Thursday, June 26, 2014

Packing Your Literary Suitcase

When I enjoyed all the chores, joys, and life within the walls of my own classroom, I coached students to read with understanding, and that required a carefully packed literary suitcase. The first items, resting across the base, were archetypes—the heroes and foils, ingĂ©nues and vixens, rebels and lambs struggling against their own doubts or a parent or a whole town, God himself, and mighty storms at sea. These provide student-readers with context, a place to begin when evaluating a work.


Once upon a time, I had 21 shelves of the same size. Painful though it was,
I culled and gleaned from them several times, donating all to a local
library. I was gratified to learn that a new teacher had plucked three paper
grocery bags full at the book sale, an annual fund raiser for the library.
These are but a few books dear to my heart--just six shelves now--well,
six in one room. In other rooms are a few more favorites.
Photo by Al Griffin
Resting below the suitcase lid, like delicate pieces of tissue, were key rhetorical elements, including diction, detail, figurative language, and syntax. These were lessons delayed until students had mastered story and theme, but they were essential lessons for rhetoric shapes tone, and tone tempers meaning.

In between archetype and rhetoric rested the titles, characters, and authors: To Kill a Mockingbird, Beowulf and Buliwyf, Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, W. H. Auden, Kevin Powers, Tim O'Brien, Annie Dillard, and Joan Didion. These allowed students to refine their tastes, to experience and practice, to grow in understanding. That was my work, my devotion, my avocation and passion.

Reading Challenge:

Read this short video from TEDEd, a resource you should know. Pack it near the bottom of your own literary suitcase.

Writing Challenge:

What and who are the essentials in your own literary suitcase?