The Outsiders is one of my favorite novels to teach, because of its coming-of-age plot and memorable characters. How do you forget characters like Ponyboy, Sodapop and Dally?! Even though it was published during a time when most of my students parents weren’t even born, it inevitably becomes a fave of my students by the end of this unit.
I’ve found a formula for success when teaching this novel that has worked marvelously the past eight years…HAVE FUN WITH IT! We spend the first few days learning the background and setting of the book. Set in 1967, The Outsiders takes place during an era foreign to today’s middle schoolers. Learning about the sixties really is as abstract to them as learning about the 1860s. You have to take them back to the time of record players, Elvis, The Beatles, “tuff” cars, and Paul Newman. YouTube is an essential tool when teaching the background of the sixties. Simply typing in “1967” into the search engine brings up all kinds of stuff! Finding commercials, television shows, and movie clips set in the 60’s are great ways to introduce the groovy decade to your students.
I even have them take home a questionnaire for their grandparents with items like “What was your favorite memory about the 60’s?” or questions that ask them to recall memories of pop culture references in the book, like the Beatles, Elvis, and Paul Newman. Many amazing stories have been shared by grandparents of children in my classroom, and I like the fact that my students learn about aspects of their grandparents lives that they never knew existed!
Those are some ways to introduce the background of The Outsiders, but here are a few other resources you may find useful. A few are written by me, but many are created by other great writers at Bright Hub. Pick, choose, and enjoy!
Links to Amazing Resources for ‘The Outsiders’
- Teaching Background for the Novel - We discussed in the first section of this article the importance of teaching background for the year 1967.
- Discussing the Novel - This lesson plan, Teaching The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton Discussion Questions by Kellie Hayden provides teachers with great discussion questions to implement while reading the novel. These questions would also be a great asset to book circle assignments.
- Character Analysis - Kellie Hayden also has a study guide for analyzing the characters of The Outsiders. The Outsiders Character Guide will help students to better understand the motives and traits for each character clique.
- “Nothing Gold Can Stay” Poem Analysis - Peter Boysen has a great lesson plan for teachers wanting to explore the use of the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in The Outsiders. This is a wonderful resource for adding enriching content to your Outsiders curriculum plans.
- Final Assessment Ideas - Looking for a fun, but meaningful way to wrap up the novel? This lesson plan will create competition but understanding amongst the students, causing them to truly identify with the plights of both Greasers and Socs. Read the lesson plans below for detailed instructions on how to host your own Greasers vs. Socs relay.The Outsiders Relay Challenge.
3rd Six Weeks Tips for Teachers
Novel study should be an interactive process for both the teacher and the student. ANY novel can come to life for your students if they see that you are truly engaged in the reading and that you LOVE what you are teaching. I know it is difficult to pull off an interested demeanor during the last period of the day when you’ve already read Chapter 3 five times!
Students are intuitive and they will cop an attitude of defiance and boredom if you assign them two chapters to read while you go sit at your desk and work on grades or catch up on emails. The Outsiders is a novel that promotes a wealth of opportunities to encourage your students to employ higher thinking skills and to engage them in meaningful and deep discussion.
My classes enjoy “circling up” to read the novel aloud and I very rarely assign independent reading because I want them TALKING and VERBALLY reflecting while we read. A worksheet cannot garner the intellectual results that a book discussion can. I start our novel study by leading discussions, then let my students take over by the middle of the story. They begin to figure out that during the natural pauses of reading they can ask questions and we can discuss situations unfolding within the story. I truly believe that this method of teaching a novel is what helps students latch on to and LOVE a novel. By the time we watch the theatrical version of the book, the students are hooked and eager to learn more about the characters they’ve come to love.
This post is part of the series: 8th Grade Reading Curriculum
This series of articles is designed to aide teachers in creating an effective and interesting curriculum that can be used for 8th grade Reading and English or any other middle school grade level.