The Jens

The Jens
jen b & Jen P

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Brave New World in a Brave New Way

I’m in the midst of a dystopian unit I’ve taught before and I’m realizing how much my lessons are changing in order to meet the CCSS. I’ve taught Brave New World a handful of times now, and in the past I’ve focused more on the ideas in the book and connections we can make to present-day life. I haven’t focused as much on the text itself, especially the writing, because honestly, I don’t care for the writing – it’s the ideas that draw me in. I don’t think this novel is particularly well-written and I don’t find the style to be what drives my interest in the book; there are parts of the book I wish Huxley had written differently and there are plenty of places in the story where I think Huxley is focusing more on getting his ideas out than telling a good story. But as I prepared to introduce my students to this classic, I realized that if I am to address the Common Core reading standards for literature, I need to change what I do with this text.

I think I do a pretty good job of having students find evidence in the text (standard 1). That they don’t always integrate this evidence into their essays is another issue, but when I ask them to find, for example, a quote that highlights something the society in BNW values, they can provide a quote about community or stability. We’re about halfway through the book at this point, and I’ve asked them to find quotes that support assertions or reveal something about the themes that I’ve provided them. As we get closer to finishing the text, they’ll have to make the assertions and find the quotes, but initially, I did to make sure they were on the right track.

As we finish and review the text this week, we’ll spend time looking at how themes are developed (standard 2), and new for me this time around, the author’s choices in how to develop and relate elements of a story (standard 3). I usually gloss over how BNW is written, but now I’ll slow down the conversation and let the students focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the writing. We’ll have to spend time looking at how the text is structured and how that contributes to its overall meaning (standard 5). And we’ll look at why Huxley wrote the novel, which I think gets at standard 6 (point of view).

One aspect of teaching this unit that I am not changing is all the additional reading I bring in to support our study of the ideas presented in BNW. Some of these readings include Huxley’s own essays in Brave New World Revisited, but I have some additional current events-type articles to also spark discussion and deeper thought. These address the CCSS standards for reading informational texts. As with the novel itself, I’ve used some of these readings in the past to generate in-class discussions, but now, with the standards for informational reading in hand, we’ll spend more time analyzing the text and not just the ideas.

I know it isn’t necessary to hit every standard in every unit, that the standards are end-of-year grade-level expectations, but I do need to make sure that I am addressing these throughout the year and not just focusing on the easy-for-me or preferably-to-me standards. And looking at how this novel is written is just as important as what was written, so that’s the task this week.
How are you adapting your lessons to meet the new standards, Jen B?

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