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Academic First Year Experiences

Jeannette Walls at Freshman Convocation

Freshman Faculty Series: Upcoming Events

Archive and Library


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Associated Students President Amanda Flavin reads "The Glass Castle."

Teaching The Glass Castle: Resources for Faculty and Staff

CSUN students with "The Glass Castle" in front of the Valley Performing Arts Center.

So: you missed the last chance to talk about The Glass Castle with other CSUN staff and faculty before the start of the fall semester. But all is not lost! There's still enough time for you to read The Glass Castle before author Jeannette Walls visits campus on Sep. 8 as the keynote speaker for Freshman Convocation. In fact, CSUN staff and faculty may request a free copy of the book (while supplies last). Contact Cheryl Spector at x6535 or via email. Please include:

And in case you know someone who needs persuading, here are Ten Reasons to Attend Freshman Convocation.

Assignments across the Curriculum

Cover of "The Glass Castle": photograph of a thoughtful girl with her chin on her elbow.

Assignments college-by-college from Wayne Smith, PhD (Department of Management and UNIV 100)

According to Wayne's Preface, his packet of "Reflections, Tasks and Projects" (updated 7-21-2011;.pdf, 133kb) "is intended to help U100 instructors and others use The Glass Castle in many practical ways. The ideas in this document are organized loosely by 'College' at CSUN." According to Cheryl, there are enough ideas here to last for years, and as is the case with other monumental efforts (such as Gothic cathedrals), this majestic work is naturally unfinished. And therefore, faculty (especially those teaching in the College of Health and Human Development) are invited to suggest additional ideas for approaching the book from their own disciplines.

Resource packet from Ronit Sarig's March 2011 workshop

Thanks to CSUN faculty member Ronit Sarig for sharing the following packet of materials for teaching The Glass Castle, and to the March 9 workshop participants who added their suggestions to the discussion.

  1. Cover page for this packet of resources (includes quotations)
  2. Web resources: interviews and YouTube videos
  3. Discussion topics for your classroom
  4. Essay topics appropriate for GE (115/155) writers: most will require students to do research
  5. Content questions (keyed to sections of the book) if you want to judge how closely students are reading or if you want to quiz the class. Version for faculty--with answer key--available from Cheryl Spector or Ronit Sarig on request.
  6. Who said what to whom....? Quote-based game or quiz. Version for faculty--with answer key--available from Cheryl Spector or Ronit Sarig on request.

Resource packet from Debbi Mercado's early spring book group

Thanks to CSUN faculty member Debbi Mercado for sharing her packet of materials for teaching The Glass Castle, and to the spring 2011 Wednesday book group participants who added their suggestions to the discussion. The packet is extensive and includes ideas for faculty teaching freshman writing (both 155 and 115); University 100; and other subjects (sociology, child development, and others) as well as ideas for Community Engagement projects.

Debbi Mercado's packet: Word .docx file, 35 kb; or .pdf file, 150 kb

Overview of packet contents:

  1. Stretch Composition Program Ideas
  2. University 100 Ideas
  3. Other Campus Activity Possibilities
  4. Essay or Discussion Questions and Free-writes
  5. Links, Articles, Videos
  6. Text-Based Argument Essay
  7. Blog Assignment
  8. Socratic Seminar
  9. Reading Assignment with Persuasive Essay Prompt

Assignments from Cynthia Glucksman, CSUN English Department

Cynthia has taught The Glass Castle at LA Valley College and Pierce College as well as at CSUN. With respect to the "essay assignment handout," she notes that option #1 (symbolism of the glass castle) or #4 (fire and turbulence) are more challenging prompts and might therefore be more appropriate for Stretch Composition 115.

  1. Essay assignment handout (.doc file, 36 kb)
  2. Journal prompts (.doc file, 30 kb)
  3. Reflection question and quotation "scavenger hunt" (.doc file, 26 kb)

Stretch Composition, Progression 2 by Irene Clark (English Department)

This sample assignment for Stretch Composition 115 (pdf, 82kb) uses The Glass Castle for Progression 2, "Seeing and Hearing Texts." Steve Wexler (English) comments: "As Irene’s 115 syllabus demonstrates, our Stretch template--skeleton--is flexible. The original Progression II is called 'Seeing and Hearing Texts,' and emphasizes visual and aural rhetorics. Like many of you, I’ve imagined students doing a good deal of reading during Progression II (as with the other Progressions). A novel is one way to go. Last fall, my 114 students read a variety of essays from a composition anthology. Both novel and essay inform the student writings, exercises and essays."

The Resource Packet from Debbi Mercado also includes some Stretch Composition assignments using The Glass Castle.

Lesson Plans for University 100 (the Freshman Seminar) by Lisa Riccomini

  1. Light or "dessert" version: a one-class or add-on approach requiring very little class time
  2. Medium or "appetizer" version: parts of two class meetings bookending Freshman Convocation
  3. Heavy or version: making the book central all semester long

Further Reading

Oviatt Library resources

  1. Menzel, Peter, and Faith D'Aluisio. Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Berkeley, Calif: Ten Speed, 2007. Print. http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b2659672
  2. Menzel, Peter, and Charles C. Mann. Material World: A Global Family Portrait. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994. Print. http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b1669436
  3. Stix, Gary. "The Neuroscience of True Grit." Scientific American, 304 (Mar 2011): 28-33. Print and Web. Available in Oviatt Library (and a good first information competence search assignment for your freshmen).
  4. The library also has copies of The Glass Castle on Floor 4 East Wing Reserves: Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: A Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print. http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b2058388

Thanks to CSUN librarian Marcia Henry for these Oviatt Library resources.

Web resources

  1. View the video of the 2011 Convocation ceremony. Includes supertitles.
  2. http://wewerenotorphans.com/-- Debbi Mercado suggests that excerpts from this book might be used in connection with The Glass Castle to explore answers to the question, “Should the kids have been taken away?” Various voices are chronicled in the book, and the website offers video interviews of these “kids,” now grown. Debbi adds: "Quite moving, I thought, and an interesting way to explore whether 'family' is always better, no matter what the situation is."
  3. http://www.americanplacetheatre.org/roster/show/the-glass-castle#--American Place Theatre's "Literature to Life" series offers a one-woman show featuring "sixty minutes of verbatim performance" from the book. (Tip of the hat to Theatre Department chair Garry Lennon, who found this site and notes that "it could be an opportunity to examine the text in a different context and enhance the reading experience to an even broader campus audience." We're waiting to hear back from APT, in case you're wondering.)
  4. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-makes-a-good-parent: "What Makes a Good Parent?" by Robert Epstein. Scientific American, Nov. 4, 2010. Online. "A scientific analysis ranks the 10 most effective child-rearing practices." Do you agree? (Thanks to CSUN faculty member Andrea Hernandez for this article.)

Additional Resources

The Glass Castle at Other Colleges