Teaching Purple

Steven Harper PiziksWhen my English 12 students finish MAUS, we’re moving on to THE COLOR PURPLE. I’ve never taught it before and was floundering over ways to approach the book.

Part of the district curriculum requires seniors to compare three different versions of the same work. Previously, I’d taught TARTUFFE, and used the written play, a performance of it, and an updated modern-day version of the story. For PURPLE, I have the book and the movie. I just need a third.

Several years ago, the BBC did a radio version of the book, which would have been perfect, but I can’t find it anywhere. The BBC’s web site doesn’t make it available, and it’s nowhere else to be found. (If anyone here knows where to get it, hit me up!)  I finally settled on using clips from the Broadway musical, which are widely available.

But how to approach teaching the actual literature?

Internet to the rescue! I found a set of study questions that beautifully divided the book into sections (very handy for reading assignments). I found another site that gave a number of excellent activities and even PowerPoint slides for introducing the novel. I’m using these as springboards.

I’ll have to preview the book heavily. I can already see one set of my students, who are immature for their age, will have problems with the book, which is very explicit. But my other sections should handle it well. I’m looking forward to it. MAUS is already pushing their preconceptions of literature. PURPLE will do it further.

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Danny Large



Teaching Purple — 2 Comments

  1. Bravo, Steven! This is probably not useful for this year’s set of classes, but did you consider pinging BBC and asking if they have made the radio program available anywhere? For a teacher who wants it for a class, they might at least tell you its status.

  2. “I can already see one set of my students, who are immature for their age, will have problems with the book, which is very explicit.”
    We had the same problem when I was in school – the amount of giggling when we read (at 16! so many decades ago!) that only gay men are fit for politics, and that Achilles was the beloved and not the lover of Patroclus because he was much handsomer(!!) cannot be described. But we did go through the whole of Plato’s Symposium nevertheless, and we were better for it. One bit of my school education that never faded.