Deceit, Despair, and Dejection

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A. Hayn
, Teacher Preparation Program, Loyola University, Chicago

Patrizi Schultz
, Teacher Preparation Program, Loyola University, Chicago

teacher’s guide is Copyright 2004 by the authors. It is reproduced here with
their kind permission.
Please contact the authors directly with any questions or comments on this



Graffiti Strategy

Questions for Speak and The Scarlet Letter

Themes: Deceit, Despair, and Dejection

Scarlet Letter
/ Speak Discussion Questions

Questions for The Scarlet Letter and Speak

Connecting Young Adult Novels to the Classics

for Connecting to the Classics

The Graffiti

(taken from
Tools for Promoting Active, In-Depth Learning by Silver, Strong,
and Perini)


A technique used to generate many ideas, to question in different styles,
and to stimulate physical movement.


The teacher generates 16 to 20 questions concerning a particular content
area. Each question is written on a large piece of paper and posted around
the room. Each question represents one of the four types of thinking: remembering,
reasoning, relating, and creating. Students are given markers and allowed
20 minutes to roam around the room and record a response to each of the
questions. As they respond to the questions, students should think about
which types of questions they enjoy answering, and which they find difficult
to answer. Students may also be asked to identify which style of thinking
they believe each question represents. After students have had an opportunity
to respond to each question, the teacher assigns a group of students or
a spokesperson to study the responses and summarize them with the class.



  1. Teacher
    generates 16 to 20 question stems about a topic.

  2. The
    questions should reflect four styles of thinking: remembering, reasoning,
    relating, and creating.

  3. Students
    roam around the room responding to each question.

  4. Teacher
    assigns students to summarize responses and report back to the class.


Questions for Speak and The Scarlet Letter


  • List
    one unwritten for surviving in high school.
  • What
    comes to mind when you hear the word “clique?”
  • How
    would you feel if you were ostracized from the members of your school or
    community? What could you do about it?
  • What
    are some examples of sexual harassment that you have witnessed?
  • List
    one characteristic of the Puritan era and explain, briefly, how things are
    now similar or different.
  • List
    one clique that exists in this school.
  • In
    what way do you conform to what is expected of you?
  • Complete
    this simile: My family is like a (fill in blank) because (fill in blank).
  • A
    new girl has transferred to your school. As she passes through the hall,
    you overhear some boys and girls in your class whisper that she is a slut.
    What is your response?
  • Given
    the generalization “Everybody wants to fit in” identify a specific
    example where you have seen this to be true or identify an example that
    refutes the generalization.
  • What
    does guilt look like? Draw a symbol for guilt.
  • How
    instrumental is a parent’s influence on their child’s development?
  • Your
    friends are angry at you. Would you rather get the silent treatment or be
    angrily confronted? Briefly explain your choice.
  • Write
    a definition for “scapegoat.” Add to the definition written by
    your peers by giving examples.
  • What
    are some possible reasons someone might not speak up for themselves when
    they are being treated unfairly or are simply misunderstood.?


Themes: Deceit, Despair, and Dejection

both Speak and The Scarlet Letter, list instances where the
characters are subject to feeling of deceit, despair, and dejection. List
the characters involved and the page number of the text citation. Be prepared
to discuss your findings.


Scarlet Letter
/ Speak Discussion Questions

novels revolve around a strong central female character. Readers may consider
them a statement about the status of women. What was the status of Puritan
women as reflected in The Scarlet Letter and what was the changing
status of mid-19th century women, the period in which the novel was written?
If one sees Speak as a statement about the status of women today, what
statement is being made? Has the status of women changed and, if so, how and
by how much?

has been said that Melinda is “more an observer to her own life rather
than a participant. She holds herself back because it’s too painful to engage.”
Melinda uses silence as her defense but, in reality, it causes her more problems.
How is this similar to, or different than, Hester’s response? Do their approaches
to their unique traumas seem understandable? Healthy? Readers are often frustrated
by both characters’ inability/unwillingness to speak. What other ways, given
their respective cultures, could they have regained their voices?

deals very clearly with the issues of stereotypes. A number of stereotypical
high school groups are represented in the novel. The Scarlet Letter
deals with the issue of clearly defined gender roles and the preconceived
notion that a “man of the cloth” is above reproach. Using issues/ideas
in both novels, discuss the idea that people find it easier to jump to conclusions
rather than searching to find the truth. In what ways do the novels show how
people are sometimes not who we think they are? How is this reflected in your
own high school experience?

Freeman, in Speak, has a way with words. Certainly these words resonate
in Melinda’s inner reality. His words also have implications for Hester. Consider
both characters in regard to the following quotes:

must walk alone to find your soul.” (p. 118)
“Art is about making mistakes.” (p. 122)

“Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting.” (p. 153)


Questions for The Scarlet Letter and Speak


Hester and Melinda

What are
the differences between Hester and Melinda in terms of motivation? How
they view the world around them?

Do you think
Hester would have been better off if everyone just ignored her like they
do Melinda, or do you think having to wear a scarlet letter was the easier
of the two punishments?


The Forest

Both of
the life-changing events happen to Hester and Melinda when they are in
the forest away from their community. What do you think this says about
the role of community in the outcome of their lives?


Theme: Culpability

Do Hester
and Melinda deserve to be punished? How do their motivations equal up
to their punishments?

Both Hester
and Melinda do not speak up. Hester doesn’t tell who the father of her
baby is, and Melinda doesn’t tell who raped her. Why do you think these
women kept their silence, and what do you think would have changed in
the story if they had spoken earlier?



Connecting Young Adult Novels to the Classics

° The bulk
of the “classics” are 19th and early 20th century works of American
and British fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry. They are usually written
by those who have traditionally held the power in our culture: white, male,
Christian, Anglophiles.

° Familiarity
and tradition have long been the criteria for using classics in the classroom,
but many teachers stick so close to that familiarity that they ignore or dismiss
student reaction to a text and end up leaving the students frustrated or discouraged.

° Like the
classics, many young adult literature works share marks of literacy excellence;
multiple and identifiable themes; well-developed characters; the protagonist
confronts or challenges a test; the plot moves logically; the setting provides
a function.

° Thus, to
solve the dilemma of teaching classics to disinterested students, it is vital
to link required classic texts to young adult texts and read them in tandem.
This is why:

• Doing
so provides a way to parallel literature in a contemporary, more appealing,
readily understandable way.

• Students create links: difficulties with one text are addressed by
understanding the other. New connections can emerge with comparison and contrast
of the two texts.

• Students
are more likely to read more, attempt projects, responses, and classroom activities.

• Doing
so enhances the understanding and appreciation of reading.

° Making the

• Select
young adult literature of excellent quality (e.g. Newbery Award, School Library

• Use more
than one piece of young adult literature as a link

• Choose
comparison texts with real connections (similarities in theme, plot, characters,
setting, genre)

• Be cautious
and skeptical. It’s often easy to insist on a connection when there is none.
For example, all novels with a female character will not necessarily deal
with issues of love, so research your novels first!


Source: Reading
their world, the young adult novel in the classroom. Edited by Virginia
R. Monseau and Gary M. Salvner. Chapter Two: “Natural, Necessary, and Workable:
The Connection of Young Adult Novels to the Classics”by Leila Christenbury.

Websites for
Connecting to the Classics

– A good place to start to familiarize yourself with YA literature.
These works of adolescent literature will act as a transition towards more difficult
classic works.

– One way to introduce a unit or lesson on the classics. Exploring
why, how, and when a book gets banned will spark reader interest. Many books
still remain on the banned books list, with parents still in the forefront of
the crusade against certain works.

– First published in 1912, English Journal is “the official
journal of the Secondary Section of the National Council of the Teachers of
English.” It is published every other month with a readership of 45,000
teachers. Subscription is available online for a reasonable price. This website
contains articles on how to teach the classics, how to choose them, and a wide
selection of activities for use in the classroom.

Other sites:

Library Association

of Reading


Library Journal

and Methods

The idea is not
to replace the classics with the new genre of YA literature, but to introduce
the reader to experiences that he or she are more familiar with and can relate
to on emotional and intellectual levels. In this transition towards classic
novels, the reader will be more willing and able to make connections between
what is happening on the written page and how that mirrors everyday experience.

  • Join the Forest!

    Join the Forest!