Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resources for Teaching The Kite Runner

I'll be teaching Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner for the first time this fall. To prepare, I've spent the last few days gathering resources and thinking about how I might frame this story when I present it to students. I teach a tenth grade World Literatures course, where students study fiction, non-fiction, and creative texts from the non-western world. As we read the various texts, we hone in on perspective - What perspective does the narrator represent/present? What perspective do we as readers from particular backgrounds and with particular experiences bring to a text? What perspective do other readers and writers offer on this text? So in thinking about how I might bring this theme into our reading of The Kite Runner, I'm considering presenting the students the basics of literary criticism to help frame the reading of the text.

I've taught students literary criticism basics in the past. We've discussed the foundations of historical, formalist, feminist/gender studies, psychoanalytical, and reader response theories as a type of lens that a reader might don to help understand the particulars of a text. By teaching literary criticism as a lens, I have found it also helps students understand some related literary tropes and devices. In the past, students have completed a WebQuest activity to help introduce the various theories.

The Kite Runner could prove fruitful for this type of study. However, I worry that using this type of frame might reduce the story to nothing more than its devices and context. I suppose this is the danger when teaching literary criticism in general. I'd love your thoughts and feedback on anything I should consider as I work on this curriculum unit.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of the resources that I found online that might help others as they consider teaching this text.

  • My Lesson Plan Materials
    Using many of the sources listed below, I created the linked lesson plans above that I use with my tenth grade English students.
  • Discussion Materials from Bucks County
    Kite Runner was selected as one of the "One Book, One Bucks County" project. This document includes a wealth of resources listed by grade-level.
  • Teaching Materials from Literary Cavalcade
    This document contains an excerpt from the novel, background information, and follow-up activities, including a narrative based on an incident in the reader's childhood.
  • Historical Materials from Amnesty International
    I want to thank the Human Rights Education Program at Amnesty International USA for this comprehensive guide to The Kite Runner film. I think they have done a terrific service to the students, and I am grateful to them for bringing to light the nuances and many complexities of Afghan society and Afghan life via this guide.
  • My Pinterest Collection for Teaching The Kite Runner
    In an effort to keep a current collection of resources for teaching The Kite Runner, I am using this Pinterest board to continually curate a contemporary collection of resources.
  • Study Guide for the Historical Background of The Kite Runner
    As the table of contents shows, this Study Guide is organized into sections corresponding to the requirements any teacher might consider - pre-, during and post-reading activities. One of the virtues of this novel is that it unequivocally places the reader inside the narrator's experience of the Pastun culture. At the same time, this quality may create barriers for younger readers. This guide includes writing and reading activities to familiarize students with the background, history, and culture of Afghanistan.
  • The Kite Runner Connects the English and History Classrooms
    "Promote Independent Thinking with The Kite Runner" is a curriculum unit that includes discussion questions and links to a WebQuests and unit plans.
  • Lessons shared on Teachers Pay Teachers
    Haven't used Teachers Pay Teachers before? Check it out! Registration is free. Teachers post lesson plans for just about anything you can think of, some for free, some for minimal cost. This is a link to all the lessons on the site for The Kite Runner.
  • The Kite Runner Summary at WikiSummaries
    Just found this. Apparently, WikiSummaries is similar to Sparknotes with chapter-by-chapter summaries.
  • "The Kite Runner" Banned In Afghanistan - CBS News
    The Afghan government banned the film more than a month ago because of a rape scene of a young boy and the ethnic tensions that the film highlights, said Din Mohammad Rashed Mubarez, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Information and Culture. Shops selling the movie would be closed, he said.
  • Teacher Handouts for The Kite Runner
    A final assessment for reading The Kite Runner. Use the links on the left side of the page to also access the teacher's materials for teaching this book.
  • My Prezi to Introduce The Kite Runner
    This is the Prezi that I put together to introduce the historical background of The Kite Runner.  Here is the video version of my introduction.
UPDATED: Here are some more background resources and even more curriculum planning materials.


Tamara said...

My brain is not functioning for a highly intellectual comment; however, I can assure you your students will BEG you to read read read. I taught this for the first time last year and we only had ONE set to share with FOUR classes which means we read the ENTIRE book in class. I had about 10 copies that kids could check out for 2 days at a time. Many kids borrowed these books non stop. My non-readers wanted to read for our entire 82 minute periods. My honors kids read it in two days and wanted MORE (so I gave them his second book) :)

I didn't have great lessons with the text that I recall right now but if nothing else, this book instilled the love of historical fiction in many of my "I have never finished a book myself inner city kids".

Good Luck!

Jennifer Ward said...

Thanks so much! I've heard similar things from other teachers and students. This is just one of those books that excites everyone who picks it up.

As I continue to think about how to frame this book, I've picked up Deborah Appleman's second edition of Critical Encounters in High School English which offers a lot of ideas for presenting literary criticism to high school students.

Mrs. G-M said...

Hi Ms. Ward,

Did you send home a letter to parents prior to reading the Kite Runner? If so, may I get a copy?

S. Misaki

Jennifer Ward said...

Hi Mrs. Misaki,

No, I didn't send a letter home prior to reading Kite Runner. It is a required core text in our district, meaning that all 10th grade students across levels read this book. However, I do point it out on our syllabus during our parent Back to School Night each semester. So far, I've never had a parent objection to the text.

I have had objections to other required texts, in which case, I've had students read a similar alternative text.

Maybe others reading this can post links to how they've approached the rape scene with students and parents. Ideas?

Mrs. G-M said...

Thank you for your feedback. I was able to find a letter in one of the files you have posted.

Thanks again! Have a great week.

Jennifer Ward said...

I see that a number of people have been returning to this post over the past few weeks, which can only mean one thing - it's that time in the semester to pass out The Kite Runner books to our high school students.

In fact, I'm in the midst of teaching it right now to my 10th grade students. As an additional resource, I've posted many of the curricular materials that I use over on my classroom wiki. You'll find it at: Hope it's an additional useful resource.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent and I am requesting an alternative to this book. There must be better options for teaching Literary Analysis than through the sodomizing of a child and the sex slavery engaged in by a brutal drug lord. This novel is too new to have stood the text of time and its graphic subject matter will be a distraction to the discussion among a group so young. Most parents who have read this book, do not recommend it to their 15 yr olds. I would ask that you carefully rethink this, and DO send a letter home offering other options.

Jennifer Ward said...


Thanks for the comment. I'm happy to hear parents reading the same texts their students have been assigned. It can really make for some fruitful discussions both at home and at school.

As you mentioned, Kite Runner can be used to teach literary analysis, but really, any novel can. Teachers and districts don't select a novel with just one intention in mind. Instead, The Kite Runner opens up a number of discussions about the power of literature as a reflection of culture, a reflection of values, and the danger of power, and the influence of history. The scene that you mention in particular has made for some very valuable classroom discussions about the danger of power, the role of the bystander, and the need to stand up, have courage. I believe those are lessons that all 15 year olds should learn. In fact, it is the text that many of my students finish long before it is due, drawn into the characters and the friendship between Amir and Hassan. In its story are themes that we return to again and again throughout our studies. Using a text that less accurately portrayed the violence between the Hazaras and Pashtuns would do a disservice to culture, the story, and students' understanding of Afghanistan's history. Many of my students' parents have applauded our selection of this text, so I have to disagree with your comment that "most not recommend it to their 15 yr olds."

I applaud your interest in your student's reading and wish that more parents were invested like you. However, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of The Kite Runner. It is a story that 15 year olds as well as 51 year olds should read.

Jennifer Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am starting 11th grade in 3 days and for my summer reading project, I need to explain why this book (Kite Runner) should be used in the cirriculum and I'm quite confused because the book makes one want to read more and more but, No idea why it should be used in the cirriculum, A few ideas that can help me write a 500 word essay on this book would help...QUEsTIoN: (Why Should this book be used in the school ciriculum)

Jennifer Ward said...

Having now taught The Kite Runner for a number of years, I have a few more resources that I should add. But first, as this is one of my most popular posts, I would love to connect with those teachers accessing my Kite Runner teaching resources. If you are currently teaching this novel and would be interested in connecting your students with my class via Google Hangouts to discuss the text, contact me! Here are a few more details:

I also put together some of my introductory materials in this YouTube video. Please feel free to use!

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