I’m not exaggerating when I say the book The Hate U Give changed my life.
Before I taught The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I was bored. The curriculum bored me. My lessons bored me. My job bored me.
This book changed all of that.
The Hate U Give revolutionized my classroom, my teaching, my attitude, and it made a positive impact on my students as well.
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The Book The Hate U Give Forced Me To Change My Approach
Usually, I took the curriculum plan, mapped it out on a calendar, and plodded through required lessons. We read. We answered questions. I bullied my students into writing essay.
This novel was so new, that there were no resources out there. There were no textbooks, no abridged version, no help in teaching it.
That meant that I was also going to have to create all of my teaching materials from scratch. This was a totally new approach for me.
Before, I had assembled units from Teachers Pay Teachers sellers or old curriculum documents. Now I was going to have to get creative.
I created my The Hate U Give book unit for my students. I designed everything–from the design to the worksheets to the topics we discussed–to intrigue and engage the students I was working with at the time.
My whole unit became about adapting to my students–a strategy far more successful than trying to adapt my students to the curriculum.
I made sure the writing was short because they needed the practice but didn’t have the attention span.
I included coloring sheets and creative activities because I had artistic students that needed to doodle while they listened.
On the first day of the quarter, I played Tupac as students entered.
A lot of my students don’t have books at home; I thought they would enjoy having a copy that was just theirs. And they did.
“We get to keep these?”
When students dug into their bags and found the reading journals, I hear even more.
“These are cute!”
The Book The Hate U Give Forced Me to Try New Assessments
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, something I had never done.
As we read, there were no comprehension questions to answer. We didn’t take notes on textual evidence or fill out graphic organizers.
Instead, I gave the students the five essential questions to answer during their formal discussion.
As we discovered a passage, a quote, or an example that related to one of the topics, they highlighted it in the coordinating color associated with that thematic idea.
Every now and then, I flipped through their novels to make sure that student were keeping it.
(You can read more about how we did that here.)
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 3-4 possibilities.
Because they cared 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 shorter, but more frequent, writing exercises gave me more opportunities to provide specific feedback. It also gave my students more attempts to improve 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.
My heart melted though when she told me why.
She had already made her sister read the book (who finished it in two days). So then 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.
Word spread through the building about my “innovative” unit as well.
My colleagues were asking for copies of this new book. They were reading it and carrying it around the halls, which prompted conversations between students and staff.
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!
The Hate U Give: Why It’s the Most Important Book I Ever Taught
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.
The book The Hate U Give made my students want to read
On days that we didn’t read, my students were disappointed. They spoke to each other about the book, ribbing each other when one was 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!