About the March Curriculum Conversation 2015
"It's never the changes we want that change everything."
Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Sometimes a contemporary novel finds its way immediately into the classroom. Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is, among other things, one of those novels. Challenging the canon even as it immediately slots itself into that niche, Wao provides a crash-course in the recent, violent history of the Dominican Republic, and serves as a means to understanding immigration, exile, and return. Oscar, the ultimate outsider hero, is an overweight, nerdy Dominican teenager, transplanted to New Jersey. No one gets him—he has no friends, no chance with girls, and his family is a financial and emotional mess—but he’s smart and somehow greater than his situation. In creating such a layered text—complete with extended footnotes, shifting points of view, and withering, hilarious dialogue—author Junot Díaz asks readers to consider how this boy’s journey relates to two nations’ official and unofficial histories.
IWT Curriculum Conversations foster innovative approaches to the teaching and reading of texts that contribute to our contemporary sense of an evolving American self. Using writing-to-learn strategies, the day’s workshops will encourage participants to consider several important questions: How does the novel’s use of varieties of diction—Spanglish, academic English, gaming jargon—tell us something new about how history is, or might be, written? How does nerd culture cross the boundaries of immigrant and exile cultures? And how might we situate Díaz’s stylistically- and structurally-innovative novel in relation to other classics of multicultural literature?
Writing-to-learn practices are the starting point for a rigorous reading of the text through the lens of contemporary and historical nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.
This series of one-day workshop for teachers of all subjects will:
- Explore how unexpected pairings of a variety of genres, including poetry, drama, and essay, with a major key text of the curriculum reorients and reinvigorates our reading of the text
- Offer specific, take-away writing strategies for teaching the text next to historical, economic, and sociological documents—including primary documents—enabling truly cross-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues
- Provide an opportunity for participants to share their current curricula with each other and engage in cross-disciplinary planning with a team of teachers from their own or other schools.
Workshop fee: $250 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and anthology of related readings)
Note: Workshop descriptions and registration to be announced. Please sign up for our mailing list.
If you have a favorite canonical text that you’d like to see in our next Curriculum Conversation, please let us know, at:firstname.lastname@example.org