I teach Junior year English on the Southwest side of Chicago. Of my 127 students, some love any and every book they can get their hands on. Some only love a few books, maybe none of which they've had the chance to read in a traditional classroom.
Books allow us all--my students, you, me--the chance to do two things: to find ourselves in someone else's eyes in unexpected ways and to gaze through the window of someone else's story into worlds we're waiting to discover.
My students crave these windows and mirrors. Help them find the stories they love.
These two award winning texts will enrich the Dystopian unit I teach, a favorite from students. Right now, they have access to just two titles: The Handmaid's Tale and 1984.
By giving students choices in their reading, we help to ensure that their learning is not only long-lasting, but meaningful to them.
Handmaid's Tale and 1984 are great books, but they'll throw even the strongest adult readers for a loop and revolve around stories that may not act as a mirror or window for every student. Ship Breaker, a National Book Award Winner by Paolo Bacigalupi, follows the story of Nailer, a young teenager who lives in a world without oil, and is forced to struggle to make a living and define what it means to live in a world of scarcity. The book has plenty of popcorn-worthy action and character development while threading deeper questions about home (our English III focus) through the book.
In Unwind, another National Book Award Winner by Neal Shusterman, Connor and Risa face difficult choices in a Dystopian future. “Unwinding” a child is not considered murder; unwanted teenagers can be disassembled and their organs transplanted to people who need them. Even students who claim to hate reading have found this book gripping, and the plot angers them, riling them up, as many a good story is wont to do.
The dystopian unit comes at the pivot point of these students high school careers: they are done with standardized testing, moving out of Junior year, and approaching larger questions about their post-secondary plans. This unit leads them to take a critical eye to their world and their future, lending them an essential energy and perspective. Help them harness and find that!
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