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.