Martin W. Sandler never fails me. He’s written another book–How the Beatles Changed the World (2014)–that I would recommend to middle and early high school students – who are interested in this group, in this period, in music. I never understood the fascination with the Beatles beyond some cool songs and a funky look until I read this. Sandler is very aware of his audience. He has an overarching central idea – that the Beatles changed the world in many ways and in the book, he remains focused on this central idea–detailing a different way they influenced the world in each chapter (and how the world influenced them as well)–how they changed popular music, how they changed fashion, the influence of their songs on teens in Communist Russia, how they influenced religion, etc. Sandler’s writing is coherent and cohesive–he doesn’t condense too much information into too little text, but instead gives topics the room they need to grow our understanding of what he is saying. He weaves in tons of interesting facts without losing track of the message he is trying to convey.
What if while your middle school students are studying the 1960’s in social studies, they were also reading literature and nonfiction related to that time period in the ELA classroom? What if a group of students read this? Maybe other groups are reading books like Marching to the Mountaintop (Bausum, 2012) (about the last days of Dr. King). (Okay…where are my literature teachers? What literature do students read that occurs in this time period? Something on the Cold War? Something on the women’s rights movement? And other continued Civil Rights movements?) Then each group jigsaws or contributes to a larger project in the class – where multiple aspects of this time period are explored and discussed. There are so many possibilities.
And when I think about how reading, discussing, writing in response to, researching beyond this book fits with the Common Core – there are even more possibilities.
Reading Informational Text Standard 7.2 & 8.2 – determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development of the course of the text (plus add Standard 7.1 and 8.1 when the student cites textual support for their analysis)–Each chapter has a clear central idea that is well developed in the chapter. For example, in Chapter 8, “How the Beatles Changed Fashion,” Sandler describes several ways this happened while also getting at the idea that the multiple changes in fashion had a larger effect–Beatlemania. Chapter 7 “How the Beatles Became Prisoners of Success” requires more higher level thinking as the reader synthesizes the difficulties of being so successful and the larger toll it took on the band members.
Should I go on?
Reading Informational Text Standard 7.5 & 8.5 – analyze the structure of a text. Just looking at Sandler’s “Contents” gives the reader an idea that this will text will be in an enumerative structure; the overarching topic is how the Beatles changed the world, but then there are clear subtopics. Each chapter has a topic and within that chapter there are sub-topics. At the same time, this might be considered a blended structure because Sandler, over the course of several chapters, narrates the life of the group from beginning to their split and then each individual’s success after the split.
R.I. 7.6 & 8.6 – Sandler clearly has a point of view!
R.I. 7.7-9 & 8.7-9 – There’s so much on the Internet about the Beatles that Sandler’s views or the way he presents information could be compared with those of others.
There’s a lot of potential here. Even if you read aloud the introductory chapter – which is a fascinating narrative about the Beatles’ first trip to America to play on the Ed Sullivan Show, a tale that quickly draws the readers in–and then you assign chapters to be read, analyzed (for different purposes) and then shared out.
Oh, the possibilities!