Thursday, December 4, 2014

Passages for Oral Interpretation of Literature

This week, our high school Drama teacher asked me to help her students choose passages for an Oral Interpretation assignment. She wants them to examine characterization by preparing a selection that includes narration and two characters.

Although the best pieces are the ones students remember from their own reading, I chose some of my favorites to get them started. 

(Note: Scanned pages just give a sense of the passages; you'll still need the book. Also, some are upside down, sorry.)

Here are the passages I suggested. Please add other ideas in the comments. I hope this list will be a time-saver for others! 

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Part-way through the first chapter, we first see Scrooge as others see him: the bah humbug anti-Christmas curmudgeon. 

It starts with a description of Scrooge's office and then: 

"A Merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!" cried a cheerful voice...

"Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!"

Scanned section here.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

In Chapter 2, "The Vanishing Glass", the Dursleys have allowed Harry to tag along on a trip to the zoo. Harry communicates with a snake and makes the glass partition disappear. His mind-meld with the snake makes good reading:

The snake suddenly opened its beady eyes. Slowly, very slowly, it raised its head until its eyes were on a level with Harry's.

It winked.
Harry stared....

Scanned section here.

The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton

In Chapter 3, Ponyboy's brother hits him, and Ponyboy runs to the park and tells his friend Johnny about it. It's a poignant passage because both boys are dealing with rough home situations. The dialogue is perfectly timed.

"I think I like it better when the old man's hittin' me." Johnny sighed. "At least then I know he knows who I am."

Scanned section here.

The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Ivan, a gorilla, tells the story of his time in captivity with Stella, an ailing elephant, and Ruby, a baby elephant, among other characters. 

There are two sections that work well together: one is called "Elephant Jokes" and the other is "Ruby's Story." The first is lighthearted and establishes the connection among the animals. The second starts out light but ends up dark because it's the story of how Ruby, the baby elephant, was captured.

Scanned section here.

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

Although this passage doesn't have two characters and a narrator, it feels like it does because the Old Man is talking to himself, thinking to himself, and there's narration in between. 

One particularly effective section is when the Old Man begins to realize his commitment to the task of catching the big fish and his realization that he's totally alone in the effort. 

"Fish," he said softly aloud, "I'll stay with you until I am dead." 

Scanned section here.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

Early in the novel (section 41) our narrator Christopher, an autistic boy, talks with his father about his concerns over a dog that has been killed in his neighbor's yard. We feel the tension of the father's frustration alongside the boy's unique way of thinking. It's good to read aloud because the pacing of the conversation is tight, like David-Mamet-tight. 

   I thought for a little while and I said, "I am going to find out who killed Wellington."

   And father said, "Were you listening to what I was saying, Christopher?"
   I said, "Yes, I was listening to what you were saying, but when someone gets murdered you have to find out who did it so that they can be punished."
   And he said, "It's a bloody dog, Christopher, a bloody dog."
   I replied, "I think dogs are important, too."
   He said, "Leave it."

Scanned section here.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

In the chapter "Hope against hope", our main character, Junior, has been suspended from school for hitting his teacher. In the scene, he and the teacher have a talk that goes from awkward to funny to dead-serious. It's a bit long, but if the assignment allows for it, the whole chapter would be great.

     "Your sister wanted to be a writer," Mr. P said.

     "Really?" I asked...
     "She was shy about it," Mr. P said. "She always thought people would make fun of her."
     "For writing books?"...
     "Well, she wasn't shy about the idea of writing books. She was shy about the kind of books she wanted to write.""
     "What kind of books did she want to write?" I asked
     "You're going to laugh."
     "No, I'm not."
     "Yes, you are."
     "No, I'm not."
     "Yes, you are."
Jeez, we had both turned into seven year-olds.
     "Just tell me," I said...

Scanned section here.

Stargirl, by Jerry Sprinelli

When Hilary first comes onto the scene at her new high school, everyone is buzzing about it. She's so different, SO new. 

In Chapter 2, we feel that excitement: 

"Did you see her?"
"See who?"
"Hah!" He craned his neck, scanning the mob. He had witnessed something remarkable; it showed on his face. He grinned, still scanning. "You'll know."

Scanned section here.

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D Salinger

Ok, best for last. Pretty much any page in this book will have narration and dialogue that hits the perfect combination of angst and hilarity. A personal favorite: the first time we meet Holden's moss-toothed dorm mate, Ackley. 

He came down off the shower ledge and came in the room. "Hi," he said. He always said it like he was terrifically bored or terrifically tired. He didn't want you to think he was visiting you or anything. He wanted you to think he'd come in by mistake, for God's sake.

Scanned section here.

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