Ugh, don't you just remember the drama? The pressure to fit in? The constant worry that what you are doing and who you are isn't ever enough.
You couldn't pay me to go back to 6th grade.
But, I would pick up Frances O'Roark Dowell's, middle- school-embraced, new book called The Class again and again. You wouldn't even need to pay me. It was that good.
The Class is a story that features 20 uniquely-designed characters. Each character represents one of the students in Mrs. Herrera's class. All the students have a different view and insight on the happenings in Mrs. Herrera's class. And naturally, their feelings, opinions, and drama quickly intertwine.
What I love most about the novel, The Class, is that it is real. The classroom feels like it could be the one I teach every day. The characters made me picture real-life kids that I have seen go through the same scenarios. I have watched kids get their hearts broken, I have seen kids struggle with poverty, and I have tried so many times to teach my students how to get along with one another.
But managing a classroom is hard, and Frances O'Roark Dowell's story depicts real-life. All the characters have their struggles and insecurities. Sometimes the characters can support each other, but sometimes they hurt each other's feelings and make the situation worse. Just like it happens in every middle school.
The Class is a novel I would bring into any upper elementary or middle school classroom. Students today can learn from these characters as they struggle to find themselves and solve their problems. No matter what character's perspective you are reading in the book, someone in a classroom is going to learn from exactly what that individual is going through.
That is the beauty of having so many characters to follow in this text. One of the characters is going to connect to each student reading this book. They can and will see themselves through the character's struggles. Hopefully, they will take what the character goes through and learn from the lessons that they face.
If I were to teach this novel to my class, I would be sure to have my students do some character mapping as they read. The characters are so intertwined. Character mapping will allow students to remember key details, such as who has crushes on who and who is no longer speaking to each other.
I so wish I would have mapped the characters myself as I read this story. Frances O'Roark Dowell's characters are so well connected that I know I even would have benefited from the map to keep them all straight.