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Teaching Guide

Teaching A Good Man is Hard to Find

A Good Shmoop Is Easy to Find.

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A good man is hard to find (just ask politics), and a good short story can be even harder. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is one of the best short stories out there, so we're going to make sure to teach it right…or else Flannery O'Connor might send that murderous Misfit after us.

Who knew the South could be so scary? If you're heading into this Southern-fried Gothic, pack some buttermilk biscuits, sweet tea, a map of Georgia, and this teaching guide. We'll give you

  • reading quizzes to keep your students occupied either in class or on a road trip.
  • activities to connect "A Good Man is Hard to Find" with other works of Gothic or Southern Gothic literature.
  • Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, and Bessie Smith "The Empress of Blues" singing about this story. No joke.

We know that a good teaching guide is hard to find, too, but fear not: you just found one.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Here at Shmoop, we know a lot of good men, so we'd definitely argue that a good ending—to a story, novel, or film—is the more difficult commodity to locate. In this activity, we'll find out if you and your students agree. 

Your students will watch Black Hearts Bleed Red, Jeri Cain Rossi's movie adaptation of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," and comment on the choices the producer made in adapting the story to film format. (Yay! Movie time!) As part of the whole process, they'll answer critical questions about the piece, participate in a classroom discussion, and then rewrite the story with—you guesed it—an alternate ending. If time permits, they can stage their alternate endings, and hey, amongst them, maybe they'll find one they all think is good. 

Length of Lesson: You can expect to spend one class period discussing the film and introducing the activity, and possibly one or two more class periods for students to present their alternate stories.

Materials Needed:

  • Internet access (to watch the film)

NOTE: Steps 1 & 2 can be completed in class, or, if time is short, assigned as homework the night before.

Step 1: Go over the following critical questions with your students so they'll have them in mind as they watch the film. 

  1. List three adjectives that describe how the movie makes you—the audience—feel. Does it evoke the same emotions as O'Connor's original story? What's different? What's the same?
  2. How does Rossi depict the characters? Think about their physical appearance, behavior, and attitude. Do they look and act the way you imagined them as you read the story or are they different in some way? Explain any discrepancies.
  3. Describe the setting of the movie. Is it what you pictured? Did it work for you? Why or why not?  
  4. The final scene of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is often the most controversial. Using the text alone, what are different ways that the reader could interpret the ending of the story? Did you like the ending of the story? Why or why not?
  5. How does Black Hearts Bleed Red interpret the final scene? Did you prefer the film's ending or the story's?

Step 2: Have students watch Jeri Cain Rossi's 15-minute movie Black Hearts Bleed RedThis adaptation surprised many viewers, who reported that they imagined the story in a different way. Your students may be in the same camp.

If students are watching the film as homework, ask them to answer the discussion questions in writing (so they'll be able to refer back to them in class). If they're watching it in class, they can jot down answers during the viewing, and you can give them 10 minutes or so once the film is over to finish up.

Step 3: Whether they watched it as homework or in class, it's time to talk. Lead your students in a discussion of the film, the original story, and their responses to the study questions.

Step 4: Next, have your students take a whack at rewriting the ending of the story their way. Here's a prompt to get them going.

PROMPT:
Keeping in mind our class discussion, your own thoughts on the story's ending, and the way in which Black Hearts Bleed Red adapts various elements of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," rewrite the ending of the story à la you. Feel free to write it in screenplay format or to stick with the short story model. You can even turn it into a epic poem, Homer style, if you want. Whatever format you choose, be sure to include a lead-in so we know where you're picking up the tale. And when you're done? Answer the questions below:

  1. What challenges arose in rewriting the end of the story?
  2. Why did you select the ending that you did? What is its significance? 
  3. How does your revision deviate from or remain faithful to O'Connor's original text?
  4. How do you think your ending improves on or expands upon O'Connor's ending?

As they seek to create the perfect ending (or hey, just a good one), students might want to check out: 

Step 5: Have students share their endings in class, either in small groups or individual oral presentations. 

Step 6: [Optional] Have students read their pieces in small groups (4-5 students each) and choose one to adapt into a dramatic performance. Their adaptations may take the form of plays to be performed live or movies to be shown in class. They can be as creative as they wish with their chosen mode of adapting the story, so long as they clear their ideas with you first. If you go this route, you'll probably need another day or two of class time for the performances/presentations. 

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th & 10th grade Reading 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.8, 3.10, 3.11; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8, 1.9, 2.2; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 1.11, 1.14, 2.1, 2.4, 2.6. 11th & 12th grade Reading 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.9, 2.2, 2.6; Listening & Speaking 1.3, 1.9, 1.10, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4.)

Instructions for Your Students

A good man, a good woman, a good burger joint—at times, they can all be difficult to find. But what about a good ending? Did you like the way Flannery O'Connor ended her story? Would you have done it differently? Jeri Cain Rossi did. 

Jeri Cain who? Rossi. She's a director who adapted O'Connor's tale into a 15-minute movie ... with a different ending. So you know what's coming, right? Right. You're going to watch Rossi's film, analyze it, comment on it, discuss it, and then take a whack at creating your own alternate ending for A Good Man is Hard to Find

What did you think of the ending of "A Good Man is Hard to Find"? Love it or hate it, this is your chance to remake it. You'll begin by watching a short film that modified O'Connor's ending, then make your own film or play that imagines an alternate ending for the story.

Step 1: Pop the popcorn! Cue the Milk Duds! It's movie time. Either as homework or in class (your teacher will tell you which), watch Jeri Cain Rossi's 15-minute movie Black Hearts Bleed Red and answer the questions below.

  1. List three adjectives that describe how the movie makes you—the audience—feel. Does it evoke the same emotions as O'Connor's original story? What's different? What's the same?
  2. How does Rossi depict the characters? Think about their physical appearance, behavior, and attitude. Do they look and act the way you imagined them as you read the story or are they different in some way? Explain any discrepancies.
  3. Describe the setting of the movie. Is it what you pictured? Did it work for you? Why or why not?  
  4. The final scene of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is often the most controversial. Using the text alone, what are different ways that the reader could interpret the ending of the story? Did you like the ending of the story? Why or why not?
  5. How does Black Hearts Bleed Red interpret the final scene? Did you prefer the film's ending or the story's?

Step 3: In class, discuss your responses to Rossi's movie and the questions.

Step 4: Now take a whack at rewriting the end of A Good Man is Hard to Find your way. Here's a prompt to get you going.

PROMPT: 
Keeping in mind our class discussion, your own thoughts on the story's ending, and the way in which Black Hearts Bleed Red adapts various elements of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," rewrite the ending of the story à la you. Feel free to write it in screenplay format or to stick with the short story model. You can even turn it into a epic poem, Homer style, if you want. Whatever format you choose, be sure to include a lead-in so we know where you're picking up the tale. And when you're done? Answer the questions below:

  1. What challenges arose in rewriting the end of the story?
  2. Why did you select the ending that you did? What is its significance? 
  3. How does your revision deviate from or remain faithful to O'Connor's original text?
  4. How do you think your ending improves on or expands upon O'Connor's ending?

As you seek to create the perfect ending (or hey, just a good one), you might want to check out: 

Step 5: When you're done with your ending, you'll have a chance to share it in class, which also means you'll get to hear how your peers decided to alter the ending. Fun, right? What do you think? Will anyone else's ending be like yours, or will your ending stand out as the one ending to rule them all? 

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10

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