Prior to teaching the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I was getting pretty bored. I was bored with the curriculum, bored with my lessons, and just bored with showing up to work every day.
This book changed all of that.
It revolutionized my classroom, my teaching, my attitude, and it made a positive impact on my students as well.
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With The Hate U Give, I Had to Adjust My Approach to Teaching
My focus on teaching The Hate U Give was not on getting through the curriculum (I had pretty much tossed that aside when choosing to teach this book).
This is a book that students will need to talk about. They’ll have a lot to say. A traditional essay just didn’t feel powerful enough. So I threw it out.
Instead, our summative assessment became a conversation cafe.
This novel was so new, that there were no resources out there. There were no textbooks, no abridged version, no help in teaching it. So I created all of the materials myself and made sure they looked fun and inviting. I created them for my students.
On the first day of the quarter, I played Tupac as students entered. That alone told my kids this unit was going to be different!
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.
I didn’t do anything the traditional way with this novel. It forced me to teach outside of my comfort zone.
My Students Wrote More
Because we didn’t do a big essay, I had students answer a writing prompt every week. Students were able to choose a question from 5-6 possibilities.
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!
The Book The Hate U Give Made Connections Between People
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.
Meanwhile, many of my colleagues had begun to read the book after hearing about what we were doing in my classes. Every week, I heard a new story of a staff member and a student stopping to discuss the text!
At our final summative discussion, staff members and my students spoke about our big essential questions. Both my colleagues and my students loved the experience. They all said that time flew by and that they could have kept talking even longer!
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 Wanted to Read
On days that we didn’t read, my students were disappointed. They spoke to each other about the book, ribbing each other for the days they were absent and missed juicy bits.
For a school full of at-risk, trauma-sensitive teens who are mostly all behind grade level, that’s huge.
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.
Want to incorporate The Hate U Give into your class? Snag all of the resources I created here!