Classroom Refresh

Teaching the classics? Pairing them with newer titles can add relevance, enhance student understanding

Teaching literature is one of your critical jobs as a classroom teacher. As you know, the value of literature goes beyond mere reading comprehension and vocabulary expansion; fiction-reading has been demonstrated to improve student outcomes in other subjects, such as math. It has even been shown to strengthen social understanding and empathy.

As a teacher, you want to teach literature that you know is top-notch—and that you know how to teach. Classics, after all, never old—but teaching the same book over and over can get stale, for both you and your students.

There’s a way to avoid this problem, however: by combining your core texts with current, complementary literary titles. Inspired pairings—for instance, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me with James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time; or Pierce’s Red Rising with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies—can enhance and amplify the lessons of your mainstay titles while adding richness and relevance for students, and engaging their imaginations.

Just as a lively conversation between two people can spark new perspectives and ideas—and enjoyment—so adding new books to the literary conversation can expand your students’ understanding in the classroom. At their best, such pairings can engage your students’ minds—and touch their hearts.