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Huck Finn Teacher's Guide
Culture Shock How to Use the Guide

This guide contains a detailed, six-section curriculum that frames the debate over Huck Finn, asks students to think critically about it, and helps them to see the novel in a richer historical and literary context. Each section -- designed to last from two days to two weeks, depending on the needs of the class -- includes an explanation of the section, companion readings for teachers and students, teaching suggestions, discussion questions, and activities. The activities, including those that conclude the unit, address all four components emphasized by the National Standards for Language Arts: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. English teachers will find many of the traditional approaches to the novel embedded in the curriculum.

Section I introduces students to the history of the controversy surrounding Huck Finn and touches on the racism that supported the system of slavery and that continues today. "The 'N' Word" suggests ways of working with the repeated use of the word "nigger."

Section II addresses charges that Jim is more a stereotype than a fully realized character. By looking at historical and current stereotypes, students have a lens through which to evaluate Jim when they meet him in the novel.

Section III and Section IV deal with issues English teachers will already be familiar with -- character development, satire and irony, point of view, and authorial intent. In this curriculum, however, Jim is dealt with not just as a foil for Huck, but on his own merits. Whether Jim or Huck is the true hero of the novel is also explored.

Section V introduces Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass as an example of the important slave narrative literary tradition, as well as poetry that expresses the reality of slavery and its legacy today. Students look back at the novel in a new context and think again about Twain's portrayal of America's "peculiar institution."

Section VI presents a variety of culminating activities. Through writing, debates, drama, and oral presentations, students are asked to document their knowledge, analyze how they feel about the controversy, and explore the meaning of the novel itself.

The Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Film Index provides a description of the film divided into segments for classroom use. The General Resources section contains Web sites (including the Culture Shock Web site), a list of organizations, and an annotated bibliography.

The essay by scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Teaching Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, provides an overview of the issues surrounding the book, as well as why it has endured as a classic work of American literature. You may use this essay for background reading and to inspire student discussion and writing.You may also want to refer to pages 116-125 of Fishkin's book, Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), which takes the reader through her experiences with a class discussion of these issues.

Huck Finn Coursepack

For a complete, reproducible set of the companion readings for the curriculum, along with a copy of the Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn video, order the Huck Finn Coursepack

Taping Rights

You can tape the film Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn off the air and use it with your students for up to one year after its broadcast.

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