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English Teachers:Top Set Year 9 Fiction

(17 Posts)
DoverBeach Sun 21-Oct-12 18:56:25

I am devising a new scheme of work for a Year 9 top set on modern fiction. Are there any books that you would recommend? The students are all girls and expected to get level 7s.

TIA

racingheart Sun 21-Oct-12 19:07:57

If they're top set I'd steer them towards the classics.

Shakespeare: Macbeth; Twelth Night; Merchant of Venice; MND; or The Tempest.
19th C gothic: Wuthering Heights; Northanger Abbey; Frankenstein; Jekyll and Hyde; Dracula. Let them know where Twilight came from.

20thC morality and social tales: To Kill a Mockingbird; Of Mice & Men; Animal Farm; Catcher in the Rye; We Need to Talk About Kevin

Funny classics: Scoop; Decline & Fall; Cold Comfort Farm

Poetry - Men: the War Poets? Causley? MacNiece? Robert Frost? Early Eliot?
Modern: Simon Armitage; Heaney
Women: Christina Rosetti; Emily Dickinson; Stevie Smith; Plath; Susan Wicks.

DoverBeach Sun 21-Oct-12 19:21:54

Thanks Racing Heart, that's a great list.

It will have to be 20th Century fiction as they have already studied an older novel. I am quite keen on We Need to Talk About Kevin. It's a great novel with lots to discuss but could it be too violent for Year 9? What do you think?

racingheart Sun 21-Oct-12 22:54:39

It's tricky. At our local comp they do Hunger Games in Yr 7. The English teacher told me that as they were all reading it anyway, she'd prefer them to really study the implications in it. I was very impressed by her attitude.

There may be some who can't handle it - or say they can't - but we accept gore in Shakespeare.The interesting thing for them would be to put it in context. These things happen. Why? Who, if anyone, is responsible, other than the perpetrator? It would certainly get them thinking. I think it's an amazing book.

There are some wonderful popular fiction 'issue' novels with lots to discuss, which may be more suited to Yr 9s, such as My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult and White Oleander by Janet Fitch (about being fostered and in care). Both have strong female teen narrators. If it's off curricular, I'd recommend them. They're hardly a challenge linguistically but then, neither is Animal Farm - it's the content rather than the prose style which grips. They are so thought provoking, and not quite as grim as Kevin, though in its way White Oleander comes close. Can't remember if MSK has adult scenes in it though.

Two other thoughts - again with some hard hitting material: The Kite Runner by Hosseini or Atonement by Ian McEwan. Or even Room or The Lovely Bones. Sorry, I seem to be suggesting very grim stuff tonight!

racingheart Sun 21-Oct-12 22:55:50

Duh. I just realised your original post said modern fiction. Sorry for rabbiting on about classics!

joanofarchitrave Sun 21-Oct-12 23:03:08

We Need to Talk is a bit violent and disturbing for at least some of year 9 in my view.

Are you thinking contemporary theme? How far back would you go with historical settings?

When I Lived In Modern Times by Linda Grant is pretty unforgettable IMO.

lisalisa Sun 21-Oct-12 23:10:12

No the Lovely Bones you must be joking? I found that - as an adult - one of the very worst books I had ever read in terms of horror. I am the kind of person that usually forgets the effect of a book fairly soon asfter but will never forget those images of tha tlittle gilr crossing tha tlonely field or moor where sh emet her killer who lured her literally into a hole and murdered her there. And its quite sexual for such young childrne. My daughter would never have handled it at age 13 . And the afterlife and all the sad images of her parents - horrific

sassytheFIRST Sun 21-Oct-12 23:15:34

Ditto kite runner. Anal rape of a child?

I'm also an English teacher and I'm all for challenging bright students. Just not for traumatising them.

I'd suggest Mockingbird, some Orwell, maybe some HGWells. Life of Pi, Woman in Black, A Gathering Light are all excellent if you want something more contemporary.

Dominodonkey Mon 22-Oct-12 00:41:50

Our top sets do mocking bird, lord of the flies and woman in black.

ravenAK Mon 22-Oct-12 00:55:47

All of those are AQA GCSE Eng Lit texts.

I personally think you could do worse than cover an 'extra' text in year 9, but you do run the risk of kids attempting to answer a q. on a text they enjoyed in year 9 (but didn't study at GCSE level) rather than the one you've spent all year 11 drilling them on!

That said, I'd do LOTF every time with top sets. I get overruled by my HOD who has us do 'Century' instead - it's OK, not bad prep for TWiB which we do for GCSE.

DoverBeach Mon 22-Oct-12 19:24:05

Thanks, some great suggestions there. My, as yet not fully formed, idea is to run the unit like a kind of book club. The students would opt to read books under a certain theme with a core text and some extension texts. In the term, they would cover two themes. The lessons and homeworks would consist of independent reading, group discussions, reading journals and student led 'seminars' and activities.

I'm thinking of doing it this way because they have studied Pride and Prejudice as a class reader, in a more conventional way, and it would be a good balance for them to work more independently. Also, this group are likely to do the igcse which may value the development of their own interpretations and ideas.

As I said, it's still an embryonic idea, but, if you have a few moments, I would welcome any comments or suggestions on my list of possible texts. Or is this a crazy idea altogether?

Dystopia
Core –The Hunger Games
Extension – Brave New World, Children of the Dust

Tragic young love
Core -Noughts and Crosses
Extension - Exposure by Mal Peet

The American South
Core – To Kill a Mockingbird
Extension – Roll of Thunder, The Help

Modern Gothic
Core -The Woman in Black
Extension – Century, The Little Friend

War
Core – The Book Thief
Extension – War Horse

Coming of Age
Core – The Curious Incident
Extension – We Need to Talk about Kevin?? Lord of the Flies, The Catcher in the Rye

Fantasy
Core – Northern Lights
Extension -???

TIA

EvilTwins Mon 22-Oct-12 22:04:18

I think it's worth considering whether your students would get the books, tbh. Yes, their academic ability and their comprehension skills might well allow understanding of texts like We Need to Talk About Kevin, but beware of stifling their enjoyment. I had to read The Handmaid's Tale at school, and I loathed it. I understood it, and was mature enough to appreciate that it was "good" literature, but I didn't really get it. I wasn't the only one. I read again a few years later and loved it. I was flabbergasted that I had hated it at school. What was clear was that I had read it too soon. My teacher obviously loved it, and it must have spoiled it for her that we were so negative about it. One of my close friends, who was in the same English class at school, has never returned to it, and is a bit meh about Margaret Atwood as a result, which I think is a real shame.

DoverBeach Mon 22-Oct-12 23:04:14

Yes, I absolutely agree. I had a similar experience with Sons and Lovers at school, I just didn't have the maturity to understand it. I am a bit wary of We Need to Talk About Kevin for the same reasons.

racingheart Tue 23-Oct-12 21:12:58

I understand the misgivings about books like The kite Runner, but TKAMB also has rape at its heart. The central message of Kite Runner is uplifting. It is about redemption, forgiving yourself for past weaknesses etc. But maybe not suitable at 13. I'm out of touch with what teens read. And it would be awful to put them off great books for life.

For fantasy you could try The Gideon Trilogy. It's beautifully written.

DC and I are reading Airman right now by Ewen Colfer (or however it's spelled.) It's brilliant so far but may be a bit boyish.

Trying to remember what we read at that age at school.

Themumsnot Thu 25-Oct-12 16:36:37

DoverBeach - I've just put a website together that has all sorts of suggestions for class readers on it if you'd like to have a look. www.thewidewideworld.co.uk

DoverBeach Thu 25-Oct-12 17:49:39

Fantastic - thank you.

notnowImreading Fri 26-Oct-12 18:52:18

A slightly more accessible but still engaging text for able pupils is Witch Child by Celia Rees (about witchcraft in 17th C Massachussets, very interesting framing device similar to The Handmaid's Tale making it seem as though the first person narrative is a real historical source found sewn into a traditional quilt) and could use The Crucible as an extension text.

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