Teaching Tommy Orange’s There There: Part Two

In  my previous post, I discussed how my teaching partner James and I approach pre-teaching or setting the context forTommy Orange’s novel There There

The Prologue introduces readers to a lot of history that many of them might not know. James and I decided that this year, we wanted students to unpack the Prologue and generate the questions, so we used Marisa Thompson’s Thoughts/Questions/Epiphanies method (see this blog post) so students could generate discussion questions. Here is a screengrab of the slide deck I used with prompts for the students.

Tommy Orange makes several allusions in the Prologue, and I thought it was helpful to create a slide deck to unpack the allusions, especially if the students didn’t ask questions about them. You can make a copy of the slide deck by clicking this link.

You’ll notice this slide deck starts with the biography slide I mentioned in the previous post and also includes a picture of me and Tommy Orange (you can easily delete this if you make a copy) and the PBS News Hour video I mentioned in the previous post. What follows is a run-down of some of the remaining slides and how I use them:

  • Slide 4: A journal activity designed to generate discussions/reactions to the Prologue
  • Slide 5: A video of the Indian Head Test Pattern that Orange mentions. Warning: the sound is included, and you may want to turn it low or off. We scared our students!
  • Slide 6: Allusions to Native depictions in films. Orange doesn’t refer to Apocalypto by name, but that’s the movie he’s describing. He also describes Dances with Wolves and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Slide 7: Orange makes a references to John Wayne’s role in Westerns, and James and I dug up this quote from Wayne as a talking point.
  • Slide 8: Orange also mentions Iron Eyes Cody, a Sicilian-American actor who made a career out of playing Natives and insisted he was Native (note: I am just old enough to rememeber the commercial embedded in this slide, but James is not and can barely believe it was real!).
  • Slide 9: This slide offers a great basis for discussing logos and mascots. Land O’Lakes has changed their packaging, and the Washington R-skins and Cleveland Indians have changed their names and logos. I screengrabbed a few headlines and images to talk about what messages the depictions send.
  • Slide 10: This slide offers another discussion/journal talking point.

The remaining slides are used to discuss other elements of the text, and I’ll explain them in a future post.

Tommy Orange discusses the Sand Creek Massacre in There There, and it might be worth spending some time reading about the massacre with students. James and I like this article from Smithsonian Magazine. Tommy Orange grew up hearing about the Sand Creek Massacre from his father and grandfather, and I believe I heard him say in an interview that he descends from a survivor of the massacre.

The slide deck above collects a lot of the resources I have used (and some I still use) in teaching There There. Thank you to the great Joel Garza and Scott Bayer for creating a Google hyperdoc with a graphic organizer I have adapted. If you click the image below, you will be taken to the document. You can make a copy of it and adapt it to your liking.

James and I used the sections “Tracking the Characters” and “Questions About Structure,” but we found it worked better for our students to have the Structure part at the beginning, followed by the Character section. I cannot overstress how helpful this hyperdoc is, so make sure you grab a copy if you plan to teach this book.

Stay tuned for more posts about how James and I approach teaching the rest of this wonderful novel. As a reminder, we teach this novel as part of a cross-curricular course on Social Justice.

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