This will be the third year in a row that I’ve had my grade nine academic English students read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. There’s a lot that’s surprising in this fact. I don’t usually stick with a specific novel too long, and for that matter, I don’t usually find myself teaching the same grade and level for so many semesters in a row. This makes something like eleven classes I’ve taught this novel to.
When I introduce the novel and the author, I always make a big deal about his very cool practice of giving away ebooks in order to encourage sales, build readership, and keep his name in the public eye. I point my students to his Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, and talk a little about what it means. I speak in support.
So now maybe it’s time to put my work where my mouth is. My wife and I were talking last week about our plans to design some educational materials for my forthcoming novel Backward Glass in a bid to draw in some middle and high school teachers and librarians. We decided we’d make such materials available for free. Then she had the idea: why not also give away some of the other stuff we’ve designed over the years?
Indeed. Why not? Anyone who’s ever worked with us knows that we share with our department members. And if I’m giving things away, the stuff I made up for Little Brother seems like an ideal starting point. So just like Doctorow, I’m making this stuff available totally for free under the same Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which means that you can have it, you can share it, and you can even change it around, but you may not charge for it, and you may not remove the attribution of our names as the original creators. That’s what I get out of it: my website is linked there. I’d prefer that the link stay.
A caveat: These three booklets of writing, reading, oral communication and media tasks are pretty demanding. I teach at a school with really motivated kids, and even I, who am quite demanding, end up cutting a page or two here and there to give them a break. The whole novel study ends up taking a little over four weeks — slightly more than a week for each of the booklets here — and then I add on a little extra time for the essay and the final project. Some people find that’s too long to spend on a single novel, but I don’t think of it that way. For one thing, Little Brother has a lot inside it — opportunities for lessons in civics, history, poetry and so on. For another thing, this becomes an essay unit as well as a novel unit. But again: take as much as you like, and leave as much as you don’t. My wife and I borrow each other’s materials all the time, and almost always end up altering to taste.
There is more than just the three Word documents I’ve linked below. There’s a Prezi I created to introduce some of the literary terms I expect the students to use in their response journals. There’s a number of comprehension quizzes that I don’t want to place here, because a quiz isn’t much use if the students can see it as well: send me an email at email@example.com if you’d like copies. I also have those quizzes for use on Socrative, which I’ve been experimenting with this year, and which is great. There are additionally a few games and activities for David Riley’s astounding Triptico, a set of interactive whiteboard tools, which I can again share on request.
In any case, your mileage may vary, but these are entirely for your use. I’ll admit that I have another agenda here. I’ve blogged extensively about trying to move some of the old mid-twentieth-century mankind-is-doomed novels that I think of as a symptom of the West-wide post traumatic stress disorder that came after the Second World War. Now I’m thinking that it’s time I lent a hand instead of nagging. So if you know someone who’s a little tired of teaching Lord of the Flies or The Chrysalids for the thirtieth (or even second) time, please try to talk them into Little Brother, and send them my way. I’ll give them all the help I can.
Because there’s the last reason I’m doing this. When I got into the teaching profession, lo those many years ago, I benefited from the generosity of a lot of kind people who passed on ideas and wisdom. There was a lot of collegiality, a lot of paying forward. Continuing to pay forward is the only way of paying back that debt.
So here it is: