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TeachNet NYC  |  Lesson Plans  |  Teachnet

"If You Really Want to Hear About It...": 
Catching on to Catcher in the Rye

Project URL: http://teachersnetwork.org/teachnet-lab/mbhs/scragg/catcher/opener.html 

How it works:
To truly make the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger come to life, students look at it through a modern microscope: the Internet. This program makes the main character, Holden Caulfield, relevant to today's students, and the use of new media in the classroom helps accomplish this. Students use online resources to analyze characters (i.e., a site on gifted children to discuss Phoebe, or a site about adolescent mental health when discussing Holden's problems). Students write from cues taken directly from the novel (by actually writing a composition only mentioned in the novel, and by writing a letter from one character to another). They are able to read about the influence of this classic novel in material available online (New York Times and Salon.com articles) that is modern-day literary criticism. This program also contains drama activities, collaborative work, and a formal essay in addition to the other writing assignments. Students are exposed to a variety of different genres and are required to write in a variety of different styles. As a result, they are able to not only expand their writing, reading comprehension, and technology skills, but to also deeply connect with a classic work of literature.

Standards addressed: 
Students read a novel of quality and complexity; read and comprehend informational materials; produce a report of information, a response to literature, a narrative account, a persuasive essay, and a reflective essay; participate in group meetings; make informed judgments about media; prepare and deliver a presentation; demonstrate an understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work; respond to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama using interpretive and critical processes; produce work in more than one genre that follows the conventions of that genre; critique and produce public documents and functional documents; utilize new media and technology; and produce documents using new media and technology.
Materials used:
Access to a computer lab with Internet connections, and copies of The Catcher in the Rye
are required.

The students:
The students involved were high-performing ESL students at Murry Bergtraum High School. Students could read and write English, but with some lingering difficulty with vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension. They had a basic knowledge of computers and Internet surfing, which was all that was required.

Overall value:
"If You Really Want To Hear It..."
allows students to connect the events and people in The Catcher in the Rye with the outside world through the use of technology. Students are literally able to update these characters by using information found online. Through technology and writing assignments, students improve their comprehension of the novel, connect with it on a deeper level, and improve their overall reading and writing skills. This program attempts to make the reading of a classic literary work fun while challenging students at the same time.
Look at written assignments early to see if students understand the novel--since the assignments are heavily based on events in the novel, it's easy to spot a student who is having difficulty with comprehension (or, alternately, who isn't reading the novel). The assignments are based on the novel, but are personal at the same time, so copying is also easily spotted. Students will have to work individually and think critically in order to do well!



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