I went to the internet to help me, as Kelly Gallagher explains, activate prior knowledge about the text and frame the text and put the book in a context with which I am already familiar.
Here is what I found:
“Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.”
This loss of status and mistreatment at the hands of one’s new family reminded me of the story of Cinderella.
Why Should I Care?
Concerned that you won’t like Wuthering Heights? Think you’ll get bored reading a book that’s over 150 years old? Before you give up on Emily Brontë’s one and only novel, ask yourself a couple questions:
- Do you like creepy stories about haunted houses?
- How about stories with elaborate revenge schemes?
- Are you a fan of Edward Cullen, from Twilight? (Because before there was Edward, there was Heathcliff.)
- Do you believe in soul mates?
- Are you sick of reading stories where the girl ends up with a Prince Charming or a Romeo?
If you said yes to any of these questions, we’re willing to bet that once you pick up Wuthering Heights, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s a real page-turner, full of ghoulish behavior, ghosts, passionate love, and revenge. Maybe you’ve even heard of the main character, Heathcliff, as a dark, brooding, obsessive romantic idol. This guy is definitely no Prince Charming. Emily Brontë changed the tone of the whole romantic hero thing and made Heathcliff nasty and cruel and, in spite of all that, sexy and sympathetic. One hundred and fifty years later, pop culture is still obsessed with Heathcliff-like characters (Edward Cullen, anyone?).
YouTube also has a lot of useful videos that can help frame a text, such as this summary by Shmoop.com:
Some other facts and notes that I found out about the book:
- From http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/wuthering/: “Victorian readers found the book shocking and inappropriate in its depiction of passionate, ungoverned love and cruelty.”
- From Shmoop.com: To Heathcliff, whoever controls the house has the power, so even though he seeks revenge for all of his mistreatment, he does so by acquiring real estate.
- From Shmoop.comWith her violently romantic plot line and passionate characters, Emily Brontë has no problem drawing the reader into the book. And once you get through the first two chapters, you are definitely hooked. Heathcliff seems like such a jerk, yet he is one of the most famous romantic protagonists ever.
Up next: Setting a Purpose for Reading
Before I read the book, says Kelly Gallagher in his book Deeper Reading, I need to activate any background knowledge I can about the topic, which Gallagher likens to warming up a car before driving it. This is designed to “get the students ready and focused for the upcoming reading” (Gallagher 21). He goes on to say, “By activating their schema… a sense of anticipation is built before they begin to read” (21).
Gallagher goes on to explain the importance of setting up the book before the students start reading: “…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading” (26). He cotinues: “Having context helps immeasurably” and “…our students often lack prior knowledge in many of the areas they are to study” (27). Gallagher then quotes a brain guru, David Sousa, who says, “past experiences always influence new learning” and Gallagher continues: “When we read something new, we are much more likely to understand it if we see connections that make it relevant” (Gallagher 27).
Not to belabor the point, here are some other points he makes:
- Teachers should do more “…frontloading of the text so that students could get past the unfamiliarity of the story and begin seeing the beauty and the universal truths inherent” in a novel (28).
- “If we expect students to find meaning, ‘we need to be certain that today’s curriculum contains connections to their past experiences, not just ours’ (Sousa 2001, 49) (28).
- “When we teach difficult literature and challenging nonfiction to our students, we need to work hard to frame the text for them. Remember, adolescents often bring very limited prior knowledge to the page, so we need to be the equivalent of that guided audio tour” (37).
- “As the teacher, what you do (or don’t do) before your students read a major literary work will determine their level of motivation and interest. This in turn will have a direct effect on their level of comprehension” (37).
- “What can (the teacher) do to shore up those gaps in the prior knowledge of… students?” (38).
Gallagher then goes on to suggest a number of strategies, including the K-W-L-R (K: What they know already; W: What they want to know; L: What they have learned; and R: Post-reading research), the “K” of which I explored in the last post.
But Gallagher also suggests additional ideas for preparing students, such as:
- a related story or article
- an art experience
- a video clip
To frame Wuthering Heights, I explored the internet and what I found is in the next post…
In books such as I Read It, But I Don’t Get It, Cris Tovani lists reading behaviours of successful or proficient readers.
These behaviours are:
- Activating background knowledge
- Self-questioning the text while reading.
- Drawing inferences.
- Determining importance
- Employing Fix-Up Strategies when meaning breaks down.
- Using sensory images to visualize
- Synthesizing and extending meaning
Here, I will begin at the beginning. I have often, if not always employed, deliberately asking students to brainstorm any preconceptions they have about a text before we begin. To put a shape to that pre-text brainstorming, I have used an Advance Organizer, brainstorming on a word web as a class, or a Value Line.
For this activity, I decided to use a K-W-L chart, with the “K” meaning that students write everything they already know — or think they know — about a topic or text.
Here are my K preconceptions:
- Gothic text (but what that means exactly I confess to not knowing)
- Considered one of the greatest texts ever written
- Considered one of the greatest love stories ever written
- Turn of the century time period
- Overly flowery language.
- Unnecessarily long descriptions.
Up next: Activating Background Knowledge, Framing a Text and Providing a Purpose
Nobel award ‘a splendid thing to happen,’ says Ontario author who last published 2012’s Dear Life
CBC News Posted: Oct 10, 2013 7:02 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 11, 2013 11:58 AM ET
Alice Munro wins the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first Canadian woman to take the award since its launch in 1901.
Munro, 82, only the 13th woman given the award, was lauded by the Swedish Academy during the Nobel announcement in Stockholm as the “master of the contemporary short story.”
“We’re not saying just that she can say a lot in just 20 pages — more than an average novel writer can — but also that she can cover ground. She can have a single short story that covers decades, and it works,” said Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.
Reached in British Columbia by CBC News on Thursday morning, Munro said she always viewed her chances of winning the Nobel as “one of those pipe dreams” that “might happen, but it probably wouldn’t.”
Munro’s daughter woke her up to tell her the news.
“It’s the middle of the night here and I had forgotten about it all, of course,” she told the CBC’s Heather Hiscox early Thursday.
“It just seems impossible. A splendid thing to happen … More than I can say,” she said, overcome with emotion.
I few days ago, I had the privilege of observing part of the selection process as Glendale DHS‘s English Department continue to create their own iLit collection of stories for their school.
McGraw Hill explains the iLit program this way: “iLit is a fresh collection of unique, contemporary, literary and media selections for Canadian high schools. iLit creators range from award winning authors such as Joseph Boyden, Jean Little, and Heather O’Neill to high school students.“
In this photo, I was given an iPad by Cathy the Department Head so that I could follow along with what was on the screen at the front of the room. The meeting consisted of Department members speaking in favour of or against reading selections that they had read ‘as homework’ prior to this meeting. And there were snacks. Mmmmm, snacks….
Thank you very much, Glendale English Department for having me and letting me watch your process!
* In addition, the English Department at Saunders has also gone through this process selection and they are now using their iLit collections in classes.