Monday, May 18, 2015

The Cool Books Project

Do you know about NAIS's Cool Books Project? You can send in your recommendations for great nontraditional classroom books and share them with teachers across the country. Here's mine from the NAIS website:

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
In a canonical curriculum, students rarely have the chance to read non-fiction. Like most English teachers, I believe they can address life's biggest questions and issues through connections to fictional characters and situations, but for a teenager in the throes of identity construction, there is nothing quite like reading about a teenager experiencing the same thing. A real teenager. Holden Caulfield will do the trick for some, the Garcia sisters for others, a few will fall for the Bennets or Hemingway's young travelers, but when I introduced my junior American Literature students to Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild, they almost all found a way into the book.
I liked reading Into the Wild after a unit on Transcendentalism, in which students considered Thoreau's call to the wild and Emerson's push for self-reliance. Chris seemed a young and modern cousin of these two interesting gentlemen, practically their P.R. person for the new generation. Students enjoyed debating the extremity of Chris's response to the literature he was reading, his responsibility towards his family, the possibilities and dangers inherent in a decision to stray off the path laid out for an independent high school student. I was glad to be using Harkness, the student-based round table discussion method, as we discussed the book. The students needed very little guidance from me to engage with Krakauer's text. 
One final note: despite my students avid lobbying, I refused to show the movie. If kids wanted to see it, they could do it on their own, and many did. I felt it took major liberties with the text, and though interesting, did not suit my classroom needs. 
—Betsy Potash, The American College of Sofia (Bulgaria)

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