Last night’s small group challenges

Hi everyone,

I was thinking about our small group work from last night. We never really got into talking in depth about the “Of Mice and Men” scenario. You will all remember that the problem was that the dept. chair wants us to teach this book, but there are not enough for each students and we were not supposed to loan them.

My small group thought that we would look at the issue of disability/difference, as well as companionship/isolation. We would use other stories and texts, such as Flowers forAlgernon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as well as Of Mice and Men. We would give students a choice of which text they would like to use, or allow them to bring one of their own. The students would be encouraged to write or blog about their experiences that are tied to the ideas that come up in the text.

I wanted to ask the class a question, though. Since there were not enough books for all of the students, our solution was to have them each read a different text that relates to the topic. The problem I see is that if everyone is reading different texts, how can we truly understand and appreciate the complexities of each one? We have discussed this idea before in class, and I have yet to understand how the class can have a discussion if everyone has read different material. Would anyone like to try to sort out this problem with me or come up with a different solution to the problem of not enough books?




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5 responses to “Last night’s small group challenges

  1. canadawr5

    I agree, but you can have one book that the whole class is reading and then have your seperate books.

  2. sunyprof

    Allison, thanks for sharing your group’s discussion. Imagine a space for literacy learning that doesn’t look like the current classrooms we have. Let your imagination go to work. This is a time to invent new ways to reach all learners.

    I don’t think a great deal of discussion is necessary for readers to comprehend and appreciate this novel. Students can be reading dozens of titles on a particular theme/topic. The Steinbeck novel would be a good one to use as one among many texts that focus on disability/difference. What is our goal?

    The study of literature or literacy for all learners? Can we problematize the study of literature as artifact–an English teacher’s project of course–but is it the project of many many Americans, readers, we hope, all? Are there other things we could be focusing on than the elements of literature? How relevant to all of our students’ interests/lives? These are questions I (and many of the voices we are hearing in our Discourse) I want us to wrestle with.

    Increasingly, the themes your group discussed have appeared in young adult fiction and non-fiction. I can share lots of titles that would engage readers at all levels on these topics.

    What are some very creative ways to provide enough “books” for all students?

    What about duplicating CD’s (cheap to do) and giving them to your students so that they can take the “book” home. What about helping students download the novel onto their ipods if they have them. Check out this site: There are now thousands of books available to readers online.

    I can suggest lots more ways to respond to this setting/situation. As I said, let your imagination take over. KES

  3. allison

    Professor Stearns, it’s my bedtime, so I will have to save some of my responses for tomorrow. One thing I’d like to address is the cost of the books on CD. I liked this idea but I would be concerned about copying CDs at home to distribute to the students. Copyright infringement? Do you know of any sources that provide free books on CD or podcast?
    I looked up Questia. Looks like a great site! I didn’t think of having the students get the texts for free online. Thank you for that solution!

  4. sunyprof

    You’re right about being concerned about copywright Allison. I’m just imagining out of the box. I don’t know of sources that provide CD’s free. However, I do know that increasingly everything in print is available on the internet for free.

    I would not use a book in a middle or high school Eng. class that I could not give to all students to take home. Period.

    I would use multiple book sets of different titles–xerox (despite copywright!) texts, canvass the community for support (like Erin, yes!), whatever I had to do to get books into kids’ hands.

    I had many sources for collecting paperbacks when I was in the h.s. classroom. I cleaned out lockers at the end of the school year, went to used book and garage sales as a matter of routine, used Scholastic marketing “magazines” to get free books for the classroom when we sent in orders from students, took books out of the library on my card for students, well, you get the idea! KES

  5. jillian24

    I agree with the concern about supplies. It seems like that should be somebody else’s concern. With the amount of money in this country, kids should be able to have their own books. Still, it appears that this, too, will be added to the teachers’ job description.

    I like some of Erin’s ideas for raising money. First, the kids helped. Especially in a class where destruction of school property is an actual problem as opposed to an excuse, students will care for the books they earned through hard work.

    Second, it’s rare to have a class mom/dad in high school, but why? Don’t teenagers need parental involvement too? Teachers can’t do it all, so volunteers are a great way to get things you need. I’ve found that even parents who have little money and work tons of hours will find ways to support their kids.

    Also, on the issue of kids reading different books, I think it’s great. It will keep them from falling into the trap of talking about the characters and plot only for the purpose of discussing the book. They will have to discuss a larger context, in this case disability/difference, in order to have a discussion others will understand. Having a few kids reading the same book gives them some support and after the discussion maybe they’ll trade titles.

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