It’s no secret: I am a fan of The New Yorker. I began my subscription to The New Yorker a couple of years ago when I decided to be intentional about learning how to write. If one wants to write well, she should read good writers, and everyone knows that some of the best current writing is in The New Yorker. Last week on my way out of the school library, I glanced over at the holiday display when what to my wondering eyes did appear but Christmas at the New Yorker so I halted my rear. The forecast of snow brought early dismissal and dread but visions of new mentor texts and lesson plans danced in my head. Okay – you get the idea. I immediately scooped up this book knowing that I had found a stocking full of ideas to keep us moving forward until break while giving us a break from the ordinary. Here are five lessons inspired by Christmas at The New Yorker.
“Greetings, Friends!” (2016) is the most recent of the annual version of the poem in The New Yorker that much like a Christmas card pays homage to the season as well as reflects on the previous year. This would work perfectly as a mentor text for students writing their own “Greeting, Friends!” after they explore several from past years. “Greetings, Friends!” gives the history of this New Yorker staple.
A Visit from Saint Nicholas (in the Ernest Hemingway Manner) (Thurber, 1927) is amazing and offers a multitude of opportunities for learning in the classroom. The first, and most obvious, is a study of Hemingway’s style by comparing this with his other short stories. How would you describe Hemingway’s style? How does his style reinforce the message he is stating? Another option would be a study of form, syntax, and/or selection of detail (among countless other things) comparing this piece with the original. Students could also use this as a mentor text and write their own “A Visit from Saint Nicholas (in the _________________________) Manner” in the style of a favorite author or poet.
The Twelve Terrors of Christmas (Updike, 1992) immediately caught my eye since we are finishing up a satire unit in Room 128. Updike wryly examines twelve Christmas traditions, and as with all good satire leaves the reader chuckling while thinking “hmmmmmm.” This piece was later expanded into a illustrated book with pictures by Edward Gorey making this not only a mentor text for writing but for art as well.
“Holy Night” (Benson, 1942) immediately caught my eye maybe because I spent 29 years of my life as a pastor’s wife or maybe because it is short yet poignant – my favorite kind of story. I can picture my students having a lot to discuss concerning the wife, husband, and the meaning of it all. Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor (Cheever, 1949) is also a personal favorite.
The New Yorker holiday covers (and here) also speak to different time periods, provide opportunity for analysis, and are simply beautiful. I have also been a fan of using art in the classroom because it allows students the opportunity to analyze while giving them a break from the written word. We could study an image as a class or students could find their own favorite an analyze like they would a poem.
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