I currently teach 11th grade English Language and Composition, and next year I will be adding in 2 sections of Pre-AP Freshman.
Do you think freshman can read Pygmalion?
What about some of Dante's Inferno?
Cry the Beloved Country?
I know for sure I'm having them read To Kill A Mockingbird, but want to increase the difficulty in reading level as the year progresses.
Any suggestions would be great! :)
I think that Lord of the Flies is an excellent work for freshmen. They can really start to dig their teeth in to analysis of technique and device because the novel is so tightly written. Everything is a symbol of or relates to either civilization or savagry, so from there they can begin to appreciate the author's craft with a bit more confidence.
I have found that A Tale of Two Cities works well near the end of the year. My students are reading that now. A simple Shakespeare, like A Midsummer Night's Dream or Romeo and Juliet is good. There are two basic ways you can go about this. Either have your students read most of the same books as English 9 and raise the complexity of analysis, or have them read the English 10 books. Either way, be sure to practice AP strategies such as close reading. Remember that there are two AP classes: language and literature. So keep a balance of nonfiction and fiction.
I find that Great Expectations works really well for honors-level 9th graders. I don't think they all appreciate Dickens's language (some of them complain that the novel is boring, but I think many don't have the patience to read it carefully enough to love it), but the students who love a challenge get so much out of this novel. I've had many students who read it with me when they were freshmen return as upperclassmen to say that now they appreciate the book and understand it's complexity and beauty. (Also, it's listed so frequently on the AP exam that it's something pre-AP students should read anyway.)
The top students--ones who have a mature sense of humor and understanding of inter- and intra-personal relationships--will appreciate it. (These are generally the top students anyway.)
At my all boys school, the pre-AP freshmen read A Tale of Two Cities, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Catcher in the Rye, Macbeth, The Odyssey (Fagles translation), Silas Marner, The Natural, and A Lesson before Dying. Dickens and Eliot, needless to say, aren't their favorite authors, but they enjoy the other works immensely.
I think the Inferno is perhaps too much, but it would depend on the kids.
One more suggestion: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. A bit unweildy in some ways, but kids that age respond to it with deep emotion. The over-the-top angst is just perfect for the age, and the writing is impressive. When they find out she was only a few years older than they are when she wrote it they'll be impressed!
Absolutely freshmen can read Pygmalion. If you incorporate some mythology to go with it, they will understand the title better and some of the references within the work. Have you joined the listserv for AP and Pre-AP teachers yet? Go to collegeboard.com and sign up for free. You'll get lots of ideas and help from those folks!
I must say I agree with vkpteach(post #3)
So I'd rather stick to the simpler and more fun pieces like Pygmalion. An excellent read for that age group and also great because you can use the Musical (My Fair Lady) to help them visualise and understand better. Do this after they have read it though. Otherwise they become lazy...