What have I been reading?
Hsieh, B. (2012). Challenging characters: Learning to reach inward and outward from
characters who face oppression. English Journal, 102(1): 48–51.
Hsieh asks a few questions that probably plague most English language arts teachers at some point:
How am I going to get 21st century middle school students to connect with The Diary of Anne Frank (The Diary)?
How does The Diary connect with contemporary literature? and
How can I encourage students to look closely at characters and themes--to do close readings?
Hsieh wondered if DEJs, or double-entry journals (generally a t-chart, quote on one side, reflection/insight on the other) would help address these concerns. Each text would be read with attention given to how the main character experienced oppression. Of course, Hsieh modeled the strategy first.
Students were asked to focus on exchanges between characters in a short story (Bruce Coville’s “Am I Blue”) and to respond to a quote from the exchange.
Next, the strategy was applied using a longer work, The Diary-- still with Hsieh as the guide.
In addition to the DEJ, students were asked to take on the persona of a character in The Diary and write a letter “…to someone on the outside describing what life was like in the annex….” (p. 49)
The success of the strategies was tested when the students were asked to form literature circles. Without prompting from her, Hsieh wondered if skills, especially those related to close reading, would be retained. She concluded that they were.