TLT: Teen Librarian’s Toolbox: Loud and Clear: A Reflection on Teaching SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson in the Classroom (a guest post by author Eric Devine)

Loud and Clear: A Reflection on Teaching SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson in the Classroom (a guest post by author Eric Devine)

As part of the #SVYALit project, we reached out to author Eric Devine and asked him to write.  We wanted to make sure that male voices are heard in the discussion. And he is an awesome writer and teacher. Today he shares with us his experiences of teaching Speak in the classroom.  
The novel Speak is part of my school’s freshman curriculum. It’s the one book I hold onto until the end of the year, because there’s not much selling I need to do with the story, as I have to with To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, etc. The students read and discuss without much prodding from me, and it is during this discussion, two years ago, when the book went from a perfect end-of-the-year novel to detouring into dangerous and alarming territory. My classes discuss the novel in four parts, after each of the marking periods. By the end, they understand the symbolism with the seasons and within Melinda’s artwork. They see the root of Melinda’s chapped lips, the strained relationships within the story, and, of course, her inability to speak about what has occurred.During the discussion after the class had finished the novel, I kept hearing the word responsibility. Now, I had split the class into multiple groups, and it was buzzing through all of them, so I stopped the discussion and said to the class that it sounded as if they were focusing on the responsibility for the rape. They agreed they were. Part of me wishes I had pushed no further, but the majority is glad I asked what I did: “If you had to assign percentages of responsibility for the rape, what would that look like? Create a pie chart for me.”
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