Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I Don't Like the Classics

This is an entry I posted at Gifted Education 2.0 in response to a discussion on books for novel studies. I really do like the classics---I just have a hard time slogging though them. I'm a contemporary kinda gal, I stick to contemporary themes in my adult reading, too.

I don't like the classics. Even though I'm smart, creative and an excellent teacher :) I'm not a scholar!! I've taught gifted for 22 years and got bored with curriculum available for gifted kids about three years ago. I decided to write all my own curriculum and added a literature component to my program. When I search for books I have two criteria in mind---1. none of my gifted readers have read the book and 2. the books get a "wow, this is the best book I've ever read" reaction from the kids. I've had good luck so far.

Here are some of the books we've used---some will be too young for your kids (middle school/high school) and I'll point that out.We started with Eragon by Christopher Paolini. The book isn't great but was written by a 15 year old ( my point was that if a 15 year old could write a best seller, you could too) --kids loved it and the sequel Eldest. We went as a group to see the movie last December.

We then read Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett. These are too young for your kids, but have a historical connection. I love the "daVinci Code" type books for kids---books with clues, intrigue and historical connection. I wrote curriculum for both these books and you can see a blog article about them here. Kids love Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. It's in the Steampunk genre, according to one of my sons. There is at least one sequel.

This spring we read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick which has the historical connection to invention of movies. It is a brilliant book, half of the 580 pages are illustrations but not in a typical format. The illustrations tell the story---like a graphic novel. The problem with this book is that everybody has to have a book---not a good read a loud. I did not write a curriculum for it but easily could have.I have several others I haven't used yet.

Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton has the history of books as it's back plot. The end is a little weak, but I'm going to use it eventually. I haven't read Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey yet--but plan to. It is wrapped up in the rain forest fauna and flora.

Another option is Phillip Pullman's Golden Compass. The movie is coming out in December. I've read the book but only used it in a small group. I did read an article by a concerned Catholic parent about the religious (or lack of religion) overtones in the second and third books. Any time I use a book I read it first and contact parents. I tell them to read it and if we have online discussions I ask them to join in on the discussion.


ms. whatsit said...

I love the Pullman books and I can't wait for the movie to come out.

I think that it's more important to connect kids with books/stories that interest them as opposed to feeding them the classics for the sake of tradition. There is an appropriate time for them, of course, and at some point in time the classics can be used to teach cultural and historical context. But I agree that they are not the end all and be all of education.

nbosch said...

As I mentioned in one of my posts The Dark Materials Trilogy (especially books 2 and 3) is controversial in some religious groups. http://www.amywelborn.com/reviews/pullman.html

Since I teach parochial kids in my public school gifted program I try to be careful of controversial topics. I'll do my research before I use Golden Compass in the classroom---yikes!!!

Dogtrax said...

I loved all of these books, too.
Last year, I discovered Hugo Cabret and fell in love with it. I read it to my own kids and brought the book into class. You are right, of course, that it is not made for read aloud BUT the publishers and author created an interesting audio/CD version that you can order that uses sound effects to replace the action in the graphic pictures. The audio also comes with a terrific DVD of the author talking about how and why he made the book.
And finally, did you know you can actually find the old French film that he references in the book on Google Video?

Very cool. My own sons were amazed and tranfixed by the old movie, particularly after reading the book with me.
I need to find a way to get this book integrated some way for my sixth graders.
Take care

nbosch said...

Thanks, Kevin for your post. I used the DVD for the author interview, he seemed like such a neat guy. We also watched the old movie online. Aside---I'd seen the video on YouTube and by the time I went to show it to my kids the district had blocked YouTube!!! Oh fine, luckily it was on Google Video, too.

I've got two more in my stack. The Valley of Secrets (might use it in cahoots with a study of the Mayas) and The Mysterious Secret Benedict Society. I usually like to find a curriculum connections---but might just read TMSBS for fun.