Making Curriculum Pop

Any fun lesson plans for Huck Finn? We're about half way through the novel...

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Hi Carol! Awesome that you're here. Have you taken a hot minute to look at the New York Times Learning Network "blog" for Teaching Twain and ‘Huckleberry Finn’ With The New York Times? In addition to that "meta-blog" - they have a couple other other Finn related resources - here is that search.

Oh, and you might also copy and paste they question in the American Lit group discussion forum as that has more teachers in it!

Thanks Ryan!

Thanks! I saw that NY Times source! for some Bluegrassy summary fun.


It's been a few years and I don't have my 10th grade stuff with me, so I can't give you the exact chapters or specific moments that I did this with, but...


Around the time Huck is running with the Duke and the King (swindling money as reformed pirates, performing Shakespeare) I start class by informing my students about a very scary thing that my brother's roommate's coworker told him.  I proceed to tell them a ridiculous urban legend (I found one about a spider under toilet seats that really freaks my kids out) with all the trimmings.  Friends of friends experienced it, googled it and it's on the Internet, really want to let you know so it doesn't happen to you... I then proceed to talk about the novel.  We point out all the times the Duke and the King swindle others with silly stories, we look at how odd it is that the townspeople tell all their neighbors to come to the show after it's clearly fraudulent, etc.  Usually it takes this long for students to catch on, but by the end of the lesson students should figure out that the tale I told was just as ridiculous as the Duke and the King. 

I don't know how well it fits in with the novel, but students remembered that silly urban legend (and may still believe it) long after we finished the book and even after they were long gone from my classroom. 


We also look at the lyrics to "Moonriver" (yes, I do the Andy Williams version, yes we listen to it more than once, and yes I encourage students to sing along and sway with their eyes closed.  They hate it!)  I usually was reading Huck around standardized testing time, so we SOAPSToned the poem and talk about point of view.  It's a good poem to look at tone versus the novel, how romanticized it is, etc.

Later, if I have time (and students usually need something after the end of the book) we watch "Bart on the Road" from season seven of the Simpsons.  There's some (very) loose connections that can be made to the book, but when they stop in Branson, Missouri Nelson makes the boys see Andy Williams, and when he sings "Moonriver" Nelson says something funny that escapes me now.  The kids always groan, and I always smile sweetly and say, "Moonriver's everywhere."


Finally, I have them do a timeline of Huck using the river as his timeline.  Then, they do a timeline of their lives.  I used the Jim Burke one (the book title escapes me) but they have to plot their points on a rating scale (1-5 above the timeline, -1--5 below) It helps do a close reading of Huck's events and helps students make connections and inferences that they don't otherwise. 

Have fun!  I miss teaching Huck Finn.

Thanks soooo much!

Colbert and Stewart did Huck Finn pieces last year - see VIDEO/ARTICLE: New Huck Finn - Colbert/DailyShow/NYTimes

Also you might pull excerpts from this modern retelling of Huck Finn they might get a kick out of this article

Teen Bandit Colton Harris-Moore: Modern-Day Huckleberry  Finn


Also, when I Tweeted the resource last night this came back -

@_mindblue_ contact Dominic Inouye at


This essay about the marginalization of Black English always sparks a great discussion.  It hammers home the idea that the meaning of HF can be found in the language.  It also illustrates that Jim's intelligence, or lack of intelligence, should not be merely based on the way he speaks.

So many mediums apply: music, student writing, literature, poetry and television.

Hi Carol, You may feel it's too far into the unit, but I've found that showing excerpts from the documentary, "The N Word," is a terrific way to engage students in thinking about the relevance of language. In particular, there is an excerpt on the origins of the word. Show that excerpt and Larry Wilmore's hilarious commentary on editing the word "slave" into "Huck Finn," and many thoughtful discussions about the history of language, who "owns" certain words, and the power of censorship will ensue. Wilmore's clip can be found at: Incidentally, both pieces of film also provide thoughtful commentary on the relevance and importance of Twain. A word of caution, both texts contain profanity, so do what you need to do to prepare students and protect yourself.


Hi Carol ~ Are you familiar with 60 Second Recap?  60second Recap uses lots of attitude and humor and will definitely appeal to the teens in your classroom. Here is a TeachersFirst review of the site 60 Second Recap Review. Huck Finn is on library their list.



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