Creating a Classical Literature Hook

Today I take my first step into this new blogging direction. In the past my blogs have consisted of myself and the stories that I wanted to tell. I never expect to have a huge audience or get a lot of feedback. Especially since the only people who really know about my blog are just my family and a few friends on Facebook. This blog however is completely different. As with my previous blogs I hope to integrate my voice and story into what I write, but the focus is on lesson planning, classical literature, and the digital era, not myself. And part of this process will be promoting the blog. Putting it up in places such as Pinterest and Instagram with the goal of drawing in readers that are outside of my “comfortable” circle.

So with all of these realizations in mind, I’m honestly struggling a little with this first post. What direction do I take? The first one is so intimidating because you can take it in a million different directions, but the real question is what direction does the reader expect you to take? And really within that one question there are multiple answers. So we again end up at square one of determining what direction is the best direction.

With this first post let’s be a little cheesy and start with “the beginning”, or the “first one”, and in teaching this would be the first new lesson plan. For educators there is always that struggle of deciding how to start a new section successfully. Whether it’s the first day of class after ice breakers and the discussion of rules, or the first day of introducing a new novel, time frame, or chapter in a book. Each new introduction is a struggle because you always want to start off with a BANG and leave the students wanting more. If you don’t grasp their attention quickly, then it becomes very difficult to hold onto their attention.

For my own classes I depend a lot upon hooks to help grasp my student’s attention on not only daily lessons, but also when introducing a new topic or concept. Thus today let’s talk about a hook you could use when introducing Jane Austen and one of her novels into the classroom. For this hook I decided to combine movie trailers and memes with Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey.

To begin the hook I would show the students the film adaptation trailer for Northanger Abbey. This can honestly work with any of her novels, because at this point there has been more than one film adaptation created for each of her COMPLETED novels. Unfinished novels like Lady Susan are another story.

After showing the trailer I would tell the students that the next book we will be reading is Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I would then tell the students that they will be creating their own meme, and in the meme I want them to summarize their reaction to the novel. When summarizing they could be thinking about answering questions such as: how do you feel about the reading after watching the trailer? Does it look like something that you will enjoy or dislike reading? What do you think about the characters? What do you already dislike about the story? etc.

The students would then be given time in-class to create a meme that summarizes their reactions and feelings towards the new reading. Then we would share the memes with the class. This gives the students an ice breaker and the opportunity to share something with the class without feeling intimidated because there is no “correct” or “right” meme. The memes could then be printed and posted around the room to remind the students as they read how their feelings about the novel progress. At the end of the section when we have finished the book, a closing to the lesson could link back to the meme, by asking students to create a new meme that shows how their feelings about the novel have changed or progressed.

Below is an example of how the trailer and memes could work together.

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Northanger Abbey Trailer

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Example of a “before reading” meme**

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Example of an “after reading” meme**

Classical Literature can be a difficult subject to introduce to students, especially when they are growing up in an environment that is centered upon text lingo and young adult novels. To help students connect to classical literature we have to learn new ways, as educators, to go an extra mile that includes more than just sitting them in front of the projector so they can watch the film adaptation in class. Too often now we see students watching the film and then never reading because they feel that they got everything that was important from the movie. But there is a major difference in characters, language, setting, and purpose between the novel and adaptations. Yes my introduction to the novel includes a movie trailer, but it is a simple hook to help them get started and know what the book is about. We use trailers to help us determine if we will like something or not, and thus using it for novels when we can is a great strategy.

By using memes, we have the opportunity to see inside the students’ heads before they even begin reading. Right away we can tell if students are going to be bored with the selection or are interested in the reading. And if they have a specific interest, like the dancing or the romance or the conflict, then we can use that to our advantage later when creating the daily lesson plans to help encourage the continuing of reading. Memes are a popular use of digital rhetoric in today’s culture, and thus using the creation of memes in class is an easy way to get students involved in the learning process. With memes students are challenged to consider what exactly they wish to convey, and creating the meme requires more thought than just writing a summary or reflection paragraph. Students have to choose what image they think correctly shows their feelings on the novel, rather than randomly picking a picture that they like. And the students also have to think about their wording since memes are a little limiting in word count. They have to come up with an effective caption that gets their point across effectively while also grasping the audience’s attention.

What I like about this “hook” is that it encourages classroom discussion, and it also can be used for many different books. Even if there is not a film adaptation for the novel you are working into the classroom, doing a search on YouTube will result in many book trailers that people make on their own. Book trailers are a more recent trend that has been continually gaining attention and usage.

So that’s blog post number one. I hope that this was a useful and interesting start for you and that I didn’t bore you to tears. And if I did, I hope it was just a sprinkle rather than a downpour. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions, or follow the “contact me” tab at the top if you want to message me directly.

Till next time…

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Notes

**If you need help finding a good meme generator — I used https://memegenerator.net/ to create my two examples. The site is very user friendly and the memes were easy to make. I would recommend creating your own first as an example, that way you also get to practice working with the site before making your students do it.

Header image is taken from: https://www.trentu.ca/futurestudents/sites/trentu.ca.futurestudents/files/styles/header_image/public/EnglishLiterature_ThinkstockPhotos-528364379.jpg?itok=dV5oUrH8

Final image is taken from: https://41.media.tumblr.com/49035e5cee7c2c944be8d83d97a0caa9/tumblr_nqf29408oo1r8gvzro5_r1_1280.jpg

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2 thoughts on “Creating a Classical Literature Hook

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