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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Joy Luck Club

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The Joy Luck Club was an international sensation when it first came out, read everywhere from beaches to book clubs…and now classrooms. All you'll need is a little luck—and a lot of this teaching guide—to bring joy to your little club (i.e., your classroom).

In this guide you will find

  • an activity that blends character analysis with one of the most addictive games on the planet (no, not Candy Crush…Mahjong).
  • pop culture connections, like our old mainstay The Simpsons and the fact that Amy Tan is in a band. (Who knew?)
  • historical resources, including information on Immigration and the Vietnam War.

And much more.

Hmm, they really should start including snippets of our guide inside fortune cookies…

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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.
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Instructions for You

Objective: The Joy Luck Club is a story about a very particular cultural group: Chinese immigrant women. How would the story be different if it were about a different cultural subset? Say, Chinese men? Italian women? Mexican children? Students will be able to adapt a scene from the novel into dramatic form – changing the cultural group involved – and act out the scene in class. This will require cultural sensitivity and will allow students to think deeply about how the immigrant experience would be different for different cultural groups. Students will further be able to justify their adaptations in a written, literary response. (That means it's fun, games, and thinking.)

Time frame: 1-2 days

Materials Needed: Text of The Joy Luck Club, computers with Internet access

Step 1: For homework the day before you begin this activity, have the students poke around the Shmoop guides to immigration. Ask them to take notes on things they find surprising, interesting, or moving.

Step 2: Brainstorming time! Now that students are a little more familiar with immigration in the U.S., ask them to brainstorm a list of the immigrant groups with which they're familiar. Encourage them to think about what they read on the Shmoop guides, as well as thinking about their own family, friends, stories they've read, movies they've watched... immigration is everywhere! Make a list of these immigrant groups in a place where all the students can see and refer to it.

Step 3: Now it's time to get those creative juices flowing. Tell students that they will be writing and acting out a scene from the novel. But here's the kicker: they'll be changing the immigrant group involved. Also let them know that they'll be justifying their adaptation of the novel with a supporting written analysis, so they should be sure their choices are deliberate.

Step 4: Divide the class into small groups. Each group will need to make two decisions: (1) which immigrant group to portray, and (2) which scene from the novel to adapt. It is crucial to emphasize the issue of cultural sensitivity here.

Allow as much class time as possible during class for the groups to meet and think about their portrayal. If you have Internet access in the classroom, also allow them the time to do some research about the immigrant group they have chosen. As always, have them jot down their sources: this will come in handy when writing their analysis.

[This part of the lesson can conclude Day 1 of the unit.]

Step 5: Students will finish their research on their own time and work with their group to write and practice their adaptation. When the projects are due, allow class time for the groups to show their performances.

Each student will also need to turn in an analysis that justifies their dramatic adaptation: they should refer both to the novel and to the outside research they have done on their immigrant group.
(California English Language Arts Standards Met: 9th and 10th grade Reading: 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 2.5, 3.2, 3.5, 3.12; Writing: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.2abcd; Listening and Speaking: 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.6abc. 11th and 12 grade Reading: 1.3, 2.4, 2.5, 3.6, 3.7a; Writing: 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 2.2abcde; Listening and Speaking: 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 2.5.)

Instructions for Your Students

Student Intro:

It's your time to shine! For this activity, you're going to take a scene straight from The Joy Luck Club and adapt it for the stage (or, the classroom floor, at least!). Here's the catch: instead of just acting out what happens in the book, you're going to change it up and imagine that a different immigrant group was in the same position. How would the scene be different if it were about a different cultural subset? Say, Chinese men? Italian women? Mexican children? Do your research and make deliberate choices, because you'll also have to defend your adaptation in a written, literary response.

Step 1: Yep, there's homework. But it's Shmoopy homework, so it can't be that bad. All you have to do is take some time to poke around the Shmoop guides to immigration. Take notes on anything you find surprising, interesting, or moving. Nothing is too small to notice, so just jot down whatever catches your eye.

Step 2: Get your thinking caps on. Now that you're a little more familiar with immigration in the U.S., it's time to brainstorm a list of the immigrant groups with which you're familiar. For starters, think about what you read for homework on the Shmoop guides. But don't stop there. Also think about the history of your family and friends, stories you've read, movies you've watched... immigration is everywhere! How many immigrant groups can you think of?

Step 3: Now it's time to get those creative juices flowing: you're going to write and act out a scene from The Joy Luck Club. Just one thing: it's no longer Chinese women in your story, but a totally different immigrant group. Makes it a little tougher, huh?

In small groups, you'll have to make two decisions: (1) which immigrant group to portray, and (2) which scene from the novel to adapt. Choose wisely: some scenes might be more adaptable than others, especially when you're portraying a new cultural subset.

As a group, do some Internet research on your immigrant group. Be sure to jot down your sources: this will come in handy when writing your analysis.

Step 4: Finish this research on your own time and work with your group to write and practice your adaptation. Of course, when you're done, you'll get to show off your masterpiece to the class. Lights, camera, action!

You'll also need to turn in an analysis that justifies your dramatic adaptation: make sure you refer both to the novel and to the outside research you've done on your immigrant group to back up your creative decisions.

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE JOY LUCK CLUB?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

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