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There is so much embedded into this short novel, teachers will have to pick and choose what specific topics within the text they feel should receive the most focus.
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Lesson and Discussion Ideas
Some great topics for discussion are the beatnik generation. Read an excerpt of Alan Ginsburg’s poem “Howl" for comparison. Or, you can focus on the sentiment in the country during the Cold War and before the Hippie movement and use the novel as a teaching tool to explain the tension that just grew and grew, leading the young people to try to peacefully revolt against the ways that their parents held dear.
Or, you can focus solely on the music that inspired this movement – the way the very words of songs called to the younger generation to rise up and change the world.
Teachers may want to examine the idea of road trips as rites of passage for teenagers and young adults, and ask the students to plan a fictional road trip of their own. Where would they head and why, if they could be out "On the Road"?
The novel is many things, but an easy read is not one of them, so make sure you use it in a classroom of advanced students where it can be fully appreciated.
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Reading With Your Book Club
Book clubs can have even more fun with this novel than students can, as a movie version was recently released. A bit too racy and too drug laced for a classroom viewing, it is perfect for book clubs who thrive on engaging in compare and contrast discussions about beloved novels and their big screen counterparts.
For older readers who can remember the spirit of the 50s and 60s, the novel is a stroll down nostalgia lane. For younger readers who can appreciate the tone of the novel, it is a perfect introduction to a legendary culture that shaped the course of America today.
- Image Credit: Photo of Jack Kerouac by photographer Tom Palumbo under CC BY-SA 2.0