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Read a life to live a life
Here’s the cast of characters: Bogart and Hat from Miguel Street; Ray Lewis, an American football icon who was once accused of murder; Tony Dungy, a highly esteemed American football coach who has a plan for young men to be uncommon; and Ishmael Beah, who survived being a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It’s a tough group, but they do their job well: teaching young, disenchanted, teenage boys about how to be responsible, caring, thinking young men.
Two weeks ago I advocated a new approach to teaching CXC English. This week, I present a list of books and other resources that sparked interest and generated great changes in my students at YTC. Note that most of the material is non-fiction. Some of these resources feature American football, which students thought of as American rugby.
They found the writing and the themes in those books powerful enough to outweigh the American content. Even students who were not interested in sports asked for these books to read, based on the recommendation of other students in the class.
I also wrote how using timely Internet articles with subjects and themes that my students could relate to was a method of helping students to tackle language, grammar and the structure of writing. I have added some current Internet articles just to show how teachers can find something on the Internet just about every day.
Here’s my list of life-saving teaching material:
1. Hugo Chavez Fiery Venezuelan leader. This article uses current events to teach characterisation and tone: http://news.yahoo.com/hugo-chavez-fiery-venezuelan-leader-dies-58-220210...
2. American Football Player. Ray Lewis gives an inspirational speech to the Stanford Basketball team. He addresses teamwork, leaving a legacy, the importance of effort and taking opportunities in life. This is about greatness vs mediocrity: www.youtube.com/watch?v=07fhOVQ9wEA
3. Bad Nights in the NFL by Thomas Lake. This article from he Best American Sports Writing 2012 by Glenn Stout and Michael Wilbon tells the story of a nightclub brawl that ended in the death of an American football player. The article deals with poverty, crime, gangs, violence, the insatiable need for money and power, the need to flaunt new-found wealth and many other issues that young men face—especially those who become overnight millionaires as sports stars. The story can be found at: www.byliner.com/thomas-lake/stories/bad-nights-in-the-nfl
My students’ favourite books included:
1. Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon. Antonio struggles to maintain relationships outside of prison once he is incarcerated for murdering his abusive stepfather. The 16-year-old must learn to communicate through writing letters.
There are many lessons about anger and communication in this novel that features some interesting twists. At-risk teenage boys will get a glimpse of what prison life is really like. (Fiction)
2. Uncommon by Tony Dung. American football coach Tony Dungy gives good, solid advice on how teenage boys can remove themselves from the pack and become uncommon individuals. The book begins with a moving story about Dungy’s relationship with two young men in prison. The story shows just how easy it is for young men to end up in prison. Dungy has an uncanny way of inspiring young people without being condescending or preachy.
3. The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker. Using bible verses and concise pieces of advice, Dungy’s Uncommon Workbook offers a step-by-step daily challenge on becoming uncommon.
4. I Beat the Odds by Michael Oher. Everyone knows Oher as the African American teenager adopted by a white family (the Tuohy’s) in the movie The Blind Side. Oher was a star in last year’s Super Bowl where he was a crucial player in the Baltimore Raven’s victory. Oher tells how he avoided crime and drugs and escaped poverty in this autobiography.
5. Miguel Street by VS Naipaul. Humour goes a long way with students who can still identify with a book that reflects Trinidad culture. This is a good novel to teach characterisation, tone and comparative analysis.
6. Long Way Gone—Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Any teenage boys who think they have it hard in life should read this autobiography. Many teenagers in T&T will identify with Beah’s story that outlines the life of boy soldiers in Sierra Leon. By examining how warlords used children in the army, readers can make important comparisons to how gang leaders use teenagers.
Beah makes an important connection to the Caribbean by talking about how important Bob Marley’s music was to these boy soldiers in Sierra Leone’s war.
7. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwama and Bryan Mealer. Fighting superstition, poverty, criticism and accusations that he was crazy, Kamkwama learned how to build a windmill so that he can help his village get water and electricity, a luxury that only two per cent of Malawians enjoy. Using textbooks, scrap metal, tractor and bicycle parts, he puts together a windmill. (Non-fiction)
My students also enjoyed Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and the movies Cool Runnings, Gran Torino, Shawshank Redemption, Catfish, and the PBS documentary on Marcus Garvey entitled Look For Me in The Whirlwind. These resources inspired my students to become avid readers capable of thinking about themselves and the issues in their lives.
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