Up Close and (un)Conventional – Classroom Reads
Welcome to this week’s Up Close and (un)Conventional. This is where I discuss both things that have to do with reading and blogging, and things that just have to do with life in general. This week, I’m going to chat a bit about reading in class. I teach English as foreign language in senior high, so my students are between 15 and 19 years old. When they’re in their second year, they’re supposed to read two novels during the school-year, and it’s not always easy to pick something that’s both interesting and that has value for critical thinking for their essays as well. Last year, when we were about to choose our second book for the year, one of my female students wanted us to read 50 Shades of Grey… And I told her I didn’t think it was a book that was appropriate for class. Both because of the sex, and because of the views on gender, truly. Now, I haven’t read the book myself, but I have seen the movie, and I didn’t really enjoy myself during that experience, it felt very uncomfortable.
At the same time, I don’t want to only read classics, because while I love many classics, the writing is much more ‘heavy’ and the subject matters aren’t always that interesting for teens, you know? So the actual book we read last year was If I Stay by Gayle Forman – the students got to choose between four contemporary young adult novels, and chose the shortest – and we watched the movie afterwards. We got very up close with grief and difficult decisions while reading that, and some students thought it was hard to read about a girl whose whole family died in a car accident! Part of our analysis was to see what was different between the novel and the movie, and we had some very interesting discussions. I think what’s important in class is to find something that won’t be too upsetting for my students to read – and also, it shouldn’t be upsetting for me to make up discussion questions, either.
This year, my students read the simplified version of either Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dracula or Frankenstein, because in one of the units in their grammar book, there was an article about fictional monsters, so I used that as a starting point of their reading. It was very interesting to see what they thought about the various monsters, and what it really means to be different – especially in the case of Frankenstein. Their presentations were well done, and actually also made me see things from a different perspective thanks to their fresh view of the subjects.
I know that in other classes, novels including sex are used, and I think it’s important that the students are able to be objective and analytical when it comes to this as well – but I don’t want to bombard them with it, either. Did you ever have to read something you or your parents thought was inappropriate when you were in high school?