The three high schools in my district are about to enter a new round of textbook adoption and I need your help. If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you may have noticed that I don’t teach a lot of novels. Over the past decade, I’ve moved away from teaching novel after novel with an occasional play thrown in for variety; in fact, so far this year, I’ve taught only one novel to my freshmen, Of Mice and Men (a wonderful and required text at my school). For the rest of our time, I’ve pieced together short stories, non-fiction pieces I think are funny or clever, science fiction short stories, a whole month of poetry, and argument writing. Partly this shift away from novel units is because I like to build a wide variety of curriculum (you might have noticed) and partly it’s because many of the approved texts (that is, the ones I can actually find on campus – my bookroom woes are a story for another day) lull my students into a comatose state. My kids still regularly read novels on their own as part of the S.S.R. requirement, but class time is usually filled with a potpourri of other options.
Now, here’s where I need help. Novels, and non-fiction for that matter, are important and I want to lobby for some fresh, juicy reads when the district’s curriculum committee meets again. I need to arrive armed with a list of contemporary titles that will engage and challenge our students, grades 9-12. I’m certain my department will still teach Salinger, Shakespeare, and Steinbeck (love ‘em all), but I’m aching to add some folks who aren’t dead white men to our curriculum.
One of the sorrows of my life is that I’m an English teacher who has no extra time to read. By the time I settle in at night, I’m lucky if I make it past three paragraphs before my eyelids are 20-pound weights. So I turn to you, my teacher tribe. If you were in charge of curriculum, which books would you use as core high school texts? I’ll start this Mother of All Book Lists with a few recent favorite titles (I tend to tilt toward non-fiction – weird for an English teacher, I know).
Okay, any of these that you love/hate? What other fresh titles should we add to this list? Don’t be shy. Lobby for your favorites and/or enter your ideas below.
Teach on (and LEAVE A COMMENT), everyone!