I'm teaching this novel in class for the first time. Does anyone have any ideas for student projects or papers following the reading of the novel?
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If you are interested in some external research activities, these might engage students:
1. Since baseball played such a significant role in the novel, especially St. Louis Cardinals' baseball, some students could research the Cardinals' team/players during the time period of the novel (autumn, 1952).
2. The setting of the novel is beautifully depicted. Some students might enjoy researching the early 1950s--American's small towns, cars, furniture, clothing, radio programs, etc.
3. Some interesting literary research could involve comparing/contrasting elements of the novel with To Kill a Mockingbird, another novel with a retrospective viewpoint through which the story is told by a child/adult narrator. For instance, how does Luke Chandler compare/contrast with Scout Finch and/or Jem Finch in personality and growing-up experiences?
4. Another interesting literary study could be developed from comparing/contrasting the Chandler family with the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. What do these farm people have in common? How do they differ? Are their values similar or different? Numerous comparisons/contrasts could be developed through some internal research in each novel.
An activity that I find works well for any novel is staging a kind of Oprah Winfrey chat show where you can interview characters and ask them the questions you don't find answers to in the book. I always ask students to dress up and try to act in character as much as possible. The results are always great fun, and the students really learn something!
A lot would depend upon what specific aspects of the novel you want to focus on. For example character: my students enjoy making character quilts over novels. Each person in class selects or is assigned one or more of the characters from the novel, and then they design a quilt square (on paper) that has elements which represent the character. On the back, they write a detailed explanation with regard to why they chose the panel elements. The papers are then pieced together as a quilt would be, and it can be displayed from the picture side or the explanation side for other discussions.
Many projects can be used to utilize the information from the novel. Just to give you a few ideas try the following ones to see how they work in your class (send me a message if you want to see others):
Discuss how the main character is like or unlike people you know.
Pretend you're one character and introduce the other characters to your class.
As an interior decorator, how would you decorate a character's bedroom and why?
Invite one character to dinner and write a note of explanation to your mother.
Invite three celebrities to a party for the main character and explain your choice.
Write a page about a character beginning with the sentence: "I was (any verb) by ..."
Make a time line of the events in the life of the main character.
Write a chronology for one character.
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