What high school freshmen would be interested in analyzing anti-Utopian literature? MINE!
My high school freshmen represent a mix of abilities and interests, but I have managed to unite them all with a study of Ayn Rand's novel Anthem.
I teach in a rural public school, and my students haven't had much exposure to ideas that differ from that of their parents. The themes presented are relevant to today's societies world-wide, and my students have really sunk their teeth into analyzing the characters, plot, setting, and themes in the current novel. The idea of a "perfect" society is fascinating to them, and I would really like to capitalize on this by providing them with extension novels that have the same theme. George Orwell's novel 1984 and Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 both are excellent, classic selections that fit this need perfectly. The reading comprehension level of these titles, an important consideration when choosing books for use in a class of mixed-ability, is a perfect fit - both challenging enough for my advanced readers yet accessible for the rest.
In their current novel, Anthem, the main character is ostracized and hunted because he questioned the collective knowledge of those in charge, and the themes of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 will supplement this perfectly! Literature in my classroom is handled with book discussion groups where students learn, through reader's workshop, to ask questions, make predictions, make connections, visualize, summarize, synthesize ideas, and conduct a productive discussion. The discussions that arose as we progressed through Anthem have been amazing! Students were drawing parallels between themes and ideas in the novel and society today, including sub-groups and foreign cultures. The various merits of different government systems have been analyzed, and author's purpose, always a tough idea for students, has been hotly, but intelligently, debated. The issues raised in the titles I am requesting are so relevant to today's society that no one will utter the dreaded "Why do we have to learn this?"
The titles Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 fit in so well with my students' curious, questioning, sometimes challenging nature.
The stories are so well-written, the characters are so developed, and the ideas presented are so thought-provoking that they will be fully engaged from cover to cover. Your gift of these two sets of novels will help my students develop into the type of analytical thinker that we want from our next generation of leaders and innovators!
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