This article discusses a program begun in Chapel Hill, NC schools. It involves student mentoring and engaging teachers in discussions about race and culture, in order to help make their classes more racially inclusive and sensitive for all students. One of the most challenging obstacles to implementing the program has been to persuade teachers to speak openly about race, rather than avoiding the topic.
You can buy this packet for $2.25 from Teachers Pay Teachers. The package contains an excerpt from the story of Douglass's life, worksheets with questions about the excerpt, and a letter written by a former slave to his master. The author uses it to help her students understand the realities of slavery in America in Twain's time, as they are reading Huck Finn. The packet is very highly rated, with lots of positive comments from teachers who have used this resource.
This lesson consists of role-playing activities, research assignments, and discussion topics to help students understand and write about moral conflict in the novel. I liked the fact that the lesson draws comparisons between the individual-versus-society conflicts of Twain's time and contemporary examples (refugees travelling illegally). This will help students understand its relevance.
If you don't know Shmoop, do yourself a favor and go there right this minute. This site is a treasure trove for educators. You will need to pay for the entire teacher's guide, but they also offer some free sample content. The material is written in a relaxed, "fun" style that will appeal to teens. The teacher's guide also aligns with the Common Core.
A teacher argues that the novel should be taught in high school English classes, and explains how he approached the character of Jim by analyzing his complexity and sophistication. I find myself torn on this issue. I'll never forget the tears and pain of one of my seventh-grade students when another student used a racial slur. It wounded her, deep inside. Words can hurt, and as teachers, we must always be aware of this.
This thoughtful article does a good job of explaining that many white teachers might not be aware of how much students are personally affected by reading "great literature" that includes racist stereotypes. The author says that African-American students are so racially sensitive that they experience the insulting language as if it were directed at them, personally. This is a very thoughtful and insightful piece on the detrimental effects of forcing students to read novels like Huck Finn.
Does Huck Finn still have a place in the high school classroom? Some schools have decided the the "literary benefits" of reading the book do not outweigh the consequences of teaching the book in English classes. This brief article discusses the decision of one school not to teach the novel, and the Principal's insistence that this is not censorship.
This PBS site gives background readings for teachers and students, along with discussion questions and activities, in order to prepare the students to discuss and understand this controversial text and the issues that it raises about race, racism, and censorship.