Greasers are tuff, ya dig?

I still remembering reading The Outsiders back when I was in eighth grade.  It was one of my all-time favorite books, though I do still think the names are kind of corny (Ponyboy, Sodapop – what gives?).  The thing that really struck me about it was the way that it seemed so real, so true.  Even if there weren’t Socs (pronounced soashes and short for “Socials”) and greasers, there were “jocks,” or “preps” or “geeks,” and the list goes on. 

That’s what makes the book timeless in my opinion.  I think that readers at any age level (especially upper middle school) can really connect with the idea of groups, differences and similarities.  I also think that’s what makes the transformation of the characters in the group such a powerful tool for learning.

Whereas the 7th graders have read 10 chapters in their book, Chernowitz, the chapters in The Outsders are much longer.  We’re 10-pages into Chapter Two.  So far our class discussions have been very lively and some students have participated in class for the first time as a result of this text.  My goal is to have students finish Chapters 2-5 next week in class.  We will be taking Tuesday and Friday to go to the computer lab to try a different tool for discussion and/or processing the information in the story. 

This week we tried our hand at wikis (pronounced “wickies”), and it was, how shall I say this eloquently….a big flop!  We battled technically difficulty after technical difficulty.  But the kids were troopers and didn’t give up.  If things aren’t in better working order next week, we might just stick with the low-tech tools like pencils and paper, which are just as valuable.

I would like to have students take their first vocabulary quiz next week and I’m thinking of either Wednesday or Thursday.  I will provide a study guide and the exact day on Monday.

There are also some fabulous websites that students can access (Google search “Outsiders”) to help make sense of the characters in the book.  I will say, however, that some are spoilers and give away big action or events in the book.  I really stress that students shouldn’t read ahead only because they’ll get confused when it comes to comprehension activities that we do in class.  If you’re students is surfing some of these sites and comes across a big event in the book – please remind him/her not to spoil it for the rest of the class.  Thanks! 

I’ll leave you with this, an exercise students did as a pre-reading activity last week.  Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong somewhere?  If so, what was the context, the situation?  How did you respond and why do you think you felt that way?  Students were very insightful with this activity and realized that everyone feels like an “outsider” at some point.  So I wonder…doesn’t that make us all part of the same group in some way then?

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