Most high school students have an opinion on that controversial pejorative- the N-word- that appears 219 times in the Mark Twain novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Furthermore, they want to express their opinion in a safe and nurturing academic environment. A study of that infamous word in the context of the novel and its lasting impact lends itself to a rigorous and engaging lesson where students will participate actively and share the discussion with family, friends and even the wider community.
Whether the teacher chooses to assign, close read, or intensely teach the entire novel or provide an excerpt study, the richness of Mark Twain’s masterwork exposes students to American Regionalism of the 19th century and to the issues that led to the American Civil War.
The language and the content of Huckleberry Finn remain controversial even after 120+ years, and the novel appears annually at #5 on the America Library Association’s most frequently banned and challenged book list.
In 2011, an Alabama publisher reignited the argument by publishing a sanitized version of the book, replacing the N-word with “slave” and “injun” (for character Injun Joe) with “Indian.” His claim, the book can be studied without the offensive language. Many cried blasphemy.
This mini-unit can be taught as a stand-alone study of an excerpt of Huckleberry Finn (chapter 31), one lesson in a longer unit on the novel, or as a focused thematic discussion on language.
Included in the download are: six complete 45-minute lessons (can be doubled for block scheduling) leading to the seminar and the synthesis timed write, Common Core standards, a formatted version of chapter 31 from Huck Finn, an extensive annotated biography with links to videos, comics, images, and resources. Instructions and rubric for the Socratic Seminar and a link to a College Board rubric for the synthesis essay, engaging activator lessons, and journal ideas.
Strategies to differentiate for higher achieving and struggling students are included.
For the Flipped Classroom model, embed the numerous videos included for home viewing and use class time for collaborating, developing arguments and working one on one with students who need extra help.