Up Late With Go Set a Watchman

So when Go Set a Watchman came out, I refused to read it because of the controversy surrounding it…but I’m curious and when a student suggested we read it together as an independent study, I agreed.  I have to admit, I’m so glad I decided to read it. The complexity of Go Set a Watchman derives from the turmoil Jean Louise (Scout) goes through upon returning home and finding her father and her boyfriend involved in certain activities.

This really is Jean Louise’s book, whereas  To Kill A Mockingbird is Scout’s story.  Although there are flashbacks to her youth with Dill and Jem, the novel focuses on Jean Louise’s struggles as a young independent woman who returns to her hometown and discovers she doesn’t seem to belong there anymore. I adored her uncle Jack Finch in this, a retired eccentric with a huge cat, who offers her advice and perspective on her situation. I also love the sense of humor Harper Lee wrote with, and the amusing anecdotes of Jean Louise’s life–I could really relate to her as a young woman.

While there have certainly been debates about the circumstances in which the book was published, there will also be debates about who is and who is not a racist in the book. In addition to the question of race, Jean Louise has to learn to stop viewing her father as a God and see him as a man.

Here are some favorite quotes:

  • “It has never fully occurred to Jean Louise that she was a girl: her life has been one of reckless, pummeling activity; fighting, football, climbing, keeping up with Jem, and besting anyone her own age in any contest requiring physical prowess” (116).
  • “She glances with satisfaction at the neat swath behind her.  The grass lay crisply cut and smelled like a creek bank.  The course of English literature would have been decidedly different had Mr. Wordsworth owned a power mover, she thought” (143).
  • “He had not changed. His face was the same as always.  I don’t know why I expected him to be looking like Dorian Gray or somebody” (146).


Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Up Late With Go Set a Watchman

Friday Five: Creative Ways to Share Choice Books

From last year on this day!


  1. Still Life with a Book–I came up with this idea after seeing someone’s pictures online where they’d created a still life with a book capturing the era and tone of the book (somewhere in social media–it was about four years ago, so I don’t remember the origin). Now, I assign it to students —explanation/ rubric/ examples
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  2. Nutritional Content–I saw this on twitter earlier this year, when Andrew Smith tweeted Alina Borger’s student work for Winger. I offered it to my seniors and a number of them tried it out and it ended up being a great way to see what was in the book.
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  3. Netflix recently viewed--This one was not my idea, but I am stealing it. One of my seniors came up with this when she was reading Vonnegut’s Bluebeard. She is a huge movie/film fan and she decided her characters were the type…

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Friday Five: Creative Ways to Share Choice Books

Friday Five: TED Talks to use in Your Classroom

Everybody loves TED talks, but finding new ones can be overwhelming when faced with the sheer number (the TED webpage claims there are over 2100 in over 100 languages).

So here are 5 TED talks teachers have found useful in the classroom.  If you have one you’ve used, reply to us and let us know!

  1. Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story
    This one can be used when teaching Night or any other text where one group makes assumptions about another group.  Our entire tenth grade curriculum uses this as the foundation of the year, where we also teach Things Fall Apart and Persepolis and American Born Chinese. 
  2. Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability
    This one works well when you want to talk about characters and how we might define them–are the wholehearted, do they feel worthy?  My intern introduced this to me   when she was teaching The KiteRunner and it gave us an interesting framework to discuss the differences between Amir and Hassan. We cut out about 5 minutes near the end when she was talking about some of her personal experiences in her job.
  3. Grace Lin’s “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf
    This one was just uploaded and the message is powerful.  Lin is a children’s book author and she talks about her experience growing up in Rhode Island as the only Asian-American girl in her school.  She explains the importance of representation in literature to offer both mirrors and windows to children.  Also, this is a shorter talk at only about 12 minutes, so it would work well in the classroom as well–it could be a nice start to a choice book unit.
  4. Garr Reynolds’s “Why Storytelling Matters
    This is essentially a TED talk about how to make better presentations, but he explains how incorporating storytelling elements can enhance your presentations.  he quotes Andrew Stanton who tells us “we have to make the audience care…show empathy for your audience.”
  5. Andrew Stanton’s “The Clues to a Great Story
    TED talk number 4 quotes from this TED talk. It is a great TED talk, but it may not be good to show the entire thing to students–it starts with a dirty joke that would not be school appropriate. However, he says then, storytelling is joke-telling: “knowing that everything you’re saying is leading to a singular goal.”

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA


Friday Five: TED Talks to use in Your Classroom

The Flick: Drama in a Movie Theatre

When I first read Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize winner The Flick, I knew my students would relate to it.  The story takes place in an old movie theatre in Massachusetts where they show movies on one screen using an old celluloid projector.

It tells the story of three co-workers: Sam, a 35-year-old former metal fan, Rose, a 25-year-old college dropout, and Avery, a 20-year-old movie aficionado.  While these characters use strong language and talk about (school) inappropriate topics, it captures the zeitgeist of living in the modern world, where anxiety, relationship issues, depression, and family struggles dominate our psyches. In this play, films offer an escape from the daily existential crisis characters face. Additionally, this play questions the value of new technology in our modern, digital age, where people seem increasingly disconnected from each other.

I discovered the best way to use this play in class was to have them read some scenes aloud as a class, and then read others (the more awkward ones) to themselves.  Never have I had so many students read ahead, ask to borrow books to take home, or re-read a text. This has been the most successful text I’ve used this year. I think some of that may have to do with the topics addressed in the play and the complexity of the characters.  Also, the essential questions I used when teaching it address some of the big questions my seniors currently face.

Essential Questions:

  • How do films and other visual media function as a means of escape in our modern world?
  • To what extent do we “perform” our lives? (And what function does our “audience” play?
  • How does living in a world of film and media impact our authentic selves?

Next weekend, my husband and I will go see The Flick performed live at the Signature Theatre in Alexandria, VA, and I expect it will be as phenomenal as the reviews say it is.  So if you’re looking for a new, engaging text for seniors at the end of the year, try this one and see how excited your students will be.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

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(image from the Signature Theatre’s Instagram Account)

The Flick: Drama in a Movie Theatre

Happy Anniversary to us!

Two years ago at our PCTELA retreat, we conceived the idea of blog.  Here we are two  years later, and 203 posts later, and we’ve had over 5000 visitors to our blog.  Look for a renewed energy from us here with more book giveaways and reviews coming.

We’re busily doing our homework here planning exciting new things for PCTELA’s future. c2791af4-a1bd-4bc9-ac16-cf6a0bb3689d

Happy Anniversary to us!