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ERIC Number: EJ1002950
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Sep
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Challenging Characters: Learning to Reach Inward and Outward from Characters Who Face Oppression
Hsieh, Betina
English Journal, v102 n1 p48-51 Sep 2012
Throughout the author's 10 years in the middle school classroom, Anne Frank remains one of the most powerful figures that her students take away from their eighth-grade year. At first glance, her students don't think they share much more than their age with the World War II heroine. They are from almost every part of the world "except" Europe; many are English Language Learners; and most qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. They live in a midsized industrial city where gangs and gang violence are common. But, on closer investigation, many of these students share with Anne Frank an understanding of the importance of family; having secrets one must hide; being in an environment where one can feel trapped; and how sometimes hope is the only thing that a person can count on to survive and get himself or herself out of a bad situation. In the author's class this last year, Anne Frank joined forces with a guardian angel named Melvin and a teenage boy questioning his sexuality named Vince to introduce character study to her students. In reading the short story "Am I Blue?" (Coville) and the dramatization of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (Goodrich and Hackett), the author asked her students to consider how each character dealt with the oppressive circumstances facing him or her. Later in the year, the idea of choice in oppressive circumstances emerged during students' young adult literature circles. By examining the ways in which young people in literature dealt with oppressive circumstances they faced, students responded with indignation, insight, and a sense of the importance of connecting characters' experiences with their emergent identities.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Grade 8; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A