Pre-reading: introducing the novel and setting the context
Ricochet River starts with an introduction from author Robin Cody. In his own words:
“When I began writing this book I was a high school teacher, parsing classic young narrator texts such as Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace and To Kill a Mockingbird. My sharpest students were quick to criticize my wanting to explain too much, to be too scholarly about themes and metaphors and such, to get in their way of enjoying a fine story.
‘We get it, Mr. Cody.’
Different readers will come to it from different angles, and if you have to explain the joke, or the book, it’s too late. And yet . . .
I am still at it. Now that I visit classrooms as the author, I’ve discovered that students are curious about how Ricochet River got made. Why did I do this or do that? It’s an opening. With a poke here and a nudge there, I can help teach my own book.
The following are some chapter-by-chapter pokes and nudges—questions to ponder and clues to note—along with some classroom activities that teachers and discussion leaders might find useful while exploring the story.
Don’t let me get in your way.”
Picture the popular jock, the blue-collar bookworm who wants more out of life, and the outcast who doesn’t know he’s not part of the club all navigating high school. Now cue the backdrop of a small town surrounded by woods and a dammed river, with nothing to do but hang out at the local cinema and café-barbershop. With warmth and nuance that has been celebrated for decades, Ricochet River reinvigorates the genre with an unequivocally Oregonian flare—calling readers back to a deeper understanding of nature and the simple freedoms that are often lost as we struggle to form identities and fit into an increasingly complicated world.
- Loyalty and friendship
- Class structure, racial discrimination, and social justice
- Coming of age and the loss of innocence
- Natural environment and the costs/benefits of industrialization
- Tameness vs. Wildness
K-W-L Exercises: Know, Want to Know, Learned
One effective way to introduce a novel is to establish a sense of the theme or themes teachers wish to analyze throughout reading and responding to the text. Below are examples of K-W-L exercises for each of the major themes identified in the novel, intended to offer connections in critical thought between students’ current thoughts and knowledge, objective curiosities before reading, and self-reflections upon completion of the unit.
1.Relationships are important in each of our lives. Sometimes in a relationship, both parties give and get. Friends in a mutual relationship do things for one another; they are loyal and they treat each other with dignity and respect. Identify and explain the necessary elements, traits or characteristics of a successful mutual relationship.
After the quick write and discussion, issue supplemental texts: “Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships”: University of Washington RI.9–10.1-8
Aristotle’s “Nichomachean Ethics” RL.9–10.9–10; RI.9–10.10
2. What do you know about the treaties cordoning Native American land into reservations? How did it come to pass that the First Nation tribes of the Pacific Northwest and Oregon were relegated to reservations? How did the forced move affect the tribes of the Pacific Northwest?
3. What does it mean to be innocent? What are the differences between innocence and experience? How do we measure the difference between childhood and adulthood? Is experience synonymous with cynicism?
4. What are the economic benefits and costs of damming natural rivers? What are the ecological costs and benefits? What factors should developmental planners consider when making high-impact decisions regarding the environment?
After the quick write and discussion, issue supplemental texts: “Celilo Falls Disappears in Hours after the Dalles Dam Floodgates are Closed, March 10, 1957” RI.9–10.1–8
YouTube short clip:“Echo of Water against Rocks” RI.9–10.7
YouTube short clip: “Woody Guthrie sings “Roll on Columbia”(1941) RI.9–10.7
Issue copies of Ricochet River to students with accompanying reading schedule (paced for approximately 12 days).
Explain and demonstrate online discussion board (Edmodo.com, Google Classroom.com, or other). One example:
“In our electronic blackboard, post a response to at least one of the following prompts or questions (see questions CHAPTER 1–2). Cite reasoning for your response with a direct quote from the text. Write at least 120 words for your paragraph, and respond with at least 50 words to one of your classmates’ posts. For help using direct quotes see the “Quote Sandwich” paragraph template handed out in class (in Appendix) or by the attached file “Quote Sandwich.”
Written responses are due posted online before the class period in which they will be discussed. Example: Chapter 1–2 reading responses are due before the Day 3: Chapter 3-4 lesson begins.
In the case that online posting and discussion isn’t feasible, see the “Reading Friend” journal form in the Appendix for reproducible copies of a hand-written reading response journal.
W.9–10.1, 2, 4, 6–10; RL.9–10.1-10; SL.9–10.5; L.9–10.1