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Teaching Guide

Teaching The House of the Spirits

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The ghosts aren't the only things in The House of the Spirits worth checking out. We've got politics, gender, and feminism, forces that are still alive today's world. No need for a séance to call out these themes—just Shmoop.

In Shmoop's guide, you'll find

  • resources exploring the author's family history, which is every bit as interesting as the novel.
  • a photo collage activity helping students visualize the settings (will there be any ghosts in the photos?).
  • essay questions exploring the book's narrative style, as well as those important themes we mentioned above.

And so much more.

Who ya gonna call to bust these spirits? Shmoop, of course.

What's Inside Shmoop's Literature Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring literature to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 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: We know this will come as a shock, but some of your students may not be as in love with The House of the Spirits as we are. Allende's book has received a lot of criticism as well as a lot of praise, and both sides make some valid points. Why not let your students have their say too? Hey, we have no problem with students disliking aspects of a book as long as they give it a thorough read and can support their opinions with text evidence and valid arguments.

This lesson will teach students to do just that. First, they'll study a few sample book reviews in order to learn how reviewers construct arguments and use text evidence to support their opinions. Then, they'll write their own book review of The House of the Spirits.

This lesson should take about two days.

Materials Needed:

Step 1: We'll start, as we usually do, with a discussion. Ask students to fess up to how they really feel about the book, but make them give thoughtful answers rather than just whining.

  • What parts do you like the best and why?
  • What parts do you dislike and why?
  • How do you feel about the use of magical realism in this novel? Do you think it's a useful style or not?
  • How do you feel about the politics of the novel? Do you agree or disagree with the point of view presented? Do you think the politics are important to the novel, or a distraction from the story?
  • How do you feel about the gender roles portrayed in the novel? Are they accurate or problematic? How does this affect the themes of the novel?

Step 2: Explain to students that book reviewers are allowed to love a book, hate it, or anything in between as long as they can show their readers valid reasons why they feel the way they do. To show students what you mean, ask them to read the two New York Times reviews for homework. As they read, they should make notes about the major points of each argument and how the authors support those points.

Step 3: The next day, discuss students' findings on the book reviews. What are the main points of each review? How do the authors support their points with specific examples and text evidence? How do the authors relate the evidence back to their argument? Students should notice that the "Books of the Times" review in particular is critical of many aspects of the novel. Point out that it's okay for them to be critical as well, as long as they support their opinion with valid evidence from the text.

Step 4: Now that students have looked at some sample reviews and talked through their own opinions on the book, it's time for them to write a book review of The House of the Spirits. They should use the sample reviews as a model for how to structure theirs. Remind students that you'll be looking for how well they use text evidence in support of their argument. Prepare yourself for the uncut version of what students really think about the book.

Helpful Shmoop links:

Instructions for Your Students

Okay, you can admit it; we know that not all of you are as in love with The House of the Spirits as we are. Allende's book has received a lot of criticism as well as a lot of praise, and both sides make some valid points. So we're going to let you have your say too. Hey, we have no problem with you disliking aspects of a book as long as you give it a thorough read and can support your opinions with text evidence and valid arguments.

Time to suit up to do just that. First, you'll study a few sample book reviews in order to learn how reviewers construct arguments and use text evidence to support their opinions. Then, you'll write your own book review of The House of the Spirits. Whether you think the book is brilliant or terrible, we're ready to hear it.

Step 1: Time to fess up. How do you really feel about the book? Seriously, we can take it. Just make sure you can explain why you feel the way you do.

  • What parts do you like the best and why?
  • What parts do you dislike and why?
  • How do you feel about the use of magical realism in this novel? Do you think it's a useful style or not?
  • How do you feel about the politics of the novel? Do you agree or disagree with the point of view presented? Do you think the politics are important to the novel, or a distraction from the story?
  • How do you feel about the gender roles portrayed in the novel? Are they accurate or problematic? How does this affect the themes of the novel?

Step 2: Book reviewers are allowed to love a book, hate it, or anything in between as long as they can show their readers valid reasons why they feel the way they do. You all are allowed to have the same range of opinions about The House of the Spirits. To prove it, you'll read two reviews for homework. One is favorable, one not so much, but both make carefully supported arguments for their assessments. As you read, you should make notes about the major points of each argument and how the authors support those points.

Step 3: Let's talk about the reviews you read. What are the main points of each review? How do the authors support their points with specific examples and text evidence? How do the authors relate the evidence back to their argument? Which aspects of these reviews do you agree or disagree with?

Step 4: Now it's your turn. Using the sample reviews as a model, you'll write your own book review of The House of the Spirits. This is the moment you've been waiting for. You have permission to say whatever you want about this book. Are the descriptions long-winded? Are the magical moments silly and distracting? Are the male characters shallow and one-dimensional? Or, do you find the book (or at least parts of the book) inspiring, surprising, or thought-provoking? We're ready to hear it either way. Just be sure to support all of your ideas with text evidence and sound arguments.

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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