Is it appropriate for 9th graders, or is it better suited for 10th?
Also, how much time did you have to spend filling in background information regarding South Africa, apartheid, the tribal systems, the languages and the mines?
I am teaching 9th grade Pre-AP next year and am considering this as one of the novels they should read. Thanks in advance for any and all input! :)
It is such an amazing book for language and style. I offer it as an independent reading choice for seniors who have no difficulty with it. I would just ensure that the students are able to evaluate the book for its stylistic elements, not just its great plot. I would also add that I think the book has a lot more to offer and is a lot more complex than something like Lord of the Flies. How does this complement or depart from the skills you are tackling with other works?
I agree with amy-lepore on the whole - the simplicity of language and style means that it can be taught at Grade 9. I personally have only taught it at Grade 10. I adopted amy-lepore's strategy of giving an initial research task to each student on various aspects that were important to understand the novel as a whole, such as apartheid, Pass Laws etc. Then they had to give a presentation to the rest of the class. I then tested the class with questions based on the presentations that we had heard. To finish off the unit, we watched a movie called "Goodbye Bafana" that talks about the relationship between Mandela and one of his prison guards. Equally you could select another move from this period to "flesh out" students' understanding of this important historical period. I also think, though, that although the style is simple, the novel raises so many issues that could be raised with higher level students. Don't be put off by the apparent simplicity of the text!
I teach this novel to 10th graders, although I believe it is more suited for juniors or seniors. This novel has the ability to spark excellent discussion; however, I have found that the sophomores tend to get bored before they have taken the opportunity to try and appreciate the literature. I spend a lot of time trying to capture their interest, but it doesn't always go well. I think this is a great book to use for honors level classes since there are many complicated themes.
If this is for Pre-AP, I would say that your 9th graders can handle it. As far as background knowledge, put that on their plates. Make them responsible for learning this. One way I like to do it is to assign particular students to become the "experts" on that topic. Whenever a question comes up during the reading, that student(s) would be the go-to guy or gal. It gives them a little pride, and they will remember the information better and for a longer period of time. If anything isn't covered, you can always fill them in on the overlooked and important factors.
I do it with my PreIB and Honors 10th graders. Advanced 9th graders could probably handle it as long as historical background was well covered, such as a small group project where they research certain aspects of South Africa and apartheid.
The other struggle my kids often have is understanding and keeping up with the way the dialoge is presented in the book. They get confused when it doesn't say, "Jarvis said."
I am in AP and we are just now reading it in 10th grade. I am finding it rather difficult, compared to other books we have read-Lord of the Flies, Siddhartha. I think that it is a little too challenging for typical Pre-AP 9th graders to handle.