Location: Texas, United States
Positions: Parent, Classroom Teacher
As an English teacher, I have the desire to motivate young people to share my passion for literature and the beauty of Language. However, I quickly learned that this was a difficult task, because many students are not interested in the material that is provided in today’s classrooms. This disinterest lies in the fact that the content of the texts and novels appears to be irrelevant to their daily experiences, observations, and personal goals. In order to motivate young people to read it is imperative that a personal connection is established, thus igniting their interest in the material.
In order to establish a connection to an unfamiliar story or novel, you must develop pre-reading activities that allow students to become acquainted with the material. This method was especially useful for teaching Sophocles’ Antigone. Antigone is a story that has the potential to be difficult, due to its language and content. However, I used a discussion and writing activity that not only allowed students to gain a thorough understanding of the story, but motivated them to read and comprehend the story’s content. Additionally, they were able to apply the story’s themes to their personal lives.
In an effort to prepare students for its difficult content, I began the unit with a pre reading discussion. I listed the following themes on the board and asked students to place them in the order of importance:
– Loyalty to Religious Principles
– Loyalty to Family
– Loyalty to the Government
– Loyalty to Self
After placing them in order, I asked students to briefly discuss their lists with a partner. They were to provide an explanation for why they placed them in that order. Once this activity was complete, I explained the content of the story, and I was amazed at how interested students were in reading the story. Many were upset that there was not enough time to begin reading during that class period. Motivating students to take interest in classic literature can be somewhat of a challenge, however analyzing the themes prior to reading the story gave it relevance, and many were anxious to know the outcome.
After reading the story we revisited the pre-reading activity. I asked students to reevaluate their original responses. Did they change or if they did not change did they have different reasons for placing their priorities in the order selected. I found that many changed how they felt about their priorities. Additionally, many did not know how to prioritize the themes, because the story taught them to look beyond the surface, thus discovering the depth of each one and the consequences for possibly making the right or wrong decision.
This process provided a great deal of accomplishment for both me as the teacher, and the students. Students whose attention I would have struggled to gain in the past not only read material they once would have found to be too difficult, but they established a connection with characters and events they once thought they could relate to. As a teacher, I was able to motivate my students to read classic literature, as well as teach them to appreciate the content, language, and lessons that can be learned through the experiences of classic characters.