Lately, I have been working with students and teachers on using technology to teach one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve read in years: The Hate U Give. If you haven’t heard about it, it is a Young Adult novel by Angie Thomas that addresses issues of racial bias, code-switching, and stereotypes within the context of a White police officer shooting a Black adolescent.
The novel leans on dialogue to tell the story, and readers witness events from the perspective of Starr, a Black teen who lives in a lower-income neighborhood but attends an all-White, private prep school.
It is one of THOSE books – the kind that is impossible to put down once you start reading.
Some teachers I’ve talked with are concerned about the language in the book. Four-letter words are sprinkled a-plenty throughout. But, let’s be real. Kids already know these words, and most use them. No need to pretend they don’t exist. Words only have the meaning that we give them; otherwise, they are just sounds.
Using technology to aid in teaching The Hate U Give helps jump start conversations, engages students in literary analysis, and underscores the NOW of the book. Digital technology is for the 21st Century, and so is this novel. Here is a brief unit plan for teaching and learning:
● Ask students to answer the questions with their mobile phones, then download the results. Save these. After the novel discussion is over, come back to the guide and have students answer questions again to compare their answers. After the anticipation guide, talk about the cover, predict what the story is about, and read the first chapter out loud together.
● Students create a Voki that reflects the characteristics one of the characters in the book. Ask students to use the character’s language and voice, as well as background information. Make sure the Voki looks, sounds, and acts like the character description in the book. Don’t forget Brickz!
Activity Three – Setting analysis through VoiceThread.
● Using VoiceThread, students download three-to-five photos from Google images that reflect the setting in the book. With the voice-over feature, they talk about each image and its importance in the novel.
Activity Four – Plot analysis through TimeToast.
● TimeToast is a timeline feature that allows users to plug in dates and events. Use it for analysis of the plot by asking students to plug in the key events on their own TimeToast timeline.
Activity Five – Language analysis and author’s purpose through FlipGrid.
● The use of language and the author’s purpose can be debated by students through FlipGrid. Have key questions ready for students to answer, but give them the freedom to post a reflection on their thoughts about the book’s language, themes, and events.
Activity Six/Culminating Project – Discussion of themes through video remixes.
● In small groups, students can choose one of the themes from the book (racism, stereotypes, loyalty, standing up for what you believe, the importance of family, etc.) and create video remixes that mash up images, music, and video.
Extension – If your students really enjoy the novel and want to extend their learning into the community, they can explore social justice ideas HERE. They also can do online research on police shootings from the last few years, as well as the Emmitt Till story HERE and HERE and HERE.
Enjoy this groundbreaking book along with your students!