Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print.

Khaled Hosseini grew up in Afghanistan and moved to the United States  in 1984. He started writing The Kite Runner in 2001 during the U.S. war in Afghanistan.  Amir, the protagonist, is a young man from a wealthy family growing up in Afghanistan. Amir’s mother passed away while giving birth to Amir. Amir is convinced that his father, Baba, believes he is responsible for his mother’s death. He cannot let go of his mother’s death or the past because he feels guilty. He deeply desires his father’s approval and compassion. As a young boy, Amir grows accustom to getting his way except for his father’s approval. His selfish attitude leads him to betray his servant friend, Hassan, and he makes a decision he will forever regret. While playing a game called kite running, he runs after Hassan and finds Hassan in an alley getting raped. Instead of defending his friend, he runs away, to protect himself, and pretends he didn’t see. Although he was not attacked personally, he lives in pain unable to escape the guilt for not defending Hassan. Eventually, Amir and Baba are forced to leave home and escape the Soviet invasion. After Amir departs his home, he faces more traumatic events. At the end of the novel, he experiences adulthood and has a family of his own. He reveals his loyalty through being an honorable lover and builds a family full of strong relationships.

It is important for students to understand the context of The Kite Runner in comparison to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Based on the political events present place in each novel, students should create a venn diagram. This will benefit their comprehension of each narrative and the protagonists. For example, compare and contrast the political influence on each protagonist’s personal life. Also, compare and contrast each protagonist’s way of coping with trauma and loss. Hopefully, comparing the two novels based on political influence and the traumatic consequences, students will realize the perspectives of a young man living in America and a young man raised in Afghanistan. After creating the venn diagram, students are responsible for writing a compare and contrast essay answering the following questions.

1. Both, Oskar and Amir struggle coping with guilt. Compare and contrast three different moments that show each protagonist overwhelmed by guilt and explain how they move on from it.

2. Compare and contrast the relationship between Oskar and his father and Amir and Baba. Although Oskar’s father has passed away, how does he influence Oskar in the present and how does Baba continue to influence Amir?

3. Oskar and Amir live in two different countries with conflicting political views. Compare and contrast the setting for both Oskar and Amir. Explain how setting plays a part in the decisions both protagonists make.

Age Range: 14- Young Adult (+19)


Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. New York.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Print.

The protagonist, Oskar Schell, is a nine-year-old boy on a journey to cope with death and a quest to unlock his new perspective on his life, including the people in it. Oskar’s father died on September 11th, 2001 during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Oskar is dealing with grief and trauma as he attempts to cope with the loss of his father. He searches through his father’s closet for anything tangible that will remind him of his father and finds a key. Although he is told that his completing his mission would be a miracle, he is determined to discover the lock his father’s key belongs to. His journey does not bring his father back to life, but Oskar does build new relationships and strengthen the old ones.

Each chapter of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close dives deeper into Oskar’s psyche. For a thorough character analysis, students could create a character blog. The students are responsible for seventeen blog posts, the number of chapters in the novel, and each blog post must prove Oskar’s emotional state and desire. It is crucial that the individual blog posts are matched to each chapter. The students are expected to persuade their audiences that the emotional states and desires chosen are true to Oskar’s character. Also, the length of each blog post should be three paragraphs. The first paragraph must hook the audience and state the main focus or argument. In the second paragraph, students should use direct quotations as evidence from the appropriate chapter. The third paragraph acts as a conclusion to the blog post and strongly states the student’s personal opinion. The purpose of the character blog is to teach students persuasive writing strategies. Students are introduced to modern technology as they practice persuasive writing in their blog.

Persuasion Writing Rubric (slightly altered from ReadWriteThink)

Organization: 1-4 pts.

  1. There is no clear introduction, structure, or conclusion.
  2. The introduction paragraph includes the main goal or thesis. Most information is presented in a logical order. A conclusion is included, but it does not clearly state a personal opinion.
  3. The introduction includes the goal or thesis and provides an overview of the issue. Information is presented in a logical order but does not always maintain the interest of the audience. A conclusion states a personal opinion.
  4. The introduction is inviting, states the goal or thesis, and provides and overview of the issue. Information is presented in a logical order and maintains the interest of the audience. The conclusion strongly states a personal opinion.

Goal or Thesis: 1-4pts

  1. The personal opinion is not easily understood. There is little or no reference to the issue.
  2. A personal opinion is not clearly stated. There is little reference to the issue.
  3. There is one goal or thesis that states a personal opinion and identifies the issue.
  4. There is one goal or thesis that strongly and clearly states a personal opinion and identifies the issue.

Reasons and Evidence: 1-4pts.

  1. Arguments are weak or missing. Less than two reasons and direct quotations are stated.
  2. Two reasons are made but with weak arguments. Evidence/ direct quotation is missing.
  3. Three or more reasons are stated, but the arguments do not match direct quotations and evidence.
  4. Three or more excellent reasons are stated with good support. It is evident that a lot of thought and research was put into the assignment.

Attention to Audience: 1-4pts

  1. Argument does not seem to target any particular audience.
  2. Argument demonstrates some understanding of the potential audience.
  3. Argument demonstrates a clear understanding of the potential audience.
  4. Argument demonstrates a clear understanding of the potential audience and anticipates counterarguments.

Word Choice: 1-4pts

  1. Word choice is limited.
  2. There is evidence of attention to word choice.
  3. Word choice enhances the argument.
  4. Word choice is creative and enhances the argument.

Grammar Mechanics & Spelling: 1-4pts

  1. There are numerous errors in grammar, mechanics, and/or spelling.
  2. There are several errors in grammar, mechanics, and/or spelling.
  3. There are few errors in grammar, mechanics, and/or spelling, but they do not interfere with understanding.
  4. There are no errors in grammar, mechanics, and/or spelling.

read write think


“… imitating electronic textuality through comparable devices in print, many of which depend on digitality to be cost effective or even possible; and intensifying the specific traditions of print, in effect declaring allegiance to print regardless of the availability of other media.” -N. Katherine Hayles

A blog is relevant to the make-up of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, because Foer uses methods of new media. 

A question for an in-class discussion: How does Foer manipulate structure and new media to convey trauma?







The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

pinocchio-coverThe Adventures of Pinocchio. Trans. Brock, Geoffrey. Introduction. By Umberto Eco. Afterward. By Rebecca West. New York: New York Review of Books, 2009. Print.

The New York Book Review Books published the original, and translated, version of, the Italian author, Carlo Collodi’s  Pinnochio. It was originally published as a children’s book in 1883. The protagonist, Pinocchio, is a wooden puppet built by his creator, the carpenter. Once Pinocchio acquires his voice, he realizes his freedom and runs away from the carpenter, Geppetto. Pinocchio is portrayed as disobedient for running away and throughout his journey he encounters various fairytale-like characters. Each character represents a moral choice and Pinocchio decisions teach him moral lessons via trail and error. Eventually, after Pinocchio begins to understand the differences between right and wrong, he becomes a human being. This original version of Pinocchio, reveals Collodi’s political perspective of modern Italy  during the nineteenth century.

pinocchioThe Adventures of Pinocchio has passed through many adaptations and the most common is the Walt Disney version. Compared to the adapted Walt Disney version, the character Pinocchio is difficult to sympathize with. In the adaptation, Disney recreates Pinocchio as innocent.  Also, in the original narrative, Pinocchio is brutally humiliated and nearly killed.  At the end of the story he is saved by the fairy with turquoise hair, a motherly figure, and transformed into a human boy. Disney, does not show this motherly figure. The carpenter is Pinocchio’s only parental figure, according to Disney.

Along with introducing the genre picaresque, The Adventures of Pinocchio would be interesting to teach with the approach of understanding adaptation: from text to film. Ideally, I would pair the students and assign them with a scene from the text. Then, a handout would be provided with questions for them to anticipate what to look for.

Before viewing the film the students would answer the following questions based on their assigned scene.

1. Who are the characters?

2. What is the setting and time period?

3. What is the mood?

4. What are the themes?

url24After viewing the film, the students would answer questions to compare and contrast the text and the film. A Venn Diagram could be helpful as well.

1. What was similar or different about your scene in the text and your scene in the film?

2. Is this how you imagined the scene? Explain.

3. What did you like about the film adaptation? Give an example.

4. What did you dislike about the film adaptation? Give an example.

For a class discussion, I would ask, “Why do filmmakers or screenwriters make major changes in adapting literary work to film?”

The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes: His Fortunes and Adversities by W.S. Merwin Translated by Juan Goytisolo

Merwin, W. S. The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes: His Fortunes and Adversities. Trans. Juan Goytisolo. New York: New York Review, 2005. Print.

Lazarillo De Tormes is a novel that follows the protagonist Lazarillo’s journey as a servant. Lazarillo’s encounter with each master is a crucial moment in the plot and Lazarillo’s adventure. He travels from master to master and each master is in a higher class standing than the last. Lazarillo uvasThe protagonist is struggling survive and driven by his hunger. Lazarillo is a dishonest protagonist and he revels his dishonesty with his master, the blind man. Lazarillo was told to only eat one grape at a time while taking turns with the blind man and as soon as he sees the blind man eat two he begins to eat three. Lazarillo is dishonest, but because he is starving the reader can sympathize with him. By the end of the novel, the protagonist’s perspective has changed. The way he sees his wife reveals his epiphany as an honorable man. He becomes a hero, “… ‘I love her better than I do myself. In her, God shows me a thousand favors, much more than I deserve; for I’ll swear on the consecrated Host that she’s as good a woman as any dwelling within the gates of Toledo. I’ll fight anyone who laztells me something different.’ That way, they tell me nothing, and I enjoy domestic peace (103).

In a classroom I would teach “Lazarillo De Tormes” for its genre, picaresque, but also the term ‘epiphany.’ The relevant questions for an in-class discussion are: What is an epiphany? How does it serve the novel and it’s genre? What makes Lazarillo a hero in the end?


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huckleberry FinnTwain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1st ed. United States: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

Mark Twain, an American author, originally published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884. The sequel to The Adventures of Tom Swayer continued a conversation about civil rights following the years after the Civil War. The protagonist, Huck Finn, is a young boy and he desires to understand the lessons society has taught him. He is traveling down the river away from the low-income white society he was born into. After abandoned by his drunken father, Huck continues down the river and encounters several characters, also seen as Huck’s masters, who teach him moral lessons. He struggles with the racist image society has connected to blacks and the idea of slavery. However, Huck keeps moving down the river with the hopes of discovering his individuality along with his own moral system. The reading level ranges form grades 7-9.

A NPR article “Why Mark Twain Still Matters,” by Alan Greenblat, mentions the timeless elements of Twain’s novels: his use of humor and perspective on race in America. In order to teach Huckleberry Finn and avoid a young reader’s resistance towards the text, students should be provided with this article prior to comprehending the text. “Why Mark Twain Still Matters,” explains the relevance of Mark Twain in modern American life.

In regards to teaching a satirical text from the picaresque genre, it is helpful for students to understand the importance of diction. Using a Concept Map while reading benefits reading comprehension, specifically a clear understanding of the main ideas communicated via the text. I created a Concept Map on GoogleDocs for students to use and share with there classmates. This is an interactive activity and students will need access to a computer and the internet in order to participate.

The purpose of the Concept Map is for students to start with an understanding of satirical diction and refer to the text for evidence. In the Concept Map students will identify four examples of satirical diction or phrases. Then students will elaborate in the outer bubbles on how the satirical diction identified relates to the conversation about race in America. Below is an example of the Concept Map I created in GoogleDocs.





The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Reprint ed. New York: Scholastic, 2010. Print.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a contemporary dystopian novel originally released in 2008. The reading level ranges between grades 5-9. Collins creates a new society that consists of the capital and districts. Two people are picked from each district to fight until death: a statement towards war. The protagonist, Katniss is a hero as she volunteers for the games and her actions break the rules of society. She is also a rebel because she shows empathy for humanity. The classic dystopian control is evident because the games are televised and everyone is watching.

After reading The Hunger Games, student will be asked to summarize the way Collins illustrates this dystopia. This exercise allows the students to practice summary-writing and specifically use the academic language for summary. A few examples of summary language are, “Overall…,” “In this text, Collins illustrates a dystopia that…,”and “To support Collins’ perspective on societal controls, she provides evidence in her dystopia to…” The purpose of summary writing is to benefit the student’s reading comprehension, ability to process information, and improve writing skills by using academic vocabulary.

For an in-class group project, students can either construct a diorama, a three-dimensional scene capturing characters and setting, or create a comic book from a specific scene, including the illustration of characters, setting, and dialogue. The purpose of this in-class group assignment is to allow collaboration in the classroom, benefit reading comprehension via visual learning, and evaluate the student’s understanding of the text. This group project can also be used as an alternative assessment. Students can be graded individually, and, or overall as a group.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

dracula book cover

Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Thrift ed. Mineola: Dover, 2000. Print.

In Dracula, Stoker uses the nineteenth century Gothic Horror Fiction genre to expose his readers to a different, yet familiar world. Dracula can also be classified as dystopian fiction because the setting of Transylvania is a fantasy universe. Furthermore, this universe is built to question the societal controls in the nineteenth century and illustrate a dichotomy between traditional and modern values. The character, Dracula is a vampire and desires to regain the power his family lost outside of Transylvania, in modern England. Dracula introduces the the anxieties of society in the late nineteenth century: a questioning of sex, religion, and science. The reading level ranges between grades 9-12.

In-class interactive exercises:

A Creative Writing Prompt: Create a journal entry from the perspective of Count Dracula. Take Count Dracula out of the world Stoker creates and place Dracula in modern time. In this journal entry Dracula is reflecting on his trip to the grocery store. Keep in mind, his mental and physical characteristics, his gestures, desires, fears, and the way he interacts with others.

The purpose of this exercise is to give young readers the opportunity to practice free-writing, explore their creativity, and identify the main character’s traits. As they are challenged to pull Dracula out of this dystopia and into modern day, they will realize the difference, or maybe similarities, between the outlook on society in the nineteenth century and today.

Following the creative writing prompt, students are asked to read their writing out loud to the class. The rest of the class will be responsible for listening and taking note of at least one sentence from the reading they enjoyed the most. The listeners will answer one of the following questions as they take notes on their peer’s reading.

1. Identify at least one of Dracula’s physical characteristics.

2. Describe Dracula’s mood in the journal entry.

3. Analyze Dracula’s gestures and desires that are described.

Picaresque Fiction

Why teach a Picaresque Novel?

I decided to integrate the picaresque genre with the theme overcoming obstacles with a desire, because the classic picaresque protagonist, or hero, experiences a journey filled with obstacles that prevent him from moving closer to his deepest desire. The picaresque novel is essential to teach adolescent readers because it is a classic genre still relevant in modern media and contemporary fiction. The picaresque narrative can be identified mostly in adapted films. From my personal experience, I do understand the context of a classic text may be difficult for adolescent readers to connect with. For this reason, I included three picaresque novels written by authors from different countries. Specifically, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain an American author, Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi an Italian author, and The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes a spanish novella. Looking back to myself as an adolescent reader, I recall expecting a text to relate to my life. Keeping this in mind, I matched Collodi’s original version of Pinocchio with the Walt Disney adaptation. Adolescent readers will have the opportunity to analyze a familiar adapted film and compare it to the text.

What is a Picaresque Novel?

“It tells the life of a knave or picaroon who is the servant of several masters. Through his experience this picaroon satirizes the society in which he lives in,” according to the fourth edition Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (Cuddon 666).

What is Satire?

A literary art form that ridicules human folly or vice hopping to correct it.

Commonly used satirical devices:

Hyperbole: a gross overstatement; an extreme exaggeration.

Invective: Speech that may be directed toward an individual, cause, idea, or system that attacks or denounces it.

Inversion: A reversal of order, form, or another relationship.

Irony: A literary device where what is stated is often the opposite of what is meant.

Sarcasm: Sneering disapproval often expressed as praise; i.e., someone who falls may be praised for his gracefulness.

Understatement: Speech that deliberately minimizes a situation, often for comic effect.

read write think

Driving through the Fog: Imagination & Reality


Camus, Albert. The Stranger. S.l.: Vintage International, 1989. Print.

In The Stranger, Camus tells a narrative about Meursault, a young protagonist and detached human being. Meursault’s character is described as neither moral or amoral because his internal is completely neutral. The reader can sympathize with Meursault because he is honest about his emotions and feelings. Camus draws the readers attention to living in a state of being neutral and questions if that state is morally acceptable. The line between right and wrong is blurred and the protagonist’s internal journey and realities are foged. This novel is existential as it questions the purpose of mankind.

An anticipation guide would be helpful to students before and after reading this text. Students should answer true or false to the following statements.

1. It is impossible for man to find true meaning in life.

2. True meaning in life can only be accomplished after acknowledging a state of nothingness.

3. An individual is not defined by religion, society, politics, or culture.

A Question for an Essay or Discussion: The philosophy of existentialism means that nothing in life matters, including death. Give examples of Meursault’s experiences with death and describe his reactions. Do his reaction support or contradict him as an existential character?



741618Pirandello, Luigi, and Edward Storer. Six Characters in Search of an Author. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1998. Print.

Six Characters in Search of an Author, is a play within a play. The character’s are rehearsing a play in search of an author. As they search for an author to the play rehearsed, the characters question the meaning of their existence. In other words, the refuse to exist without an author. Sparknotes states, ” While the Character’s reality is real, the Actors’ is not; while the Character is somebody, man is nobody. Man is nobody because he is subject to time: his reality is fleeting, always ready to reveal itself as illusion, whereas the Character’s reality remains fixed for eternity.”

Essential Questions:

1. Compare and contrast the importance of the father’s existence as an actor and as a character in the play within the play.

2. Describe Pirandello’s existence in his own play and what is the significance of the author’s role?