Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why Classics?

When I was a high school teacher, I taught primarily using classic novels. When I switched to middle school, I taught middle grade and young adult novels. When I was moved to 8th grade three years ago, I knew that I had to find a way to bridge the gap between my own beliefs about choice reading and the traditional reality that my students would face at our local high schools. I stripped out the classics I disliked, kept the Shakespeare play that I did like, and added a ton of independent reading. Last year we read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. We read an installment each week for the entire year, following Dickens' own publication schedule.

I get mixed results when I tell friends and colleagues about TOTC. Some are enthusiastic and curious, while others roll their eyes or share their own awful experiences with the novel in school. It'll be at least a year before my former students can return to tell me if their experience with Dickens helped them navigate their first year of high school classes. And as I think about how (and why) to use TOTC in my classroom this year, and as I wonder how I would handle a return to teaching high school, I'm left with the following questions:

  • Why include classic novels in our classrooms?
  • How should we use them with our students if we do include them?
  • What barriers keep teachers from using classic novels?

I'll share my own answers in a later post.

Currently reading: The Arrivals by Melissa Marr.
Why I'm reading it: Because she is awesome. And it's a western. Kind of.

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