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Many students come into my English classes afraid to participate for fear saying something wrong; there is also consistently a group of students who will either parrot my connections and assertions or those found on a study-helper website such as SparkNotes or Shmoop. Students need to develop the skill of original thought based upon critical analysis of text, and literature classes offer access to developing that skill. Students enter their classes with a wide variety of experiences that influence their reading of texts, and these connections can be used to make connections when they are grounded by textual evidence.
In order to help students develop their ability to form and express their own original analysis of text, this unit uses Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and two of the more common critical analyses of this play to invite students to challenge such analyses of the work and assert commentaries that are authentic.
This unit was written with an audience of twelfth-grade IB literature students in mind; however, it can be modified to work for students as young as ninth grade as long as the teacher is comfortable with discussing the mature, sexual content of the play. The suggested activities are flexible enough to be easily modified to fit the needs of student group in the secondary setting.
Number 16 of the periodical On Common Ground
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