-aware and ask them to evaluate who they are and what they believe and where these values came from, which will allow them to better evaluate a text.

Coming-of-age novels are typically brought into the classroom for students to relate to and learn from.  Reading a novel in this genre allows students the opportunity to place themselves in the situations and scenarios and consider how they would respond if they were the main character.  Yet, it is important for us to not just keep the self-exploration limited to the text itself.  For some students, it is impossible to connect to a character from the 19th century, regardless of the similar traits they possess.  Therefore, providing contemporary essays and articles about their generation as a supplement to the coming-of-age novel allows students a great opportunity to examine themselves and their values in the guise of fiction.

Below are a series of essays/articles that explore the current nature of the teenager and would serve as nice supplements to pieces of literature.

  • A Generations vanity NYTarticle by John Tierney-NYT: This article examines the lyrics of songs popular with contemporary teenagers and deduces that the narcissicism encourages a sense of isolation and loneliness.  This article might be a nice supplement to a song/text comparison, which allows students to discuss how music becomes an indicator of a group’s mentality.  Even though this article addresses the narcissistic nature of teenagers, due to its discussion of depression it can be appropriately be connected to pieces like Hamlet,  Catcher in the Rye, The Chocolate War, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • Demon Denim,” op-ed by George Will from The Washington Post:  This conversationally constructed opinion piece is a fascinating look at the moral degeneration of today’s teenagers and their inability to “grow up.”  Ask students to study the root of Will’s argument and evaluate the extent to which it is true today.  While it might not always align with the main character, consider pairing this op-ed with many of the pieces stated above as well as This Side of Paradise, Lord of the Flies, and A Separate Peace.
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death Postman,” excerpt from Neil Postman book:  Critic Neil Postman is known for his clear and often biting opinions.  In this piece he critiques the way in which culture has created an ill-informed society that has a difficult time thinking for oneself.  While this piece is centered around media, it can be used as a study of how teenagers are ultimately shaped by their environment and the manner in which they bend to fit into various cultures.  Ask students to examine the consequences of Postman’s argument and then compare and contrast it with the fictionalized characters in pieces like Never Let Me Go, Atonement, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Podcasts to Use in the Classroom

When I was younger my parents used to always listen to talk radio (especially 700 WLW, a Cincinnati radio station) during long car trips.  At the time, I thought it was lame that I could identify Bill Cunningham’s voice, now it informs why I love listening to podcasts during my daily 1.5-hour long commutes.  They are nostalgic to me.  They remind me of my youth, while informing my future.  Because I’m an English teacher and love grading student writing every night for two hours, I rarely have time to indulge in topics that interest me.  I’m able to listen to news programs, book talks, psychology of art, and discussion of trends Read more