More Information About Twisted
Kaywell, Joan. A Conversation with Laurie Halse Anderson. Sept. 2008. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://www.reading.org/Library/Retrieve.cfm?D=10.1598/JAAL.52.1.9&F=JAAL-52-1-Blasingame_6.html>.
It is important that when examining any work of literature that the students are familiar with the author’s life and influences. This can help the students to better understand the author’s motivations for writing about certain topics, and in establishing patterns of thematic elements that may be present in multiple works by the same author. The first website includes a detailed and witty biography of Laurie Halse Anderson written by her daughter. It is important to know, however, that this is not a professional biography and the language feels awkward, at times. Even still, it is the most extensive biography available for Anderson. The teacher could print this document out, and share it with his/her students. The teacher should ask the student questions that make them consider how her life experiences have influenced her writing. For example, the teacher could ask if the students think that Anderson’s own marriage experience could have helped her develop the family dynamic in TWISTED. There are instructions on this website that will assist the teacher in obtaining rights to use the copyrighted material, and it appears that rights are often granted for educational purposes. The second website includes an interview conducted face-to-face and over email by a Professor of English Education at the University of South Florida, Joan Kaywell and her son, Stephen. The interview questions asked by Stephen should be left out of the pre-reading activity (and possibly revisited in the post-reading activities), as they reveal major plot spoilers and may be confusing before reading the book. However, the portions conducted by Kaywell are perfect for a pre-reading activity. They include direct questions about the writing of TWISTED, and broader questions regarding Anderson’s life and writing process. This interview can be used to emphasize the importance of outlining and revision in writing to students. It also provides the students with the opportunity to determine whether Anderson has been influence by other authors.
About Teen Suicide. 2008. KidsHealth. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/suicide.html>.
Facts for Family: Teen Suicide. May 2008. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/teen_suicide>.
Teen Suicide Theme Page. Community Learning Network. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://www.cln.org/themes/suicide.html>.
One of the more controversial themes of this book is suicide. It is important that before reading the novel that the teacher and the students engage in a discussion about suicide and its affects. Its probable that almost every class contains at least one student that has been directly affected by suicide, and an even greater number of students that have dealt with depression and thoughts of suicide. Suicide can be a difficult subject to address, so it is important that before anything else, the students understand the facts. The first and second website both address general facts of suicide, warning signs, prevention, and coping with suicide. After examining the facts, the teacher should have the students engage in a safe discussion regarding suicide and their thoughts on what they have learned about it. The teacher should ask the students if they think suicide is a serious problem in teenagers. Explain to them that suicide is the third leading cause of death in young adults (aged 15-24). I, for one, am astonished by this fact, and many students probably will have many thoughts and comments that they want to share about that. The teacher should also have the students try to predict how this novel uses suicide. Finally, the teacher should have the students discuss the implications and affects of suicide. The students should also be informed on warning signs and proper actions that they should take if they feel a friend is in danger. It is important that the students feel comfortable and safe in this discussion, but the teacher should not let it get out of control. The final website provides links to other resources specifically aimed at educators.
This activity should be done before anything else. The teacher should print out a list of Laurie Halse Anderson’s previous novels, such as SPEAK, CATALYST, FEVER 1793, and CHAINS. This list should include a brief summary for each novel. After going over the list and summaries, show the students the book cover for TWISTED and ask the students to write what they believe the novel is going to be about. Ask them to describe who they think the main character will be, what time period the novel will take place in, what major themes the novel will include, and a short plot summary of what the novel will be about. Collect the predictions, then share with the class some of the ideas presented. Explain that we all make assumptions about a novel based on its cover and the author’s previous works. Most students should write that they think TWISTED will include a female protagonist, but in fact, it has a male protagonist. Hopefully, most students will predict that this story is written about modern times, and the teacher can explain that even though Anderson has written many period pieces, most students were able to establish the time period based solely on the cover. Explain that while some assumptions that we make about a book may be correct, others are completely wrong, and that a book you think you will not like could end up being very good.
Stereotypes and cliques are all too common in high school and they appear in multiple places in TWISTED. This activity is designed to encourage the students to determine possible stereotypes that they or other students harbor for other groups or cliques, and then to examine which of those are fair and which are unjust. Then students should establish their thoughts on cliques in high school. The students should write down at least 5 stereotypes and which group each is associated with. The students should also include at least 1 stereotype that they feel other students harbor against them or their clique. After completing this, have the students write an example where another student broke with one of their determined stereotypes. Finally, have the students write a brief paragraph explaining whether they believe cliques to be a positive or a negative social environment in high school.
Life is all about the choices we make, and in high school teenagers are face with many important choices that can determine who they will be for the rest of their lives. In TWISTED Tyler makes different decision at different times that majorly affect his life. At the beginning of the novel he decides to spray-paint the school in order to “become a legend.” Later in the book, Tyler makes a choice he believes to be right and moral only to have all the consequences of that choice be negative. Have the students write about a time they made a choice (right or wrong) to gain peer approval. Tell them to decide whether they felt their peers, indeed, accepted them more because of that choice, and ask them if they could go back would they do it again? After this portion is complete, have the students write about a time they made a choice they felt was right, and they received negative consequences because of that choice. Ask them the same question, if they could go back would they do it again? When complete, have the students break into small groups and discuss their experiences. The goal of this activity is to have the students realize that acceptance is not always the best motivation for the choices they make, and that while they may choose the right decision, sometimes they are not rewarded accordingly. Encourage your students to always make responsible and intelligent choices in their everyday life.
Laurie Halse Anderson. 2007. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://www.writerlady.com/novelsh/t_guide.html>.
Hepworth, Brianne. “Thinking Creatively and Critically.” 20 September 2008.
Oftentimes teachers test students’ comprehension of literature by asking simple short-answer questions that do not challenge the students to think for themselves. In this activity, students will be required to make literary connections and think for themselves on a daily basis. Journal writing should be a major part of most English classes. During the reading of this book (or any book) the first thing the students should do in the class period is to respond to a journal prompt. Laurie Halse Anderson provides a wonderful resource on her website and in the back of the paperback version of the book that includes many thought provoking questions. There are enough questions in the guide for each of the reading days, but teachers should feel comfortable switching out or adding questions depending on the needs of their specific students. For example, the teacher may want to enforce the idea that drinking underage leads to many undesirable consequences. Rather than using a generic question from the guide, that teacher should give a journal prompt that asks the students to identify some negative consequences of underage drinking and how that relates to their lives. This activity not only provides an outlet for students to think critically about literature and apply it to their lives, it also supplies the opportunity for teachers to evaluate the progress of their students’ reading and understanding of that literature. If the teacher is comfortable, it may be a good idea to provide some light background music to allow the students’ creative juices to flow. Music also has this uncanny ability to make young people feel comfortable, and they may be more willing to express their ideas and thoughts. This activity should last 5-10 minutes daily.
In this activity, students will be required to step outside of themselves and think in a different perspective. Honestly, does it get much different than stepping into the mind of a member of the opposite sex? In TWISTED, Laurie Halse Anderson, who is a woman, writes from the perspective of a young man. Much of the acclaim this book has received is due to Anderson’s ability to dive into the psyche of an American teenage boy. To make this feat even more impressive, Anderson writes the entire story in first person. After reading half of the book (preferably before Tyler goes to the party) the teacher should ask the students to write a story from the perspective of the opposite sex. Like Anderson, they should write their narrative in first person. Tell them to consider the opposite sex’s daily thoughts, feelings, experiences, and natural instincts. Biologically and psychologically males and females are vastly different and this provides the students with the opportunity to view daily life from a different perspective (and an important one). This activity offers students the opportunity to think empathetically and to explore why members of the opposite sex respond to certain experiences in certain ways. Completing this writing assignment should help the students appreciate the difficulties that Laurie Halse Anderson probably faced when writing this novel.
In the study of literature, scholars are always evaluating the use of cycles; cycle of seasons, cycle of death and rebirth, and plot cycles are a few examples. One cycle that occurs in this novel is the idea of poor parenting being passed from one person to another. The teacher should have the students write about whether they believe the cycle of poor parenting can be reversed. The students should then cite specific examples from TWISTED where Anderson suggests that the cycle of poor parenting exists, and how it affects the behavior of the children. Then, require the students to examine whether Anderson believes Tyler can end the cycle. How do Tyler’s father’s good intentions fail to terminate the cycle? What does Tyler do differently than his father that could cause him to reverse the cycle? With the current, precarious nature of the family, many students come from less than ideal home situations. Some students in a class will come from a broken or blended family and many more will come from intact dysfunctional families. This activity may help the students to better understand their parents and their behaviors. It will also help them accept responsibility for themselves and to recognize that they can break the cycle. Just because their parents, their grandparents, and their great-grandparents did not have ideal home situations that does not mean that they cannot have one in the future.
One major struggle young people are faced with is alcohol. The pressure to drink can be overwhelming for young people. In TWISTED, Tyler is faced with the decision of whether or not he is going to participate in underage drinking at the party. Thankfully, Tyler makes the right decision, and because of this, is able to make coherent judgments that end up benefiting him. Unfortunately, Bethany does not make a wise choice, and chooses to get drunk at the party. Because of this, not only does she act irrationally when Tyler tries to protect her from herself, but she ends up being taken advantage of by another boy. The study above provides some very interesting information on the statistics of teenage drinking. The teacher should go over many parts of this governmental pamphlet with his/her students. The parts that would be good to go over are some of the consequences of drinking, the number of teenagers that drink, the demographics of those teenagers who drink, and the reasons why young people drink. There are a number of parts of this pamphlet that I would skip or not include, which are what types of alcoholic beverages young people drink, how young people obtain alcohol, and whether obtaining it is difficult. These sections are not pertinent to the students’ understanding, and in some ways may actually hinder the students’ learning. This pamphlet is an excellent resource for teaching students about underage drinking, however, it should be kept in mind that it is a bit outdated, so the numbers may be inaccurate. After reviewing the pamphlet, the teacher should conduct a safe and healthy discussion of underage drinking and the consequences involved. The teacher should encourage the students to connect their thoughts to the novel. What are Bethany’s consequences for drinking? Are any of those included in the pamphlet?
Harmon, Amy. Education: Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound from Afar. 26 Aug. 2004. New York Times. 28 Sept. 2008. <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/26/education/26bully.html?ex=1251172800&en=75fc821f51c20daf&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt>.
Heuer, Leslie. Voyeurs’ Abuse of Technology Robs Us of Privacy. 10 June 2004. Iowa State Daily. 28 Sept. 2008. <http://www.iowastatedaily.com/articles/2004/06/10/opinion/20040610-archive4.txt>.
Rupley, Sebastian. “Policing Tech Peeping Toms.” PC Magazine. 06 July 2004: 28.
Schehl, Pamela. Misuse of Cell Phones Causing Problems. 05 June 2008. Mount Vernon News. 28 Sept. 2008. <http://www.mountvernonnews.com/local/08/06/05/cell_phones.php4>.
Study: Teens Take Bullying to the Internet. 28 Nov. 2007. ZD Net News. 28 Sept. 2008. <http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-177859.html>.
Technology is a great blessing in our lives. Computers especially give us the ability to do amazing things; communication is improved and knowledge is more accessible. However, more and more often technology is being used to hurt other people. Teachers should conduct a discussion in which they encourage the students to think of possible implications of open access to technology and relating those things to the novel. The teacher should begin the discussion by having the students consider how cell phones and computers are misused in TWISTED (namely how technology is used to maliciously take and distribute inappropriate pictures of Bethany). The teacher should then have the students discuss how this relates to them. Do they know of any instances where students have used cell phones, the computer, or the Internet to bully or hurt other students? Are the students aware of how this information relates to education? Have the students discuss whether the positives of technology out-weigh the negatives. Included are a few newspaper articles to stimulate discussion. Please be aware of copyright regulations, and take the necessary actions to gain permissions, if needed.
Kaywell, Joan. A Conversation with Laurie Halse Anderson. Sept. 2008. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 20 Sept. 2008. <http://www.reading.org/Library/Retrieve.cfm?D=10.1598/JAAL.52.1.9&F=JAAL-52-1-Blasingame_6.html>.
This interview was used for a before connection. The teacher can revisit the interview again at this point and use the portions that are conducted by Kaywell’s son, Stephen. Stephen is a high school junior who has recently read TWISTED. His questions are asked from a different perspective than his mother’s. The fact that Stephen is a high school student makes this portion of the interview especially valuable for teaching it. Stephen asks Laurie Halse Anderson questions regarding where she came up with the idea, her writing process, and, most importantly, he asks her to explain certain plot aspects. It is probable that many of the students would ask Anderson the same questions, if given the chance. Because of its explanations of plot and symbolism it solidifies understanding for the students.
When reading, students can often become so engrossed in the main character’s story that they fail to recognize other characters and their pivotal roles. In this activity, the teacher should have the students write about which character they relate to the most. The teacher should encourage the students to choose someone other than Tyler. Some possible options are Yoda, Hannah, Bethany, Chip, and others. The students can choose any character, and should explain what aspects about that character they relate to. They should give specific examples from the novel as justification. The teacher should make clear to the students that just because they relate to a certain character, does not mean that that student would make the same decisions as that character. For example, a certain student may relate to Bethany more than any other character, but they would never drink at a party. The student should feel welcome to give such explanations in this activity; however, encourage the students to explain what they would have done differently in the same situation. This activity encourages students to view the story from other characters perspectives.
Laurie Halse Anderson chooses to leave the story with an open ending. This provides the reader with the opportunity to imagine what will happen to Tyler after the end of the novel. Some people, myself included, hate endings like the on in this novel because they want to know what happens to the character. In this activity the students will have the opportunity to finish the ending and Tyler’s story. The teacher should have the students write the ending to the story. Does he choose to become the Lord of Darkness or to “take a gamble and be reincarnated?” How does this decision translate into his real life? Regardless of what path they choose for Tyler, they should then write about his remaining life. What other choices does he make? Does he go to college? If so, where? What will he study? Will he ever have trouble with the law again? Does he choose to cut ties with his father? Will he marry? If so, will it be anyone in the story? How, when, why does he die? The student can take Tyler’s story as far as they like. They can write about where he ends up in a year, or they can write about where he ends up in 70 years. The duration does not matter as long as the students consider how the decision Tyler made in the book could have a possible impact on the rest of his life. This activity encourages the students to consider how our choices affect us, sometimes for the rest of our lives.
Creative expression is vital in helping students enjoy and appreciate school. Some students do not enjoy writing. This activity aims at having the students express literature artistically. Literature has been adapted into art since antiquity, and this activity provides the students with the opportunity to participate in this common practice. The teacher should have the students create something artistic that expresses something from TWISTED. This can include a theme, their feelings towards the novel, a character, honestly, anything. There should be almost no parameters on this activity. The teacher should encourage the students to be creative and think outside the box. The students can create a poem, a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, a webpage, a poster, a diorama, a short film, a play, a song, a collage, or anything else artistic. The student should include a very brief (1 paragraph) description of the project and how it relates to the novel. The teacher should give the students at least half of a week for the students to complete this activity at home. This activity should not be worked on in class, except perhaps for students to brainstorm ideas on the day the activity is assigned. After the project is completed, the students should bring it to class and present it orally to their peers. Many curriculums require students to orally present something, and this activity will fulfill this requirement.
This activity should be the final essay and the conclusion for the study of TWISTED. The teacher should have the students write an academic essay about what they believe the main point of the novel is. What is the main moral or lesson that is to be learned from reading this novel? The student can choose any theme or topic, but they should back up their argument logically and with evidence from the book. Depending on the needs of the students, the teacher may choose to spend a day reviewing how to write a persuasive paper. Some possible things to review are how to write a thesis, how to organize the paper (better argument first, good argument second, and best argument last), and the method of word-processing the paper (spell-check, margins, etc.). This paper should be 3 to 5 pages in length, and should be free of errors. Some possible topics the students might choose is growing up, family relations, choices, etc. If the teacher usually allows the students to write a rough draft and revise, the same should be done for this paper. The teacher should follow their normal paper writing procedure for this assignment. Have the students include a works cited page that is in MLA format.