A friend of mine uses Plato's Allegory of the Cave as a way to introduce students to thinking about themselves and the role knowledge plays in their lives. I have made use of it the last few years of teaching and have found it successful. I generally ask students to read it and then create an illustrated version of the story for the next day of class. As one of the founders of our school says, "When in doubt, teach the classics."
When I was student-teaching/interning, my cooperating teacher handed me the introduction to Howard Zinn's You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times titled "The Question Period in Kalamazoo." I use Howard Zinn all the time in my class (so much that when he died last year, my students got into my classroom in the morning and put up RIP H.Zinn signs), but especially this introductory reading. It allows you to engage your students in the following questions:
- What is history?
- How and why is perspective important to understanding and learning about history?
- What role does our personal bias, and a teacher's personal bias, play in their teaching?
- Who are heroes?
- and many more
Also while student-teaching/interning (I had a truly master teacher as my cooperating teacher) she introduced me to a great text to use with students who are studying sociology. The reading is "Eating Your Friends is the Hardest" and while gruesome, helps to put in perspective the different agents that are involved in socialization.
What are your first week readings? Post a comment and let me know!
Good luck with the first week of school!