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I taught Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry to seventh graders, including several groups of, shall we say, reluctant learners (summer school) with great success. Having taught American history for quite some time, I was able to make many connections to what was happening in the United States during the time Taylor set her novel, and we also looked at how Taylor's own life was reflected in the story. In terms of literary elements, we looked at plot, characterization, the usual stuff, and always spent some time with figurative language because Taylor used it so masterfully in her descriptions. The thing that most engaged the students, however, was the institutional racism of Depression era Mississippi; they were always horrified as the novel progressed, that people like the Wallaces were never held accountable for their actions. It opened up some great class discussions about tolerance, and in terms of literary analysis, I think it was perfectly appropriate for 7th grade.
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