The Hate U Give: The Most Important Book I Ever Taught

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I wrote a whole blog post on the pedagogy behind teaching The Hate U Give. And then I thought, fuck that.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an educator.You know how to teach. You don’t need me to tell you how. If you want some help, everything I used to teach this novel is for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store (and we had a hell of a lot of fun using my resources, so check ‘em out).

What I really want to convey to the teacher-verse, though, is how fucking important this book is and how it revolutionized my classroom.

First off, everything about teaching this book was different.

My focus was not on getting through the curriculum (I had pretty much tossed that aside when choosing to teach this book). I threw out the usual essay in favor of a discussion in the style of a conversation cafe. I started designing the whole unit from scratch, instead of Frankenstein-ing together ideas from the internet and smarter educators than myself. My students were going to know that this unit was going to be different.

On the first day of the quarter, Tupac was playing in the background of my class. Already my kids knew something was up. As they walked in, I handed them a bag of unit supplies, telling them it was their gift (and it was–all of my students got to keep their copy of The Hate U Give!).

As we read, there were no comprehension questions to answer. We didn’t take notes on textual evidence or fill out graphic organizers. I gave the students the five essential questions they would be answering during their formal discussion, and whenever we discovered a passage, a quote, or an example that related to one of the topics, they highlighted it in the color that coordinated with that thematic idea.

We didn’t do an essay.

Instead, students answered a writing prompt every week (students had a choice of which question they could answer). Because they cared immensely about the material (and because I graded each piece of writing like a test), they worked hard. They went back and revised when they failed. I even overheard two students discussing ways to avoid run-on sentences in their writing!

Toward the end of the unit, one of my best and most engaged students showed up without her book, which was a little surprising. My heart melted though when she told me why: she had already made her sister read the book (and she finished it in two days), so her mom had stolen it that morning to read so she could discuss it with her daughters. I almost teared up while handing that student a backup book. A family was reading and talking together because of what we were doing in my classroom.

We get so caught up in a curriculum, paperwork, standards, and observations that we often lose the magic of literature; The Hate U Give brought it back to my class.

My students were showing up just to read.

When we didn’t read, they were disappointed. They spoke to each other about the book, ribbing each other for the days they were absent and missed juicy bits. Students were going home and having real conversations with their parents about the material in Angie Thomas’s beautiful manuscript.

The Hate U Give revolutionized my classroom because it reminded me of every reason I ever thought I should teach. It showed my kids that they actually liked reading, as long as it was the right book.

I don’t know if The Hate U Give is for every classroom. Maybe it’s not for yours. But I highly encourage you to find out that book that does spark something within you and your students. Having the right novel brought my classroom together. It helped our culture and pushed my students to try harder in every other aspect of the class. Going forward, I’m going to work harder to find more “lit literature” like this–contemporary, important pieces in which my students can see themselves.

How teaching The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas changed everything in my classroom! #itslitteaching #teaching #thehateugive
How teaching The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas changed everything in my classroom! #itslitteaching #teaching #thehateugive
How teaching The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas changed everything in my classroom! #itslitteaching #teaching #thehateugive

What’s the most important book you have ever taught?

You can read more about my journey to committing to The Hate U Give here.  You can also read about the beginning of my first time teaching The Hate U Give in this post.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. What grade level do you teach?

  2. I absolutely loved the book. And I have always wanted to teach something like it. However, I teach Freshmen and I have my reservations about that as it is. Any suggestions? I am thinking of perhaps reading it with my AVID class

    1. I don’t know your freshmen, but I, too, would have reservations about teaching this book with the freshmen at our school. There are more and more books with similar themes. You could look at Dear Martin by Nic Stone (not as rich, but a shorter and easier text). I’m looking into teaching this one with some sophomores and (slowly) working on some Teachers Pay Teachers resources as well. You could also look into Swing by Kwame Alexander. It just came out last week, and I haven’t read it, but our librarian who was on the advanced reading team said it deals with similar issued to THUG, but focuses in before the event rather than after. It’s written in verse too, so that may be more material to work with. In the future, maybe you could do one of these texts in conjunction with the THUG movie? You could also perhaps incorporate some THUG excerpts (the scene between Starr and Big Mav discussing systemic racism comes to mind). Also, you could check out the book How I Resist (an anthology) for some supplemental text. Oh! And you can still keep a few copies of THUG in your classroom library for those more mature readers (the ones who can’t handle it will weed themselves out after seeing how big the book is!).

      I would love to know what you end up doing!

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