The Outsiders is a classic in young adult fiction that revolutionised the genre by presenting adolescent characters that were the opposite of everything a teenager, by adult standards, should have been. Despite it being published in 1967 and the huge changes in both society and technology since, it continues to resonate with young adult readers today.
The novel is narrated from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Ponyboy, a ‘greaser’ who could easily be judged a hooligan because of his clothes and hair, but who in fact gets good grades at school and loves books and films. Despite coming from a ‘broken home’, his parents having died in a car crash when he was young, he does not drink, is not naturally violent and is embarrassed when his friend swears.
His character, as well as that of the other characters, is one of the elements that I love most about the book. It makes the characters and therefore the novel as a whole more authentic, and makes the reader challenge any pre-conceived ideas they have about what a ‘bad’ person is. The greasers become almost anti-heroes: coming from the wrong side of the class divide, with several of them having had run-ins with the law, yet are fiercely loyal to one another and hardworking. The novel uses the greasers as well as the rival, wealthy ‘Socs’ to challenge stereotypes about class and what it means to be an outlaw. The young adult readers can relate to aspects of the characters from both sides of the class divide, making them realise that they’re not so different after all.
The novel also reflects both the immediate and long-term fears that adolescents face through the thoughts of Ponyboy, which again makes both him and the story itself easy to relate to. Despite most people reading the book are unlikely to have ever been caught up in a murder, through his detailed narration of the events we can identify with his attempts to follow his moral compass and please Darry, his older brother, whom he looks up to. Through Darry we can sense the pressure of parental expectations - something that the reader can relate to. We also see through Ponyboy the need felt by most adolescents to fit in and be part of a group, and yet also the need to be an individual and the struggle to figure out who you are within the restrictions set by society, friends, peers and family. It is perhaps this more than anything that makes teenagers continue to read it to this day.
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The Outsiders is gritty, honest and authentic, and a novel that I feel every teenager needs to read. It makes the reader see that at the end of the day, as Ponyboy says, “we see the same sunset, and that while we are the ones who create the divides between ourselves, we can also be the ones to challenge them”.
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Studies have long pointed to the benefits of "current events" programs in shaping a nation of lifelong newsreaders. "Using the news" -- whether in the form of the daily newspaper, TV news reports, or classroom discussions of important events -- can go a long way toward developing an informed citizenry too. So why isn't "Current Events" a part of every classroom curriculum?
If you're looking to make a case for current events in the classroom -- of if you're looking for activities with which to teach current events -- don't miss the following articles:
Twenty-Five Great Ideas for Teaching Current Events
Looking for ways to work news into your classroom curriculum? Check out these great ideas for connecting current events to all subjects.
Ten Great Activities: Teaching With the Newspaper
Ten more terrific classroom activities that use the newspaper to teach valuable skills -- including reading and writing for meaning, map reading, media literacy, sequencing, word meaning, and math.
Read All About It! Ten Terrific Newspaper Lessons
Education World celebrates National Newspaper Week with ten lessons to help you integrate the newspaper into your classroom curriculum. Included: Students interview a local news reporter, create editorial cartoons, compare newspapers, more.
We've Got News for You! (News Activities, That Is)
Education World offers five complete lessons to help teachers integrate newspapers into their curriculum. Included: News slant, reflecting on the news, headlines and main ideas, top news stories of the 20th century, more.
It's News to Me: Teaching Kids About the Newspaper
Explore six great sites that will help you teach about the newspaper -- before you start teaching with it! Included: Seven original ideas for teaching students about the newspaper.
Why Teach Current Events?
Why bother teaching current events? The research indicates that a regular dose of current events has a multitude of benefits. Included: Activity ideas and Internet resources for teaching current events.
Sites to See: Current Events
Current event Web sites keep users up to date on the top stories of the day, offer information that students might not be aware of, and provide teachers with instructional materials for classroom. Included: Five top-notch news Web sites for kids.
Extra! Extra! Eight Great Web Sites Connect News to Your Curriculum
Discover eight great sites that will help you link the day's news to your curriculum and challenge students to look beyond the news. Also: Six online news quizzes for students of all ages.
Every Day' Activities: Today in History
Many sites offer "This Day in History" resources that are a great way to teach current events, history, and cultural literacy. Imagine a classroom timeline that highlights current events or events connected to historic periods. A great opportunity for learning!
Tabloid news stories -- modern-day tall tales -- make for a fun writing activity with students in grades 3 and up.
Students search for spelling errors in a current event news story.
After reading aloud Deadline! by Gail Gibbons, students learn about newspapers.
Finding Main Ideas
This student work sheet provides "finding the main idea" practice and skill building.