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Topic: ideas for freshman class

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Subject: ideas for freshman class
Date Posted: 2/28/2011 10:26 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 63
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I am a high school English teacher and I am looking for novels to add to my freshmen level literature class.  We teach the traditional ones--To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet and so on.  I am just ready for something new and more modern.   I am just wondering if anyone has some non-canon novels to suggest.  I am open to anything--graphic novels too.   The students have a wide range in reading levels, so any suggestions are welcome! 


Thanks!  Amanda

Date Posted: 2/28/2011 7:12 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,577
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How about Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher?  It deals with teen suicide in an interesting and thought-provoking way that could lead to some really good classroom discussions.  I think it's geared toward 7-8th graders, so the reading level would be good for freshmen. I ran it past my sons, both going into either middle school or high school education, and they both felt it would be appropriate for their classes. 

If you want to try something a little unusual, The Maze Runner by James Dashner is an amazing book.  Both my son (age 22) and I were so intrigued that neither of us put it down until we finished it.  Probably also in the 7th and up reading level and you should be able to pull all manner of engaging lessons and assignments out of this one.  Be prepared though, it's the first book in a trilogy.  The second book, The Scorch Trials, is already out and it's pretty darn awesome, too.  The third book, The Death Cure, won't be out until next either August or October, I can't remember.  Get them involved with the first book and I can pretty much guarantee you'll have a number of kids looking for the next two. 

Date Posted: 3/1/2011 12:14 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 63
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Thanks!  I will check those out. 

Date Posted: 3/1/2011 9:34 PM ET
Member Since: 6/12/2010
Posts: 56
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I just finished They Cage The Animals at Night by Jennings Burch with my classes.  I teach learning support English to 9-12 graders with a WIDE range of reading levels.  I have NEVER heard a student say they didn't love this book.  As a teacher, I'm sure you understand how rare that is smiley

Date Posted: 3/2/2011 9:43 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 63
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Thanks!  That one sounds good too!  Amanda

Date Posted: 3/9/2011 7:12 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak would be appropriate to Young Adult readers.   But a lot of us adult readers were impressed by this book set in a suburb of Munich, Germany during W. W. II years.

Date Posted: 5/20/2011 10:22 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2010
Posts: 1,207
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My daughters class read The Hunger Games.

Date Posted: 5/22/2011 2:46 PM ET
Member Since: 5/9/2010
Posts: 11
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Copper Sun was amazing by Sharon Draper.  I teach 7th and 8th grade reading and my kids hung on every word.  We also read Sold by Patricia McCormick and The Body FInder ...  It was an amazing year for them:) 

Date Posted: 5/28/2011 3:22 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
Posts: 608
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I see my freshmen history kids with  Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series all the time.  Brings in Greek mythology which is great as both English and history touch on that subject. 

Date Posted: 5/28/2011 5:28 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,577
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The Percy Jackson series is great and all of the mythological creatures mentioned are actually in Greek mythology.  There were a few I didn't recognize and had to look up to confirm that they were accurate.  The books are so much better than the movie, btw.

Date Posted: 6/14/2011 6:39 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2011
Posts: 111
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I'm a huge fan of the novel Speak, but check with your department first (even though it's never described in detail, the main character is dealing with being raped).

Date Posted: 6/22/2011 6:29 PM ET
Member Since: 2/18/2006
Posts: 1,241
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I second the nominations of The Book Thief (LOVE IT!!) The Hunger Games and Speak. The high school in the next town is using the Hunger Games for a school wide read next year and the 11th grade where I student taught uses Speak. I plan to use The Book Thief in whatever grade I get. It would be an awesome addition to Anne Frank or during the time they cover WW2 in History.

I also read 13 Reasons Why and have it in my class library but I would think it would do better in small group or individually read. I don't see it as a class wide read but that's just my opinion.

Last Edited on: 6/22/11 6:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/11/2011 11:49 PM ET
Member Since: 8/24/2008
Posts: 1,362
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I wouldn't recommend 13 Reasons Why...it gets mixed reviews from my students, but most of them seem to dislike it (they think the reasons are very, very shallow). 

One of the newer books that I recommend to students is Unwind, it is about a world in which pre-birth abortion is illegal and the ramifications of this.  Most of my students love it, but it is very controversial.  We read The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer in my SF class and 7 of the 8 students in the class claimed they liked it, it is about cloning. 

Good luck choosing books, I just did this for my Junior-level American Lit course, now I'm working on lesson plans.

Date Posted: 7/26/2011 11:22 AM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2011
Posts: 4
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Here are some books we are teaching for our 9th grade class that might be considered a little more modern:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime
  • The Hunger Games
  • Freakonomics
  • The Glass Castle

I haven't taught any of them yet, but have read most. There's a lot to work with here, especially if you are familiar with any of them- loads of literary elements, relevance to students' lives etc.

Date Posted: 7/27/2011 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 3/4/2007
Posts: 4,577
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I'm surprised to see The Glass Castle on a list for 9th graders due to the graphic descriptions of sexual abuse.  Our high school got bombarded by irate parents when one teacher assigned The Giver by Lois Lowry; they'd have been apoplectic over The Glass Castle.

Thirteen Reasons Why got excellent reviews from my son's class when he used it back in May during his student teaching experience. Guess it depends on presentation and the audience. 

Freakonomics is an interesting selection, but I can see how that one would work well as a cross-curriculum book.  I'd love to know how your students react to that one, Katherine.


Date Posted: 9/27/2011 12:52 AM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2011
Posts: 708
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These all sound good--- for some reason I HATED all the books I had to read my freshman year. What made it worse was that it was an honors class and some books (Lord of the Flies and there was a sort story something along the title  of The Most Dangerous Game) were used in my honors sophomore class too.

Emily (em47) - ,
Date Posted: 9/28/2011 12:25 AM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2009
Posts: 11
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I agree all the suggestions sound good. I also teach Freshman, but I don't get a lot of choice when it comes to picking novels (wish I did). However, I will say my favorite book to teach is Of Mice and Men. For some reason I have the most success with Freshman and this novel. Maybe because it is short, and easy to understand so they actually read it. Maybe it is because it deals with friendship and that is something my students definitely can relate to. They might not get why anyone would commit suicide over love (Romeo and Juliet) but they get that human need for friendship. But whatever the reason it is the one book where my past students come back and comment to me about.

Date Posted: 10/22/2011 9:14 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,460
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Why not these - teach history at the same time.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Anderson

This book received  numerous awards for young adult literature. It is an authentic tale of the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, which was the capitol of the U.S. at that time.

The primary role is a teenage girl, 16-year-old Mattie, whose single mother runs a coffee house. Her mother leaves just before the fever strikes to visit relatives out of town. The girl and her grandfather, a elderly Revolutionary War veteran, try to keep the coffee house running with help from white friends and Afro-American employees (also friends).

Eventually they try to leave town, as no one is coming to the coffee house or any other establishment, to find her mother.  The book deals with the reactions of the people in Philadelphia and neighboring communities, and the government (town, state and national). It is full of concepts that can be discussed in class. 

I am an entomologist who uses this epidemic  to teach college students how insects affected our history. This book deals with so many issues, political and social, that really happened that it could probably be a true tale.  I recommend it to students in a science teaching course I lecture in.

I suggest that a teacher also get An American Plague by Jim Murphy  that is a Grade 6-10 level history of this epidemic. An American Plague serves as an historical resource to any questions the students might have about the validity of Fever 1793.

Do not confuse it with The American Plague, which cover other aspects of the history of yellow fever.

April Morning by Howard Fast. 

It is Spring in colonial America, and 15-year-old Adam is feeling his oats as a young man. His father still treats him as a boy and Adam is beginning to have problems in his relationship with his father, who loves Adam but does not know how to show it. Adam has a girl friend that he is very serious about.  At this period of American history, youngsters this age were on the verge of adulthood, so many married young. Adam's father also just happens to be the captain of the local militia. Then late one night, a man rides through town warning the villagers that "The ministy's army is coming." Did I mention that Adam lives in Lexington, Massachusetts? Tomorrow morning, "on the 18th of April in 75," Adam is going to leave his childhood behind forever.  

This is also an excellent video in the Hallmark series. NOTE: Paul Revere and others never said "The Redcoats are coming." It was either "The army is coming," or "The ministry's army is coming."  Colonial Americans initially blamed the British ministers in power  and not King George for the laws made against them.

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank.

What would have happened if an atomic war had occurred in the 1950s?  Pat Frank does an outstanding job of realistically depicting such in this classic which takes place in a small town in Florida.  Life gets turned upside down as the people in that town find themselves cut off from the state and national resources they were used to. They are on their own, even defending themselves against drug addicts without drugs, and outlaws who use force to get what they want. This book comes across as so real you can't classify it as science-fiction. Excellent roles for both whites and blacks, both young and old,  in this book as the political, economic and social order is turned upside down and average Americans take their destiny in their own hands.

Captain Newman , M.D. by Leo Rosten

A wonderful book about the post-traumatic stress disorder problems we hear about due to our current wars in the mid-East, but all the action takes place in a hospital ward in the southwest U.S. during World War II.  The stories of the patients (and staff) are both funny and sad, uplifting and tragic. A wonderful book I have read many times. 

This is also a great movie starring Gregory Peck.

Date Posted: 10/25/2011 6:35 PM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2011
Posts: 31
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Speak and Thirteen Reasons Why are both really good books for the age group, I would say- just be prepared.  Neither of them are happy books, but it's good because when handled properly, it can start discussions and help end stigmas in high school age groups.

The Percy Jackson series is also very fun, because it really does help with mythology, and will lighten things up a bit.