Tracey Hughes assigned Little Brother to her grade 10 students in Peterborough, Ontario (Canada), and developed some course materials that she’s generously agreed to share with other teachers to remix, adapt, and reuse. She writes:
The intent of sharing my teacher resources for Little Brother stems from my pleasure and success teaching the text with grade 10 English students. Having had such meaningful and engaged discussions with my class has lead to valuable learning experiences for them and lead to valuable teaching experiences for me. Doctorow’s novel has reminded me of the power of youth, the strength of a single voice, and the dangers of power, both universal and personal. It is my hope that these resources will serve as a stepping-off point for you as an educator – obviously posting the “tests” means you’ll need to alter some of the content. Take this work and make it yours! Mash it up, pass it on, share it around, and hey, send me your work. The open network of material sharing that happens on the net (and in the novel) is a reminder to all educators that we so often teach in a bubble where resources and ideas are locked in our classrooms.
1. Tests (1st and 2nd half of LB):
I have designed these tests to cover general content (short answer), thinking components (short paragraphs to demonstrate understanding of character and plot), and application (paragraph-answer questions focusing on themes and concepts found in the novel with extensions to the world of the student). These could be done as group assignments, individual writing tasks, in-class oral work (open book or not) and discussion activities instead of as standard tests.
2. Chapter Questions:
The questions are intended to allow students to engage with the material in the novel. They explore more than just content and ask students to make assumptions, to extrapolate, to make connections to their own world, to do a little research for cultural context references, and to question the author’s intent in specific artistic choices in his writing. They will allow for deep discussion and do not focus solely on general comprehension.
3. Essay Assignment:
I have designed the essay assignment to cover two levels of classes (Applied and Academic) with a focus on understanding themes of power, morality, freedom, truth, and security. Students are asked to move through a number of pre-planning steps and to identify significant quotations from the novel to support their argument. The assignment culminates in a full essay, but can easily be adapted to any form of short writing, arts-extension, group presentation, or individual study activity.