Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Blog Post: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The implicit accusation that I would bring pornography into my classroom offends me to my core. Melinda, the protagonist of this brilliantly funny and poignant young adult novel, was raped by Andy, a popular upperclassman athlete, the summer before her freshman year in high school; the scene is brief and non-explicit, but visceral. Melinda is then ostracized and becomes both mute and reclusive, expressing herself through her year-long artproject- creating trees out of various media- until she gains the strength to confront her rapist, very loudly. I have taught Speak in my mixed junior high/high school English/Language Arts class and every student- from the shyest, Melinda-est girl to the most aggressive, Andy-est boy- loved it. We completed Melinda's art assignments with her, each of us - myself included- taking an object and drawing it from a new perspective and with new purpose each day before we began our official lessons. As Melinda grew with her tree, so did our class grow with Melinda. Each student, though hesitant to do so at first, came to love sharing his or her literary/art journal with the rest of the class; some even wrote accompanying free-write entries explaining how Melinda's ordeal helped them begin to process injustices they or their loved ones may have experienced. After we finished the novel and our projects, all of the students wrote ebullient letters of thanks to our DonorsChoose benefactors for enabling us to complete this educational unit by providing us with a classsroom set of this title. -- Julia Weber

Guest blogger Julia Weber is an English teacher at Passages Academy's Boys Town site. You can find teaching resources for Speak here.

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