Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: My Dream Curriculum

It's time for another Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies of YA Highway.
This week's question:

Today's topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics - Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens - but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

I am lucky to be in the positon of being an English teacher, because I do get the opportunity to have a say in what my students read. I do have to choose from a district-approved list when it comes to our core novels, but I get to do fun things like book clubs and read-alouds to expose my students to books that they might connect with a little more. 

I really do want to add:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I really want to do both of these books with my freshmen. Bullying and general a-holery are such a problem at my school (and in the world), and I would love to read and discuss these two books with my 9th graders, who I think would get the most out of them. At this age, they just have a difficult time really grasping the consequences of their actions, and seeing how the things that they do can impact the people around them and discussing it all in a safe environment could really be a good lesson for them.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I love the gorgeous writing in this book, the tender story, and the historical context is just a bonus. I love that this book give a different view of Nazi Germany. Most of the books about Nazi Germany focus on the experience of the Jews, but I love that this book focuses on a German family and how the time period impacted them. It gives a different view to an important time in history, and it does it in an absolutely gorgeous way. It would be a great discussion on POV as well. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I can't think of a better choice that would get all of the students engaged while discussing complex themes and elements of storytelling. This book would get them learning without them even realizing it. Those are my favorite types of books. 

Just in case you're curious, these are the books I currently teach in my classes...

English 9
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Excerpts from The Odyssey
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Also short stories and poetry

English 10
Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Also short stries and poetry

I like the things I teach, but it would be fun to add in some more modern titles for my kids. 

What books would you love to see in the high school curriculum?


  1. I was really interested to see what you said for this! A lot of people are saying The Book Thief and Hunger Games...but I think Speak is a great choice, too (and would provide a good discussion on structure).

  2. Thirteen Reasons Why and Speak do such a great job of teaching empathy. Very interesting to get to see what is really taught in HS classes--thanks for sharing!

  3. Looks like the high school curriculum hasn't changed much from when I was a student 6 years ago!

    I TOTALLY agree about The Book Thief... I even wrote that when I reviewed it! Happily though, I had one reader in Canada comment and say that she knows it is taught in some places, so there's hope!

  4. Loved 13 reasons and Hunger games & my son is reading The Book Thief in his 10th grade World Lit class.
    I would have loved to discuss John Green's books when I was in high school!

  5. I'm so glad you included lists of the books you actually teach because I thought of you when I read this prompt and wondered about your "real" list. I love the additions you'd make if you could... fantastic choices!

  6. Totally in agreement with you on those...

  7. All your wish list books are on my list as well! We must be soul mates.

  8. Um...we are pretty much the same. I had Before I Fall and Looking for Alaska on my list too.

    And Gatsby is indubitably my favorite book from high school. I read it every year with the juniors.

  9. Whirligig and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

    Great question!

  10. The books that you're teaching right now are pretty much EXACTLY what was in my curriculum at those ages. Bummer that you don't get to squeeze more in, but I'm so excited you get to do extra stuff like book clubs! I would have LOVED you as a student, I swear.

    I like the idea of discussing 13 Reasons Why and/or Speak with 9th graders. That is such a tough year, and a lot of kids deal with it in unfortunate ways. Those books could have a huge impact right then.

  11. I agree with your choices. I would have loved to read those books in class when I was in high school. Teens reading and discussing books that show why bullying is wrong would be so beneficial.

  12. I love your choices! I think it sucks that I had to wait till my last year of university to study the books I really love - I finally get to read The Hunger Games, Harry Potter (PoA) and Coraline for a class!

  13. Well, now I'm going to have to add The Book Thief" to my to read pile.

  14. When I was a senior in high school (in 2000), we read The Poisonwood Bible and discussed it in a book club format. It really taught me how to talk about a book with something I really enjoyed that wasn't super dense (we covered that the next time around when we read Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man ... Joyce makes my brain curdle).

    I think reading books like you mentioned interspersed with the more dense classics primes students to talk about books. It teaches them to enjoy reading as an experience, and not just as an assignment.

    Your selections RULE!