|Exploring Controversial Issues in Literature – Overview
|To introduce a novel, use ProCon.org to help students build background knowledge and examine the novel’s controversial issue(s).
|As part of your introduction to a novel unit, identify the controversy in the novel and match it to a ProCon.org issue. Here are a few suggestions:
Crime and Punishment & The Death Penalty
Prior to doing any research, ask students to quickly jot down their initial opinions on the issue. Then divide the class into groups and assign each of them to a different part of the issue’s website (background, resources, pro-con arguments, top quotes, video gallery, etc.). After giving them time to read and discuss their assigned section, bring the class back together and have each group briefly present what they discovered. Then re-survey the class to determine if the additional information changed anyone’s initial stance. After the class completes the novel, check opinions a third time. Compare the factors from their research that spurred changes in opinion with features of the novel and literary analysis that influence opinion.
ProCon.org Topics: Depends on novel
Subjects: Social Studies, Public Policy, Civics, U.S. Government, Communication, English / Language Arts
Common Core Anchor Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.8
Common Core Content Standards: RI.1, RI.8
Make the lesson easier
- Choose just one resource from the relevant website and read it together as a class.
- Instead of small groups, assign students to mixed ability pairs for the research portion of the lesson.
- Before sending students to research the issue, define and explain the 5-10 most important terms related to the issue.
Make the lesson harder
- At each of the three stages, have students explain their thoughts on the issue in writing.
- Have students do additional research on the issue as it was discussed on the novel’s publication date. They can use popular opinion, the author’s public stance, or important historical events to get them started.