Teaching Style, Word Choice, EtcI want my seniors to read a little bit of Dickens this year and we definitely do not have the time to read one of his big novels, so I want to do A Christmas Carol...

Teaching Style, Word Choice, Etc

I want my seniors to read a little bit of Dickens this year and we definitely do not have the time to read one of his big novels, so I want to do A Christmas Carol with them.  Although this is traditionally taught at lower levels, I think there is so much I can teach them by using A Christmas Carol.  I want to focus on style, word choice, characterization, etc.  I will probably have them analyze specific passages with partners for some of it.  Dickens use of language is perfect for this kind of analysis.

Just wondering if anyone has any ideas for A Christmas Carol or if you've ever used other books not considered traditional for older kids.  (I actually used Cat in the Hat to review plot elements with my sophomores this year.)

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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My two best strategies were to have students listen to an unabridged CD as they read, and read in class, and to show the film after each Stave.  This helps strengthen both comprehension and appreciation.  This book is short, so it's easy to breeze through it.  Doing this slows the reading down and allows students to savor the story.  Here are some other fun activities I used:

*Paper Chains:  Instead of focusing on the wrong things they had done, I had my students make paper chains of ways they could helped their fellow man.  We included not just charity-type activities, but ways to help friends and family too.

*Victorian Parlor Games:  We played similes, blind man's bluff, hide the button (I can't remember the exact name, but you can find web sites) and other Victorian games after Stave 3.   You can also do it at the end.  It reinforces the idea that you see people differently when you get to know them and do fun things with them.

*Christmas Toast: I once had a class of 7th graders that were horrible to each other.  On the day before Christmas break, we had a Christmas party with cookies or little cakes and punch.  Students just sat and talked, and then we had a toast.  They actually toasted each other and pledged to be nicer to one another in the coming year.  Guess what- they were!

*Reader's Theater:  You can act out scenes from the story that are complicated, helping students "see" the action.

*Community Service Project:  The first year I taught this book, my students were so moved that they voluntarily and spontaneously began a schoolwide canned food drive.  It really reinforces the concepts of the book.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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I agree with post #8. There is such a wealth of literature that is ignored because of the comic book medium. I actually use Maus with sophomores, connecting it to our study of Night, but also studying it as a stand alone text. Occasionally, I'll use Maus with seniors if I have a class that missed it in 10th grade. This year, I used Persepolis in my AP Lit class & it was very popular with the students. I've also had students reading Alan Moore's Watchmen and V for Vendetta as outside texts, often using them in conjunction with dystopian novels. Recently, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series has been passed around a group of AP students at my school, and I have a feeling several students will use it as a text on the AP Lit test this year.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I love all these ideas!  I, too, tend to use short stories and "easy" novels from earlier reading experiences.  One I like to use to review plot elements is "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell.  It's a story they all think they remember from 9th grade, but there are so many subtleties and complexities of foreshadowing which they didn't understand, appreciate--or perhaps even see--the first time.  Close reading and style analysis are also possible here, as a review rather than a challenge. It's got everything we need to review, and they do enjoy revisiting this kind of warm and fuzzy reading experience from the past.  It's also nice when they see how far they've (hopefully) come in those few years.

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lnorton | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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In regards to non-traditional books, I have become a fan of graphic novels. The students love them, and there are some truly wonderful, literary, and thought-provoking works out there. Students respond really positively to the visual impact of the graphic novels, and many of the more popular selections deal with contemporary and/or historical issues (social, political, religious, etc.). I'm specifically thinking of Maus and Persepolis, but there are many more.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Something that I love to use with seniors are short stories, that are quick enough to be able to do in a week or so, but provide an opportunity to really focus on all the elements you mention. Dickens' "The Signalman" is an excellent ghost story that bears all the typical Dickens hallmarks of style, diction etc, and is very entertaining to boot! This can be compared with other excellent short stories such as "The Rocking Horse Winner" by D. H. Lawrence, which has a similar supernatural feel. I also like to "revisit" books that are traditionally taught at lower levels with my Grade 12 students to show them how much they have advanced and to study various texts in greater detail. Chief among these are Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men. Very interesting seeing their responses!

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Ooooo!  Gosh, I love teaching A Christmas Carol, . . . which always seems to correspond nicely with the Christmas Season (when I usually get to Dickens, anyway).  My favorite thing to do with the students is have them analyze different theatrical versions.  I don't use full films, of course, just clips.  Oh, it's so much fun to discuss Dickens' original intent versus the intent of the director, . . . even different actors portrayal of things such as Scrooge's transformation!  Even if you used this approach for one day, it might be a fun attention-getting group activity.  : )

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A fun thing to do with Dickens is to give him the old readability test.  They are online, or you can come up with your own formulas.  For what age or grade level is A Christmas Carol.  How does it compare with his other novels: Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, etc... Is it geared for younger audiences or not?

Another cool activity is the "Salary Project."  Remember, Dickens was paid by the word.  Have students count the average lengths of his sentences and compare them with other stylists across the ages:

Dickens vs. Hemingway

Dickens vs. Faulkner

Dickens vs. Austen

Calculate who would have been the riches and poorest authors, given an equal word rate.  Have students write a position paper explaining way authors trend wordy or pithy.

 

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Question: do your students need to master those concepts (style, word choice) or do they already have a good handle on them? Regardless, I think that the best way to teach a relatively inaccessible piece of literature, such as anything by Dickens, is to start with theme and plot and get the students engaged that way. Even though they will probably already know the basics of the story, Dickens is still quite a tough writer for contemporary high school students to comprehend because of his elegant and advanced use of language.

My initial reaction to your post was, Wow, I know my seniors would have been really bored and difficult to engage in close analysis activities on Dickens. If you can engage their interest first, and then weave in the close analysis activity after you’ve gotten their interest, I think you’ll be more successful in your endeavor.  

Teaching Dickens at any level is challenging, but seniors should already have a handle on style, word choice, and diction. You could use it along with another more modern version of the same story and have the students analyze the difference in diction and explain why this has happened in literature through the years. Societal class was a huge "soapbox" for Dickens and he wrote "A Christmas CArol" to get the people of London to realize how the lower classes were treated and to hopefully change the way people were treated. Your seniors could support and give evidence of this throughout the book. I think they would see things in our society more clearly afterwards.

It may be that seniors should understand style analysis.

Unless you're talking about gifted kids, I doubt that they do understand it.

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bethgreen | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Teaching Dickens at any level is challenging, but seniors should already have a handle on style, word choice, and diction. You could use it along with another more modern version of the same story and have the students analyze the difference in diction and explain why this has happened in literature through the years. Societal class was a huge "soapbox" for Dickens and he wrote "A Christmas CArol" to get the people of London to realize how the lower classes were treated and to hopefully change the way people were treated. Your seniors could support and give evidence of this throughout the book. I think they would see things in our society more clearly afterwards.

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