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i am a huge fan of latin american literature, but i've always hated sandra cisneros. on the flipside, i'm happy to see that arundhati roy is now high school reading. good luck planning... i say go with atwood for 9th grade!


I agree with your dept. head...Alias Grace and Ragtime are probably a bit much. I read them in a 300-level historical fiction class in college.

They're definitely great books, but probably not for 14- and 15-year-olds.


i am so jealous of your book selection.
i have like 4 books to choose from for my 8th graders, and they are all at about a 4th grade reading level because so few students are reading above that. oy.


Some of the factors that affect what books you teach are:

1) How much support material for planning lessons already exists? If there's little to none, you will have to do every single worksheet and plan and really stretch yourself to keep up with / on top of all your students. If that's one class per term, that's interesting - any more classes than that, and you're drawing energy away from the actual job of teaching, and that's not helping your students.

2) Are other teachers in your department teaching these novels? They're an utterly invaluable resource - if you ever get the opportunity to swap ideas or plan in tandem with a colleague on the same book for the same term, it raises your game massively.

3) Did the students do a difficult text last term? However well they did, you need to think about their approach. Children find it discouraging to *always* find reading hard. Could there not be a seesaw effect - one hard text, one fun text, one challenging text, one relaxing/interesting text etc? Can you recall a teacher who ever pushed you to go further than you felt you were capable off every term, or did they manage your learning so that you enjoyed your study, and balanced that with pushing you further than you knew you could go?

4) The difficulty level of reading the text is, as you rightly point out, not the only factor. Equally, a less challenging text can be made far more challenging by spirited planning.

I don't want to say, no, no, no, don't do it, but I think you need to assess the reasons that established teachers may not always set Ulysses in second grade...?

Having said that, your department's bookolist is fantastic. You have a good schoool there. I have a choice of three texts per year group in my school, one per ability group (they assume only three ability groups exist). None is challenging, and very few are interesting. I teach plenty of the books you've metnioned in secretly smuggled photocopied versions, on the quiet, as the administration would have a hissy fit if they thought I TAUGHT ANYTHING OTHER THAN WRITING REPORTS FOR FOURTEEN WEEKS AT A TIME. (oops, accidental caps lock, there!)
It's an uphill struggle.

Finally: I found Alias Grace a deeply boring read, myself. I'm sure it could be done well, but I'd very much like to know how you would do it. Would you object to putting your ideas, or an outline of the issues you'd pick up on, on-blog, as it were? It could be very useful for other Literature teachers.


Another question - I can't understand how some of those titles register as 'world lit' and not in the other categories? 8 of them are british, and 8 american lit, as far as I can see. What's the criteria? Is the category merely setting? In the which case, Brave New World and Handmaid's Tale should be set in Chronologicallly futuristic Lit, no?


Lectrice- Wow. Thanks for your comments. I'm going to mull them over and then give them a post of their very own.


Gosh. There's validation! (Flattered!)


No _To Kill a Mockingbird_? Did I just miss it? That is a 9th grade classic!


Well, you know I am not in the know into how these things are selected, but I never really understood how certain books were decided appropriate for certain grades. I used to think that maybe writing style & elements made certain books more complicated, but then I see what to me are more complicated books taught to younger grades than some easier, more straightforward books. And symbolism, etc is very subjective and you can complicate even the easier books by introducing all sorts of literary critism.

But - if something is fun for you, I am sure some of the enthusiasm will rub off to your class.

Good luck deciding!


i entirely agree with noreen.

arundhati roy is my favorite writer. i love her political stuff. but i simply do not understand the obsession with the house on mango street. back in ninth grade i had to read that i believe... i hated it.

random question: why is "and then there were none" on the world lit list?? or is there another book named that besides the agatha christie one. i'm assuming it's because it's modern, but that's a complete cop-out, if the point of "world lit" is to expose students to non-western viewpoints.

too bad "catch 22" isn't on there. that was my favorite book from required school reading at least in 12th grade. AP though... i don't remember if this was on the list, but "heart of darkness" was the only assigned book in high school that i absolutely refused to finish because it was so painful. so please don't teach that :)

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