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Teaching a Novel's Background: The Outsiders

written by: Lenzi Hart • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Students should be introduced to background knowledge of a novel's setting and author before reading the work. This article will explore creative and interesting methods you can employ in your classroom when teaching a novel's background. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton will be used as an example.

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    Background Knowledge

    Before teaching a novel, teachers must introduce a bit of background knowledge to students. Establishing background knowledge of the era the novel is set in can extend and deepen the novel’s plot and theme. Students will also be able to further identify the character’s motivations, conflicts when they know more about the time period of the novel or gain further insight into the author’s background. Knowing background on both the author and setting era can help students achieve a more prolific understanding of the literature.

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    An Example

    For example, S.E. Hinton’s novel, The Outsiders is set in 1967. Although the themes of the novel transcend the decades, today’s students know relatively nothing about the 60s. It is important to establish a foundation of knowledge about the book’s setting before jumping into reading the work. Instead of lecturing your class from a sheet of boring notes, use Power Point software to create a creative and interesting presentation on 1967.

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    Present and Engage

    Power Point is an excellent software program for teachers to relay information to their students. Yet, when paired with videos from http://www.teachertube or http://:www.youtube.com, students find the presentation irresistible.

    Before beginning, you must ask yourself what information is touched upon in your novel that students might not have been introduced to in today’s world. In 1967, Elvis was popular and the Beatles were breaking music records in the U.S. and around the world. Both groups are mentioned by The Outsiders characters, and students would have no idea how startlingly different both music choices actually were. Through knowing more about Elvis and the Beatles, students will realize how the Greasers preference in music (Elvis) and the Socs choice (The Beatles) is very symbolic of their characters’ conflicts with one another and society.

    A plethora of videos can be found on http://www.youtube.com for both The Beatles and Elvis, but you don’t have to stop there. Videos on fashion, entertainment, and current events of the 60s can be found on http://www.youtube.com. Intersperse you textual information slides with links to the videos, and the students’ attention will be captured and their curiosity peaked.

    A background presentation on The Outsiders could include textual information on Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hinton’s setting of the novel. Videos on Elvis, The Beatles, 60s fashion, cars (like the Mustangs and Corvaires) that are discussed by the boys in the novel). Commercials from the sixties could even be included to depict the wholesome persona exemplified on family television shows. This image is a stark contrast to the hard life the characters in The Outsiders live. Students will be able to see why the Greasers are so frustrated with their lot in life, when everything around them is perceived to be happy and full of sunshine.

    Teaching background on a novel should be an eye-opening experience for students, and using Power Point and Youtube can make the lesson even more enriching. Strive for creativity and high-interest pieces that relate well to the novel and its theme, and learning about the background of the book will be knowledge students will never forget.

The Outsiders Lesson Plans

Lesson plans for teaching the novel, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
  1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton Relay Challenge!
  2. Teaching a Novel's Background: The Outsiders

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