Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Top Five Texts to Teach

I love lists.  The clean lines, the simplicity, the order.
When I'm overwhelmed by work, a to-do list is my best strategy.
When students don't know how to start a writing assignment, I suggest a list.
I create daily or weekly lists of to-do's, but I also hold happy lists: places to go, things that make me happy, and things/people to feel grateful for.

So, time for a list.

I've been teaching literature and humanities courses for about twenty years.  In all of that time, I've taught many texts--novels, stories, films, cartoons, ads, and maybe even cereal boxes (though I could be making that last one up).

But here are the ones that have consistently triggered substantial reactions and discussions from high school-aged students, and I never seem to get tired of exploring these with students.

Never-fail-me texts:
1. Macbeth  (Lady Macbeth--cool badass or evil? What's/who's to blame for Macbeth's fall from grace? Why do good people do bad things?)
2. The Yellow Wallpaper, by Gilman  (students are both puzzled and fascinated by what's going on--and they have to look closer)
3. Thelma and Louise  (ok, women w/ guns and booze--maybe not a great one for HS, but for discussing defiance, gender roles, and power, it's great)
4.  Mushrooms, poem by Sylvia Plath  (so simple and accessible.  Use it to introduce metaphor and/or literary theory.  Read it first without the title; ask them, what's being described? So many interpretations.)
5. The Zebra Storyteller, by Holst (so surprising and so short.  Good one for reluctant and as well as strong readers. The question it raises--what is the purpose of stories, is a rich one.)

Teachers--I would love to hear about your no-fail texts . . .