Brave New World

Brave New WorldI review just about every book I read on my personal blog, and Brave New World is no exception. I think I have pretty well decided that even though I haven’t read The Return of the Native, I will study the novel Brave New World with my classes prior to assessment. You may recall that each of my literature classes reads three summer reading books, and I am expected to assess them on two books without benefit of classroom discussion, while the third is discussed in class prior to assessment and therefore becomes our first unit. I imagine that the themes and storyline of Brave New World will create material for discussion, but more importantly, I think the students will have struggled with some aspects of the novel, and I’m not sure I feel right about them being assessed on it without benefit of classroom instruction first. Of course, I might read The Return of the Native and find it even more difficult (and I know Hardy has a reputation for description and vocabulary, but as I have never taught British literature before, I haven’t read him — Tess of the D’Urbervilles has been on my list, but it’s never been a priority). It isn’t that I think The Return of the Native or The Picture of Dorian Gray are not challenging books, but it seemed to me that Brave New World is somehow more immediate. As I read, I was trying approach the book as though I were one of my students, and I decided I probably would be fairly intrigued by the book, but also frustrated by references I didn’t understand. I would be very surprised if many of them thought much about the book’s date of publication. I think if you remember Huxley published the novel in 1932, it’s amazing how much he was able to predict about our society. I happen to have enjoyed Dorian Gray, and I don’t wish to cast aspersions on a book I’ve not yet read, but it seems to me that my students will probably identify Brave New World as the most relevant of their required reading selections.

With all of that said, I created a UbD unit for Brave New World over at the UbD Educators wiki. The wiki has been pretty quiet for about two weeks. I assume everyone is enjoying their summers instead of working, which is probably a good thing. At any rate, if you would like to check it out, please do. As always, we welcome new wiki members. It’s never too late to join.

[tags]brave new world, aldous huxley, literature, english, unit plan, lesson plan, wiki, ubd[/tags]

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11 thoughts on “Brave New World

  1. *grin* So d'you think it's a good book, or not? BNW is one of a few reasons I wish I didn't teach freshmen.

    I've got family issues right now. Good things, really, but not online as much as earlier in the summer.

  2. Did I think it was a good book? I think it had some flaws in terms of plot holes, and it may be that Huxley was aware of them. I haven't read his introduction or Brave New World Revisited, so I don't know. I didn't like it, but sometimes I can recognize that a book is "good" without liking it, and I think this is one of those cases. It's good in the issues and themes it explores, I think.

  3. Wait… did you mean BNW is in the 9th grade curriculum, and that's a reason why you wish you didn't teach 9th grade, or did you mean that it is in another grade's curriculum and you want to teach it? Obviously, it's in our 11th grade curriculum, but I could see it in a lower grade. I think I might gradually be "passing" the 9th grade at long last. I have taught 9th every year that I've taught high school, and while there are things I do like about it, I am kind of tired of it after 8 years. I'm ready to move into a British lit concentration if it's possible. I am finally getting to teach it this year, and you can probably tell I'm excited from the fact that most of my unit plans so far are British lit. units. :)

  4. I would LOOOVE to teach it, but I really don't think our freshmen are prepared to tackle a novel of that length, difficulty and complexity. So I content myself with The Giver and Anthem.

    There are way, way more references to 1984 (although Sandra Bullock's character in Demolition Man is named Lenina Huxley) in our culture, but I think Brave New World is way more relevant. I think I was reading it at about the same time as I read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, and the connections were just creepy.

  5. I taught BNW with my honors English 11 class and they really liked it. The novel brought forth so much discussion. I did a pre-reading activity having the students each receive a card with a type of job on it. Ex: lawyer, ditch digger, secretary, successful rock star etc. They had to then get themselves into groups some how. They had to decide how any of these jobs were related or connected. It finally turns out that they are categorized by how much money they make. Then each member has to fill out a personal profile answering certain questions about where they shop, what they eat, what kind of car they drive, college education etc. Then I asked the groups if they would interact with the other groups socially? It really got them thinking about how we tend to categorize people in society similar to the Beta's etc. It was something I had never done before but the activity and the discussions were great!

    How do I get to your activity you discussed in the blog? (UbD unit?) Please Help!I need new ideas to teach the book! I am starting to panic since our district will be moving to 84 minute classes.

  6. Carol, the link is at the wiki. Go to http://ubdeducators.wikispaces.com/Dana+Brave+New…. Please tell me more about that project. It sounds like a great opener, although since this was summer reading, they already know the plot and it might pack more punch if they hadn't.

    I tried to e-mail you several weeks ago about something you wrote about SMART Boards and again today about this, but my e-mails bounced, and I couldn't get to your blog.

  7. Hey Dana,

    I agree that BNW is more immediate as you said, but Dorian Gray (which I reread last summer with Sarah) could be used to sort of highlight the selfishness of society, and this is crazy, but you could almost have the students write a creative piece placing Dorian in BNW. He would want to be genetically engineered to be at the top of society. I am obsessed with books like BNW and am actually teaching Fahrenheit 451 to my 8th graders. I think Bradbury and Orwell were geniuses for writing books in the 1940's that were spot on with many of the technology they predicted.

    I do remember Sarah flying through BNW on her own and me actually reading to her from Dorian Gray to help her get through the book.

    Stella

  8. Hi Stella! Thanks for commenting! That makes me feel really excited. I like your creative writing idea a great deal. I wish I could do more of that kind of thing at school. I don't know. I may ask the students what they think, too. I have a feeling they will want to do BNW.

    I loved teaching Fahrenheit 451 — I only taught it once to a class of CP 10th graders back when I taught public school, but it was a great experience.

    It's great to see you on my blog.

  9. BNW has been on my mind quite a bit, so I was sort of suprised to see it on the blog- feels like it's everywhere. I have actually been trying to replace it on our 11th Grade syllabus, because I (shame on me for saying) don't really like it. I don't think it's particularly well-written (plot, character development, word choice), and relevant points are sometimes obscured by all of the sensationalism.

    One of the other grade level teachers feels that the students like it, and that's reason enough to teach it. I didn't find particularly that they enjoyed it, but I'm willing to admit that my feelings may have leaked a bit. My main objection to the novel is that it isn't the best example of contemporary or postmodern British lit, but we end the year with the novel, as if that's where British lit ends. While searching for other texts though, I've come up short, because many of them could be considered inappropriate for high school students.

    How I handled the unit:

    Because it was the end of the year, and because my feelings did leak, I had them teach it to each other. I established guiding questions and major concepts such as transition from modernism to postmodernism, dystopia, and science fiction. I also introduced the ideas by showing Brazil (the only film I use all year), and we did some web research on dystopian imagery. Once the key concepts and questions were established, for every block of reading (4 or 5 chapters), students submitted a 10 minute lesson plan. All students were held accountable by having the plan, but I picked them randomly out of a hat. We usually had 5 or 6 lessons a day. I was able to comment and participate, redirecting if necessary, while the kids were energized by the variety, and they had strong insight into each other's learning styles.

    This may work at the beginning of the year as well, if you wanted to establish that students weren't always just going to be receiving info in your class and if you wanted to check out their personal reading and thinking approaches.

  10. msdocuw, I didn't really like it either, and I think we agree on many points about how it was written; I was trying to think from the perspective of a student — which of the three books intrigued them enough to want to talk about it with others, and of the three, I think it will be BNW. As far as choice about novels, I didn't really have any, but I imagine I will have some input if I continue to teach more British lit. I like your idea.

  11. Oh, I almost forgot! If you're feeling whimsical (or you think the students need a bit of silly-time) look at Shel Silverstein's poem "The Land of Happy." It provides an interesting perspective on why there are far more dystopian than utopian stories!

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