Are Classics Worth It?

By Book Reports, Book Talk, General No Comments

Are classic books worth the time and effort? Are they relevant to today’s time and place? Some adults: parents, teachers, and librarians swear by it and feel, if the students haven’t read any classics – they have wasted their time! However, with the changing times, some find that classic books must be shared with the young. It could be done by incorporating movies.

What makes a book a classic? Italo Calvino’s 14 Criteria for What Makes a Classic

Fundamentally, the work focuses on the style of writing or if it is a new entry in a particular genre. Secondly, it addresses fundamental topics in beauty stimulating visual delight or describes the complex nature of the socio-economic-political structure of a specific place and time. Thirdly, the book reflects values that transcend race, time, and location, providing profound wisdom and teachings of life.

A way to engage students in delving into classic literature might be to introduce students to movies based on these classics. Discussing value systems, character, the period the story was written in, settings, and/or author’s purpose. For example, using Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, you could describe the lifestyle of the girls that grew up in those times and compare and contrast them with the present times’ virtues, and freedom. Discuss the role of women and men who lived in those times and now, in the present. How much has changed and what has remained the same? How can we change and evolve? Why should we develop, grow and change? 

Another example could be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Why did she write this book, what prompted her to write? What are the experiments related to stem cells? Could these experiments have been influenced by the story or any other literature? How are the different characters in the story relatable? What conditions or situations in the story remind you of our present-day problems? How were outliers viewed in the previous century as compared to the present day? Here are some links to peruse and use for classic analysis with films. 

 PBS Movies with lesson plans

CommonLit – Lesson Plans

Youtube list that houses a variety of Classics

World Classics Movies list

Audio List of Classics

When students watch the movie and read excerpts from the book, impressions about the character, research on the topic, debates and writing reflection can become an interesting learning experience. Variations in the film and its narration can sometimes be taken off from the book narration, those experiences or topics or themes can be analyzed and discussed.

Book Reports with Purpose

By Book Reports One Comment

Book Reports -Source: Pixabay CC0 License

Meaningful book reports to help students think deeply:

How do we challenge our students to use higher order thinking skills to help students think deeply about what they read? Book reports have always been a vital part of a librarians role. And, somehow we end up with students writing a summary or a description of the book.

How do we change the book report style?

To help students interpret the book or analyse the story deeply, we will need to encourage them to select a book of their choice and have them use different strategies and not summarization. Here are some thoughts:

1. Settings of the novel: Why has the author chosen the context to explain? Describe with evidence that demonstrates the difference between the settings in the story with your background. For example: Why was the story in the mountains,? How is it different from the city? Whey did the author choose the hills instead of the town? What are the implications of the settings on the goal/meaning/intent of the story?

2. Characterisation: Explain the protagonist, how is he/she is different from the other characters in the story? What part of the books describes the person as a stereotype or someone different. Explain the personality traits with examples. Explain the moods of the major and minor characters, their feelings, actions and thoughts.

3. Point of view? What point of view is the story written in? First person, second or third person? Why do you think he chose to write it in this format? How would the author have written the same story from another point of view? Give examples from the story.

4. Conflict: Students can identify the problem or the conflict in the story. Is it between people, nature versus human, self-conflict, society norms versus one development? Explain the conflict and how does the main character/protagonist grow or learn from the battle?

5. Theme and Symbols: Think and explain what the author’s purpose was to write this book? The subject of the novel is the big idea which is often universal, for example, it could be friendship, saving the environment. The symbols in the story are metaphors or symbols used to add depth and meaning to the story. They can be identified and explained with examples.