Thankful to be a Teacher

Reasons why I am Thankful to be a Teacher
When I was younger, I never thought I would be a teacher. Sure, I used to play school with my younger cousins and siblings when I was younger. I would even draw out worksheets and write questions for them to answer about books I read or PBS shows I taped on a VHS cassette especially for my “school”, but I never gave a thought to teaching as a profession. Not once in high school, or college, or even in my first couple years after college did I ever think I would be a teacher.

Reasons why I am Thankful to be a Teacher
I wanted to work in media and communications, and I began my professional career in public relations working the high-tech circuit. I had many big-name tech companies as clients. I wrote press releases and organized media tours. I even traveled throughout the US and abroad assisting my clients in their media need. I loved working in this demanding field, but it didn’t fulfill me in the way that I always dreamt a career should.

After working for a few years in the private sector, I decided to make a change in my life. I decided to become a teacher. I went back to school and earned my teaching credential (in California, you must earn this after completing your baccalaureate degree) and my Master’s in Education during the middle of a recession. Teaching jobs were scarce, but I was very fortunate and I was hired to begin work the very next school year.

Several years have passed since my first year as a high school English teacher. I remember all of the struggles that came with being a first, a second, and even a third-year teacher. But even in those first few, and quite challenging, years, I remember how lucky and grateful I was for having the wonderful opportunity to be a teacher -especially a teacher in a low socioeconomic area where the odds were stacked against my students. I was thankful for the opportunity to make a difference and contribute something positive to society.

So this Thanksgiving break I am reflecting on everything for which I am thankful. And I must say, we teachers sure have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, the job can be challenging and stressful and downright tedious at time, but reaching just one child and making a true difference in just one child’s life makes all of the stress worthwhile.

  • I am thankful for my students who teach me new things every day.
  • I am thankful for my students because they make me laugh.
  • I am thankful for being challenged every day.
  • I am thankful for being able to share beautiful stories and poems with a new generation.
  • I am thankful that I have the opportunity to give back to communities.
  • I am thankful that I work in a great district that supports all students and teachers.
  • I am thankful that I can build a positive rapport with students.
  • I am thankful that I can teach kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance.
  • I am thankful for all of the wonderful parents who support my decisions in the classroom.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to see 150 beautiful, smiling faces each day and call them my kids.
Reasons why I am Thankful to be a Teacher
There are so many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday, and being a teacher is definitely one of them.

4 Simple Tips to Improve Student Writing

4 ways to help high school and middle school students improve their writing.
Although what is considered to be “good” writing is lofty and subjective, we wouldn’t be English teachers if we didn’t try to improve our students’ writing skills. Here are some general tips and suggestions that can help polish any paper.

1. Use just and that sparingly
Most writers have words which they repeat without noticing throughout a paper, much like how some teenagers will say ‘like’ every other word or how an inexperienced public speaker will pepper their speeches with ‘um’s. For students, I find the most common, ineffective words they repeat are just and that. You might suggest your students do a ctrl + f  search for these words on their computers before they turn in a piece of writing and weed out as many of them as they can.

4 ways to help high school and middle school students improve their writing.
2. Place emphatic words near the beginning and at the end of the sentence
The eyes of readers tend to be drawn towards the white space at the beginning as well as at  the end of a sentence. As such, it is natural that the most exciting, crucial words are placed strategically in these positions. It takes a lot of practice and reading to get a natural feel for what makes a word emphatic, but generally, they’re the words which describe the most important aspects of the sentence and what it is trying to get across.

For example: “I have a dream,” said Dr. King, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In this sentence, emphasis is placed on Dr. King’s hope, his dream, that people of color would one day be treated as human beings, judged solely on the content of their character - a beautiful sentiment and alliteration. Dr. King’s strong sense of emphasis can be found throughout his speeches and are a big part of what made him such an effective orator.

3. Use adverbs to modify
The problem with adverbs is that most students use them to state the obvious, as in: “She whispered quietly.” A reader can already assume that if someone is whispering, they’re doing it quietly and therefore the writer has wasted precious space. However, if someone were to go against my expectations and whisper loudly, that is something I would want to know. In short, try to use adverbs to modify the reader’s perspective of the verb rather than state what we can already assume. This type of descriptive writing enhances one's writing.

4. When to be passive and when to be active
When a subject is active, it acts, as in: “Jimmy ran for his life.” In this sentence the verb, ran, was performed by Jimmy, the subject. When a subject is passive, it is acted upon, as in: “The students were taught.” Both the active and passive voice have their uses. In general, students should use the active voice because it helps make writing more concise and speeds a narrative along. However, passive voice helps bring attention to the receivers of actions. For instance, if I wanted to write about how lazy students get near the end of the year, the passive voice can emphasize how the students are acted upon rather than acting themselves. For example: “The students were reluctant to start.” Both types of voices have a purpose in a paper, but it takes a lot of patience and practice to learn how to use both effectively.

Introducing Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies introduction activity
One of my favorite novels to teach is Lord of the Flies because of how it exposes the raw brutality of humanity. In the very beginning the boys do their best to create and maintain civility, but as the novel progresses the boys slowly degenerate into savages.


To help my students understand this concept as it plays out in the novel, I have them complete a scenario-based introduction activity that naturally pits the students against each other. In some of my previous classes, students have either alluded to or directly stated exactly what happens in the book just by completing this introduction.


Lord of the Flies introduction activity
To begin, I inform the students that they are stranded on a tropical island that seems to be deserted and have them record their initial thoughts. I slowly reveal additional information to my students about their predicament and ask them to record their thoughts along the way. For example, I reveal that there are no adults and that they are accompanied by their classmates.


With the opening of this scenario, I like to internally classify my students as either Ralphs or Piggys. Some will be elated to be on the island sans adults, while others will begin to think about various provisions they may need in order to survive. It is very interesting to watch this introductory activity unfold in the classroom because some classes actually play out the novel with this scenario. They are able to predict the boys’ demise and hostility to one another.


As the activity progresses, I have students list their top three priorities and vote for a leader of the island. Selecting what the class should do first and electing a leader to call the shots will naturally begin to divide the students into groups. I use this division to help show what will happen in the novel, and I even encourage a little unstructured debating as to what the class should do first and why.

This introduction can take as little as half a class period, or fill it entirely. It all depends on how much student participation you encourage. Students love this day in my classroom, and they leave the class excited to read the book. As we read the book in class, I will point out similarities from this activity to what the boys experience during their plight on the island. The students are amazed to see just how parallel the similarities are, and the best part of this is that they maintain their engagement with the novel.

You can download this introduction to your Google Drive HERE!

Lord of the Flies Teaching Resources:

4 Ways to Help Students Write Their College Admissions Essays

4 Ways to Help Students Write Their College Admissions Essays
As hyperbolic as it might sound, everything an English teacher teaches their students is in preparation of them writing their college admissions essays. While the stakes for all prior written works were just letter grades, a well written admissions essay could very well be the stepping stone for a student to achieve their goals and dreams. As such, it is our duty to prepare high school juniors and seniors for these pivotal prompts and give them every advantage for starting the next stage of their lives. Here are 4 ways to help your students write their college admissions essays.

1. Teach what colleges don’t want to read.  Avoid the cliches!
Just like with a resume or a cover letter, a college admissions essay has to “sell” the student. As obvious as this may sound, too many students fail to promote themselves properly, which leads to the admissions officer being unable to differentiate them from the thousands of other “sales pitches” they read that week and subconsciously ignore them, just like how a tv watcher zones out when they see that commercial for car insurance for the umpteenth time.

The two major overused types of essays that almost always elicit a groan from admissions officers are the “Person I admire essay” and the “volunteer work” essay. The typical pitfall for students who write about someone they admire is that their writing tends to focus on their role model and they forget that they’re trying to promote themselves! And while volunteer work is admirable, it is not enough to impress anymore considering how popular it is amongst college bound students. Students need to write something only they could have written in order to stand apart from the competition.

2. Teach what colleges do want to read.
Colleges want to recruit students who will be successful, obviously. They want candidates who are motivated, love learning, and will be successful in their future field. This doesn’t mean the student has to have spectacular grades (although that certainly helps), but it does mean they have to be passionate about something and can portray how diligent they would be in working towards what drives that passion. That is the beauty of the admissions essay; It allows colleges to see the side of a student that a transcript doesn’t.

Probably the best advice you can give a student when writing a college admissions essay is to be unique; only write about experiences that he or she could have had. This is important because it sets them apart from the crowd and is more likely to incite passion in what they write. As a teacher, I think I speak for all of us when I say  the indifference is apparent in a student’s writing when he or she doesn’t care about the topic. To summarize: Have students write about events unique to them that display their potential and capability to succeed in higher education.

3. Analyze essays that worked.
Once your students have an understanding of what colleges want to read, you can move on to examples of successful college admissions essays and analyze what made them effective. A lot of universities will gladly offer examples of successful essays. While reading through the examples provided by John Hopkins University, I was charmed by how unique and creative they all were. One man wrote his essay in the form of the game 20 Questions while a woman wrote about her perception problems due to having a glass eye which transitioned to a story about how her perception of the swastika changed after living with a foster family in India. Aside from being attention grabbers, these essays were effective because I felt like I came to know the writers as well as understand what would make them successful students.

4. Revision
For anyone who has been through the drudgery of a job hunt, you know what I mean when I say that college admissions officers treat admissions essays a lot like how recruiters treat resumes - they’re looking for any excuse to toss one out. Admissions officers receive thousands of essays each cycle and have a relatively short amount of time to read them. As such, they look for any reason to quickly narrow down their search. This means they will not hesitate to toss out an essay that has minor errors, is formatted wrong, or is written in an irregular font, regardless of how good the content is. That is why revision of their essays is so important!

Have students print out the college’s essay guidelines and make sure they are following them to the letter. It might even be worth a class to have the students highlight and annotate the guidelines in regards to font, word count, and structure as a homework assignment. Have them edit, re-edit, and then have someone they trust also edit for them, looking for both grammatical, factual, and structural errors. If the essay prompt is a specific question, comb the essay thoroughly to make sure everything in the essay builds up to answering that question without any tangents. Use natural vocabulary, not words you would expect to find in the SATs. Use action verbs and avoid “to be” verbs like “was.”

If your students find your revisions excessive, remind them that a few extra hours of editing is worth it to ensure their all their hard work doesn’t end up at the bottom of the recycling bin.


4 Ways to Analyze Audio with Listenwise

States recently released standardized test scores, and teachers and administrators all across the nation are looking for ways to improve their scores. One particular area of assessment that can be quite difficult for educators to incorporate into everyday instruction is listening. Listening is an essential skill that many of our students need to work on; however, in today’s fast-paced, technologically-driven world, listening attentively to audio files can be quite challenging for today’s youth.


For this reason, I include Listenwise.com in my curriculum. Listenwise is an edtech site for educators that combines audio news stories, primarily from National Public Radio, with content-rich and academically-focused discussion questions. I began using Listenwise last year with many of my teaching units, and my students’ test scores improved!


Here are four different ways you can have your students analyze audio content on the Listenwise platform.


4 Ways to Analyze Audio Using Listenwise
1. Analyze for main idea
Being able to understand the main idea of a text is a stepping stone to the essential skill of summarizing. A simple way to analyze a story from Listenwise is to have students identify, explain, and summarize the main idea. What is the main idea and how does the author support it?


2. Analyze for rhetorical appeals and strategies
Readers often focus on what the text says, but it is just as important to focus on why a text is effective and how the author is able to communicate an argument or message effectively. To analyze the story for rhetorical appeals and strategies, have students listen for and identify examples of ethos, pathos, and logos. Also, have students identify various rhetorical strategies such as alliteration, assonance, and consonance. What was the author’s most effective appeal or strategy?


3. Analyze for author’s purpose
Understanding the context of a text is another way I have students analyze content from Listenwise. Knowing the “why” behind a news story, political speech, or national address helps build contextual knowledge and awareness, and it paves the way for students to gain a rich understanding of the author’s purpose. Why did the author write this piece? What prompted the author to write this piece?


4. Analyze for cause and effect
Students need to be able to listen to a text and understand the subtle relationships between events. Being able to identify the main event of a story and understand the resulting events that are directly related is an important skill. How are the events in the story related? Because this one event happened, what else occurred?

There are many ways to incorporate Listenwise into your curriculum, and you might be surprised with just how many stories and topics the site offers.

Discover Success: How to Write Better Story Prompts for Students

Anyone who has ever taught creative writing is familiar with story prompts. They’re usually presented in the form of a What if? scenario where the protagonist meets with an unexpected event. For example: Mary wakes up as usual and prepares to go to school, but when she goes to get into her car, she finds it isn’t where she parked it yesterday! What does she do?

On the surface, this prompt seems to have everything necessary for the basis of a story: a protagonist whose expectations are defied by an unusual event. It is very likely that your students have received similar writing prompts to this one since they were in kindergarten. Sadly, it is prompts like these that are teaching students the wrong way to write stories.

The problem with What If? scenarios like these are they promote students to write externally, meaning they write a series of events that the protagonist reacts to. Reactions and unusual events are not enough to make a compelling story. Realize, I’m not criticizing my fellow English teachers. Let’s face it, creative writing is hard. We can teach our students how to master the metaphor and how to place each piece of punctuation perfectly, but the rules for making an engaging narrative are much more elusive than the rules of grammar. After all, if everyone knew the secret to writing a good story, we would all be best-selling novelists.
At this point you are probably wondering if it is even possible to learn much less teach something as ambiguous as what makes a good story. Thankfully, Lisa Cron, a professional story coach, has insight into what readers crave and expect whenever they pick up a book which can be explained through actual brain science. According to Cron’s research, when a person reads a book or even watches a movie, their brain activity mimics that of a participant rather than an observer. The evolutionary explanation for why our brains like to place us in the role of the protagonist is likely because stories were a survival technique for our early ancestors as stories allowed them to perceive and react to potential threats. We enjoy reading about people reacting to unusual events because our brain craves information that will help us adapt to new situations. So when we pick up a book and put ourselves in the shoes of a teenage girl trying to survive in a dystopian future, (think The Hunger Games), our brain releases dopamine, a neurochemical associated with reward behavior, as a way of saying, “Thanks! This information might help me in the future.”

What all this means is that in order for readers to get that dopamine rush that makes it difficult for them to put a book down, they need to be able to place themselves in the role of the participant. In other words, they need to know how the protagonist is reacting internally to the external events forced upon them. Our brains derive meaning from emotion. We cannot effectively perceive what the protagonist is going through unless we understand what she is feeling. If the hero of the story simply reacts to a series of chaotic and external events with no real emotion then the reader will only be an observer watching the events unfold, most likely with indifference.

According to Cron, the best way to instill emotion and an internal struggle into What if? story prompts is to ask your students, “What point are you trying to make with this story?” As simplistic as this sounds, young writers often forget that stories need a point, especially if they are on a deadline. By having the students focus on what point they want their story to make, they can more effectively write the internal struggle of their protagonist.
The point of their stories doesn’t have to be anything profound. For instance, going back to the story prompt of Mary and her missing car, suppose I want the point of my story to be that what we say can have significant effects on others. I could write a story about how Mary, age eighteen, is in charge of her fifteen year old brother while their mother is away on business for the week.  Mary has a huge argument with him the night before and when she sees the car is missing the next day, she naturally freaks out, thinking she drove her little brother to run away. And even worse, he doesn’t even have a learner’s permit yet! By effectively conveying Mary’s internal struggle involving her the fear and the guilt she feels for her actions, I immediately create a more compelling story than if I just wrote a series of events of how Mary reacted to the unusual event. Just remember, if your prompts only focus on the external, readers will also be external to the story.

Check out these resources to help your students with their creative writing!

What to Read When Teaching the Hero's Journey

In a previous blog post, I discussed how I teach the Hero’s Journey and a project that my students complete to demonstrate their understanding of it. Below are a list of novels, short stories, and poems which each have a protagonist set off on or forced into an adventure and change as a result of it, not necessarily for the better.

Novels
To Kill a Mockingbird: This story takes place in Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression when quality of life was low and racism was high. The story’s perspective is that of a little girl named Scout Finch who is forced into adventure when her father, Atticus, a prominent lawyer in the community, takes on a case to defend a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. The whole Finch family has to weather the backlash of Atticus’s decision which in turn leads to young Scout being educated in the essential goodness and evil of humanity.

Don Quixote: The protagonist of the novel is Don Quixote, a man so obsessed with fantasy novels of chivalrous knights that he sets out on a quest of his own imagining. Although Don Quixote is only a hero in his own mind, the series of misadventures he embarks upon leaves an impact on himself and the unfortunate people he forces his delusions upon.

Lord of the Flies: After a plane full of young boys crash lands on a deserted island, the protagonist, Ralph, is tasked with leading the group and ensuring their survival until help arrives. Life outside of civilization proves to be trying for the boys as baser instincts and the struggle for power begin to take hold of them. As the boys’ integrity and innocence begin to dissolve, Ralph learns of the savagery within himself and the rest of humanity.

Short Stories
A Sound of Thunder: This thrilling short story by Ray Bradbury tells of a group of hunters who travel back in time to hunt the ultimate prey, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. As with most adventures in time travel, the hunters’ actions have far reaching effects, educating them in the harsh lesson that even the smallest actions have consequences.

Marigolds: On the brink between child and woman, the protagonist, called Lizabeth by her brother, tries to come to terms with the reality of her impoverished life as a black girl living in rural Maryland during the Great Depression. Unable to cope with her helplessness and degradation, she sets out on an endeavor to destroy the only thing she had known to be beautiful, destroying her innocence in the process and spurring her on into adulthood.

Thank you, Ma’am: After a purse theft gone wrong, a boy named Roger is at the mercy of the indomitable Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. Rather than call the police, Mrs. Jones drags Roger to her home to wash him, feed him, and then send him away with money along with an enduring lesson on choices and kindness.

Poems
The Odyssey: Homer’s epic poem is one of the oldest examples of the Hero’s Journey archetype. Odysseus, the protagonist of the epic, is a hero who after having fought in the battle of Troy wishes to return to his kingdom of Ithaca and to his wife Penelope. However, all manner of perils lie in his way including monsters, temptresses, and the wrath of an angry sea god. Unlike most Homeric heroes, Odysseus actually changes over the course of his journey, learning the importance of controlling his temper and pride.

The Epic of Gilgamesh: At the beginning of the epic, Gilgamesh is a hedonistic and ravenous king who rules his kingdom cruelly, but is soon changed after the gods bless him with a friend who is nearly a match for the god-king’s greatness, the beastman Enkidu. Together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu embark on fantastic adventures until Enkidu is struck with illness by the gods and perishes. Mourning his friend and fearing his own death, Gilgamesh embarks on a final adventure to achieve immortality but instead gains the closest to immortality that a mortal can hope for.

Inferno: The protagonist of the poem, Dante, must delve into the deepest pits of hell in order to reach heaven where Dante’s wife, Beatrice, awaits him. Through the horrifying yet vivid imagery of the underworld, Dante learns of the nature of justice as well as evil and God’s will.

If you are looking for a fun and engaging classroom activity, check out last week's blog post!

Teaching the Hero's Journey

Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.
One of my favorite lessons to teach in my short story unit is the Hero’s Journey. I enjoy teaching this lesson because I love seeing my students’ aha! moments - the moment when they get it, and they start making the connections between the content I am teaching and their favorite books and movies. Their faces light up, and faint chatter about Harry Potter, various Disney movies, and other stories slowly fills the room.


Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.
To introduce the Hero’s Journey, I first teach this Prezi by Laura Randazzo. I adore this Prezi because she makes the content completely accessible for the students. It provides relatable examples that the students know, and it also includes videos that show key events throughout the Hero’s Journey cycle.


After teaching the Prezi, I then show the Ted Ed video “What Makes a Hero?” by Matthew Winkler. This video is spectacular for a couple reasons. First, I love how it presents the Hero’s Journey in relation to a clock and a cycle. This visual sticks with the students. I also like how this video relates the notion of the Hero’s Journey to students in their everyday lives.


Once we go over the Prezi and video, we then read a short story and track the protagonist’s journey as a hero. Together, we identify each element of the Hero’s Journey cycle as outlined in the video and then discuss the qualities that make the character a hero. This helps me gauge whether or not my students are ready for the Hero’s Journey project. I have a graphic organizer in my Sticky Note Literary Analysis Unit.


The Hero’s Journey poster project is one of my favorite projects of the year. Students form groups of 2-3 and select a movie or book that they feel is a quintessential representation of the Hero’s Journey. Together, they discuss the movie and create a poster that represents all of the elements of the Hero’s Journey.

Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.

Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.

Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.
To conclude the assignment, I have students present their findings to the class so that they can practice their presentation and public speaking skills.


I usually give my students 2-3 days of class time to work in their groups.

This is the first of two blog posts that outlines how I teach the Hero’s Journey. The next post will be about short stories and poems that you can use in your classroom when teaching the Hero’s Journey.
Teaching the Hero's Journey in the Secondary ELA classroom.


Three Universal Themes Every High School Student Should Know

Three Universal Themes Every High School Student Should Know
As English teachers, we are in a unique position where we not only shape and refine students’ writing skills, but also, possibly, hopefully, their world view. We are able to do this because most of  the literary works crucial to our curriculum were written with the intention of inspiring profound and controversial thought. Here are three thought provoking themes that are essential to teach high school students.

Sometimes, in order to foster a student’s growth for the better, it is beneficial to show them a monster rather than a role model - an anti role model if you will. Showing examples of humanity’s inhumanity can be quite revealing in regards to our own character flaws. After all, oftentimes the reason we do not like someone is because we see an aspect of ourselves which we hate within them. In Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, Elie recounts his first hand experience as a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Aside from the infamous atrocities committed by the the Nazis, Elie recounts the noteworthy observation that cruelty breeds further cruelty. Fellow prisoners and even family members would betray and fight each other to bolster their own chances of survival. Studying cruelty and its effects can help students realize the consequences of their own actions, such as bullying and gossiping, and hopefully dissuade them from spreading cruelty themselves.

Novels with Inhumanity as a theme: Night, Animal Farm, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Lord of the Flies

There are many interpretations to how the American Dream is defined, but generally they all allude to the naive belief that an individual is guaranteed to achieve material wealth, success, and/or untarnished happiness through some combination of hard work, honesty, and morality. Regardless of the interpretation, the ideal of the American Dream profoundly shaped American values and culture, so much so that you may even want to coordinate lessons with whomever teaches History. It can be argued that immigration to America was largely motivated by the American Dream as it seemingly promised that anyone could achieve prosperity regardless of their social status, ethnicity, or nationality. However, many immigrants were disappointed to find that prejudice, amongst other barriers, limited their choices within the land of opportunity much like it did for the Lithuanian family in Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle.

Another reason to study the American Dream is to show students how even ideals with the best intentions can be corrupted. After World War I, in the 1920’s era, many Americans became disillusioned with America’s traditional cultural values and morals after witnessing the widespread chaos and carnage. This disillusionment combined with the sharp upturn in the stock market after the war led to rampant hedonism. Noble ambitions fell out of fashion as Americans chased a new, perverted American Dream which revolved around attaining money and pleasure without the previous notions of honesty and morality. F. Scott Fitzgerald vividly portrays this period of excessive greed and vice in American history in his novel, The Great Gatsby.

Novels with the theme of the American Dream: The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, Death of a Salesman

This theme is sure to strike a chord with students as they are all in their formative years and are still figuring out what they find to be meaningful as well as who they are as an individual. In my opinion, the most important lesson that can be gleaned from this theme is how potentially harmful it can be for someone to force an identity upon another. Most people have at one point in their life been a victim of such a crime; they’ve been called a nerd, or a jock, or a diva, or worse. Similarly, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, the protagonist, Hester Prynne, is forced to wear a badge identifying her as an adulteress as a means to humiliate her. In Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, the narrator finds the development of his identity stunted by the emphasis everyone, including the people he considers to be his allies, places on his race. Students will likely find inspiration in the methods these characters employ to develop their identities while rebelling against societal forces which try to steal their identities from them.

Novels with the theme of self discovery are also helpful in giving students examples of pitfalls to avoid during their formative years. For instance in J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist, Holden, alienates himself from other people as a means to protect his identity, but his isolation proves to be harmful as most of Holden’s pain can be attributed to his loneliness and his inability to understand others. In Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, most of the characters within the story do everything they can to distract themselves from developing their own identities, foregoing any form of self reflection in lieu of  drunkenness and other forms of escapism. As such, their lives are completely joyless and stagnant, the kind of lives we hope for the next generation to avoid.

Novels with the theme of Finding One’s Identity: The Scarlet Letter, Invisible Man, The Catcher in the Rye, The Sun Also Rises, Beloved
Three Universal Themes Every High School Student Should Know