OWP's Wild Things Discussion discussion

Connections to English class (or any class)

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message 1: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 13 comments The discussion members here specialize in all different levels of education (truly OWP, right), but I was wondering which parts of Handy's book are prompting you to make connections to the classes you teach. For example, students just learned the word anthropomorphize in my AP Lit class. I should have used that Peter Rabbit as an example! Instead, I talked about how people dress up animals for Halloween. In general, I enjoyed Handy's section on animals and the connections he makes between animals and children.

message 2: by Christene (new)

Christene Alfonsi | 9 comments The chapter "Kids Being Kids" has sparked connections to YA lit for me. In my high school classroom, my students have consistent independent reading all year long, and one of the things I encourage is the reading of young adult books. My AP students need a break from their pressure-cooker academic lives, my struggling readers need characters they can connect with in books that aren't too far off their instructional reading levels, and kids in between just need good books. For me, YA fits the bill in so many ways.

The connection between YA and this chapter is Beverly Cleary, whom Handy describes as "the first great contemporary realist in children's literature" (140). I looooooooved Cleary's books as a kid, and I loved reading them with my boys when they were young. I think the things Handy points out about Cleary--"There are no orphans, no wizards, no talismans, no goblins in Cleary's books...just bratty siblings and recalcitrant pets" (140)--are true of the YA novels my students often love. While fantasy, sci fi, and dystopian have a huge place in YA (and are beloved by many readers), it's the realism many of my students enjoy. When I do individual reading conferences with my students, the number one reason students cite for enjoying a book is that it is "relatable. It sounds like high school," as a student just said to me this week. This chapter reminds me that kids of all ages want to connect with characters who are going through the things students experience at different stages of life.

Handy goes on to say, "But to call Cleary a realist, the godmother of fiction about quirky but essentially normal kids, is to limit her achievement. Her best books are gems of emotional insight..." (141). This is true of the great, modern YA authors as well: Laurie Halse Anderson, Curt Voorhes, Tim Tharp, Sharon Draper, Matt de la Pena...I could go on and on. With the real comes real emotions, and that is something our young adults need more of.

message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Lawson (amandalawson) | 9 comments In the "Why a Duck?" chapter, Handy discusses how "many twenty-first century Americans have almost no contact with animals aside from pets, pigeons, and roadkill" and how essentially animals are no longer in the forefront of a lot of the novels. He mentions how our fascination with animals continues through our love of "silly cat videos" on YouTube, but it clearly lacks depth. I think this was one of the first things that Handy has stated that I was like, "Oh, crap. He is right." My students are so quick to share with me their funny new meme background with a cat wearing a helmet made out of a watermelon, but if I try to get them to pick up a book with animals in it they groan. I teach fifth grade, which is the start of middle school for my school district. Reading a book that has animals as characters are frowned upon. They don't want to be caught reading something "babyish", which as a teacher is heart shattering that they feel too cool for a whole subgenre of literature.

message 4: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 12 comments Christene wrote: "The chapter "Kids Being Kids" has sparked connections to YA lit for me. In my high school classroom, my students have consistent independent reading all year long, and one of the things I encourage..."

I love that your AP students are interested in reading YA novels! There are so many good ones out there right now, and it is wonderful to think that kids as advanced as yours can still enjoy such simplified books. Good for you for encouraging it. Your post made me think of how I took a children's literature elective in high school, and it was one of my favorite classes Senior year. I remember it was very popular to get into, as well. I used to love to go to the class, discuss books from my childhood, or brand new ones. Looking back, I almost think it was comforting to still hold onto this peace of childhood even as I was growing older.

message 5: by Catherine (new)

Catherine | 12 comments I also connected to the chapter "Kids Being Kids." Handy writes about how certain books from childhood "plunges us back into kindergarten in a way that is immediate and recognizable whether you yourself were in kindergarten just a few years or decades ago. Reading "Ramona the Pest" makes me feel five again." This made me think of the read alouds I do with my fifth graders. Reading aloud to my students is my favorite time of the day, and the students really get into it and enjoy it. They are in their first year of middle school in my district, and in my ways, many of them think they should be treated as if they are older, believing they are more mature than they actually are. However, when I read aloud to them, especially with picture books, it is like they are transported back to a simpler time, as Handy refers to in his book, and we are able to just enjoy reading together. There is so much to be said for reading aloud--and using picture books is such a great method to do so.

This chapter also interested me because it took me back in time to my days of reading Ramona and Beezus books. I found myself remembering the lines that were printed in Handy's books, and I think I just may check some of these books out from my classroom library to start reading again--it has been way too long!

message 6: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay (lorelai1945) | 6 comments The main connection for me from this book to what I do in the classroom is simply that picture books and children's books often have a lot of depth that people of all ages can benefit from. With fifth graders, I love using picture books to teach theme, characterization, how setting affects plot and mood, etc. I also love using picture books to start conversations about kindness, empathy, difficult decisions- ideas that are incredibly important and that are abundant in picture books, especially recent ones. I guess this book just reiterates to me how a picture book can be so much more than something you read to a small child at bedtime- it can be that, too- but that it is a piece of literature worthy of discussion and serious study.

message 7: by Krista (new)

Krista Hill | 6 comments The last chapter of Handy's book had me in tears. I read Charlotte's Web at the end of the year every year with my second graders. They love the book and so do I. Handy articulated for me why I love this book so much, and why I can't read the end of the book to my class anymore, (last year I had one of my second graders finish it because I was so choked up). It is a beautiful book of loyalty, friendship, love, and life. Handy tells us that Charlotte dies alone in the story, because White is "compelled to tell us what is true."

I loved learning about White's process of writing this book too. There was no Fern originally, and he put the book aside for awhile to let it "ripen." And White ends his book with his outlook on life, "the glory of everything." Great lessons for us wanna be writers.

message 8: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 13 comments Krista wrote: "The last chapter of Handy's book had me in tears. I read Charlotte's Web at the end of the year every year with my second graders. They love the book and so do I. Handy articulated for me why I lov..."

I feel the same way about some other sections in this book, Krista. I was able to make connections to what Handu was saying because I remember so fondly many of the books he discusses (and dislike some of the texts he dislikes as well) but also because of all the background information he supplies about the writers and the writing process. I love that many of the authors didn't start writing until later in life.

message 9: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 13 comments I also recently realized that I should be using children's books with my AP students to discuss rhyme and meter. My students are so intimidated by poetry. Using children's books will put them in a place of comfort where they can start analysis without freaking out.

message 10: by Karen (new)

Karen Gardner | 6 comments I really connected to what Christene shared about "Kids Being Kids." My students love YA books and children's books as well. One of the best projects I have ever organized was based around children's literature. I worked with Floyd Dickman when he was on the Caldecott selection committee. He gave me a list of the books the committee was to review. My students got into groups and then had a process for evaluating the book. At the end of the evaluation, the groups had to do an oral presentation and to either persuade the class to vote for their book or not. As a class we tried to figure out which book would win the Caldecott that year. The winner was in our top 3. It was a fun project; the students loved reading and evaluating the books.

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