Literature in Space…Ender’s Game

Books for Today Enders Game

Welcome to another installment of Books for Today, a periodic discussion of literature that is worth reading and teaching.  Today I will be discussing Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.  I teach this book in eighth grade (where it works very well), but it is also very appropriate for high school students and adults.

A Quick Intro:

Originally published in 1985, Ender’s Game is a novel that is no less relevant today than it was when it came out.  The novel is set in the not too distant future.  Aliens have attacked Earth twice, and humans have only barely survived.  To prepare for the next attack, humankind has started to recruit and train children who show promise as military leaders.  Ender’s Game is the story of one of these children—Ender Wiggin.  He is the most brilliant and promising child that humankind has ever seen.  At age six, Ender begins Battle School and starts on the path toward war and self-discovery.  Major themes include the nature of leadership, friendship, sacrifice, and the price of victory.

Shameless Plug:  If you are interested in teaching this book, check out my resources below or by clicking here.

Three Reasons Why You Should Pick Up This Book:

I could discuss Ender’s Game for many, many pages.  (That is not a figure of speech.  I have actually written two different academic papers on this book and could write many more.)  Below though I am going to give you three reasons why you should consider reading/teaching this novel.

Number One:  The Problems of “Us” Versus “Them” Thinking

Our society seems to be one of division these days–Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative, white collar vs. blue collar, urban vs. rural, supporter of ________ (fill in the movement of your choice) vs. not, and so on and so forth.  You are either part of the group or not; you are either with us or against us.  We are a people of division, and it is becoming more and more difficult to function as a society.  What can we do?  How do we address these divisions and the problems they create?

Think about teaching Ender’s Game.  The entirety of this book is structured around the idea of “us” versus “them” from the initial Peter versus Ender confrontation to the armies fighting at Battle School to the war with the aliens.  What all this boils down to is that when we look at the “other” groups as “them” and not “us,” it is easy to see an enemy and to fight and hate “them.”  When we get to know “them” though, the “other” become part of “us,” and all of a sudden “enemy” and “hate” don’t fit so well.  The key is getting to know, understand, and empathize the “thems.”

This is important in our lives as well.  If we work to know, understand, and empathize with everyone in our lives, differences–from political party to country of origin to religion and skin color–become insignificant parts of the relationship.  What a world it would if everyone could do this!  Reading and teaching Ender’s Game gives a chance to realize, discuss, and address this need in a non-threatening environment before trying to apply it to our own lives.

Number Two:  An Effective Way To Discuss Ineffective Communication

Related to this idea of division, effective communication in our society is suffering.  Facebook, politics, the news media, and interracial and interfaith interactions are full of instances of people talking over each other (if they talk at all) and not listening to dissenting opinions or the people who hold them.  With these pervasive and powerful examples, how, as teachers, do we counteract this and help our students see the importance of effective communication for themselves and our society?

One way is to look at examples of what happens when positive and effective communication doesn’t happen.  When you begin, it is best to do this in a non-confrontational manner.  Starting with something like the current gun or abortion debate or the Black Lives Matter movement, though relevant and important, can cause your class to get so hung up on the issues themselves that they are not able to see the problems that lack of communication causes.

Enter Ender’s Game. By using a book where the issues are not ones that are personal, you can help your students understand the concepts before they have to apply them to their own lives.  This allows your introduction of these topics to be much gentler and more effective.

Number Three:  Interest and Passion Prevail

One of my favorite memories from teaching this book is of a student who was normally rather troublesome in an “I’m not going to participate, and you can’t make me” sort of way.  We were having a class debate about something from the book, and it was getting a bit heated.  This student felt so strongly that he climbed up on top of his desk and was shouting to make sure that everyone knew what he thought and was listening to him.

While I don’t normally condone standing on the furniture or shouting and I did make him get down and behave in a more reasonable manner, this was maybe the most on-topic participation I ever saw from his student.  And these sorts of feelings and involvement in Ender’s Game are not unusual.  Students care what happens to the characters.  Even when the chapters get long, students read the readings.  And just when the students think they know how the whole book is going to end and who they are cheering for, the whole thing is turned on its head.

This involvement is so wonderful not only because it is miserable to teach a book where you have to practically drag your students through it, but also because when students care, they are involved in what you are teaching and what they are learning.  It gives you the opportunity to discuss themes that students will then internalize instead of just memorize for the test.  It makes students want to form opinions and have discussions.  And it attaches the lessons to something that the students care about so that the information sticks.

And in Summary:

Over the years, I have lost track of how many times I have read and reread this novel–my own copy has to have a rubber band around it to keep pages from falling out.  It is not a book I ever get sick of reading and certainly not one that I tire of teaching.  Each time I go through Ender’s Game some new insight or thought-provoking question occurs to me.  Additionally, I have yet to have a class that did not love this book.  It appeals to a wide range of students and is accessible to a broad spectrum of interest and ability levels.  In every respect, it is a wonderful and powerful story.

Have a great day, and…

Teach On!

Rebecca

Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Homeschooler, Staff, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

 

This Week’s Featured Product

Ender’s Game Full Unit Bundle

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This fun and extensive product is just what you need to help you teach a great unit on Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Critical thinking, class discussion, debate, theme and lesson identification, writing, speaking, and more are all integral parts of this unit.  For more details or to download this product, click here!

 

This Week’s Journal Questions

For the teacher:  How do you pick the novels for use in your classroom?  If you are not in charge of picking, what would you pick if you were?

For the student:  What is your favorite book?  What makes it your favorite?

 

A Recipe from My Kitchen

Crockpot Split Pea Soup

Crockpot Split Pea Soup
Thick and delicious, this soup takes very little prep time.  Just throw in the ingredients and let your Crockpot do the work!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ham hock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups water
  • optional garnish:  cream, croutons

Directions:

  1. Place everything in your crockpot, pouring the water in last so your herbs get spread throughout the larger ingredients.  If your ingredients are not covered by the water, stir and add a bit more liquid.
  2. If your ham hock is frozen (like mine usually are), cook on high for an hour and a half, stir, and then turn the crock pot down to low.  Cook for an additional 6-7 hours.  (If your ham hock is not frozen, just start the Crockpot on low and cook for 6-8 hours.)
  3. Pull the ham hock out of the soup.  Remove and shred as much meat as you can get off of it.  Stir/mash the peas in the soup.  Return the ham bits to the soup.  Stir and serve.
  4. You may garnish this with a touch of cream and/or croutons.

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