OFOCN: Days One And Two

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Jan
  • 23
  • 2009

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is a great novel. It’s fun to teach because it’s so far removed from what students are used to reading in class and the content typically gets them intrigued enough to give the thing a fair shake. It’s a bit of a challenge, though, for those very same reasons.

Times And Handouts

We spent about forty minutes reading today (read only eight pages for all the discussion we had) and only about ten minutes yesterday. For these first few days, just read in class.

I’ll probably post this a few more times, but here’s the packet we use:

Mad, mad props to Bob Barsanti for the packet. I’ve changed a bit, but it certainly uses the skeleton and much of the muscle he provided.

I’m mixing up the reading styles in the hopes that everyone enjoys at least one of these ways to get through things:

  • Teacher reads
  • Students read (Quaker, jigsaw, what have you)
  • Silent read
  • Small-group read

Any other suggestions for reading styles to employ? We’ll need to make it through fifty pages a week to be done in time. Some reading will have to be done for homework. That’s just how it goes. I’ll get back to you with a reading schedule later.


  1. Give an emotional reading of the opening section. This works really well to get the students interested. No pressure because the writing is very easy to throw your emotions behind. Play it upset, yet matter-of-fact during the opening bit about the “humming hate and death and other hospital secrets.” Grow fast and crazy during the descriptions of Big Nurse blowing up “bigger and bigger, big as a tractor” and, later, as the shaver gets to Bromden’s temples, when “it’s a … button, pushed, says Air Raid Air Raid.”
  2. Ask the students what just happened. You’re hoping for a “He’s crazy!” response.
  3. Ask what that says about our narrator. How will we know when he’s telling the truth and exaggerating?
  4. Begin the process of picking the truth that sparked the hallucination (Ratched yelled at the black boys for not working and Bromden saw her turn into a monster, etc.). Carry that throughout the novel. At each hallucination, what’s the truth that caused it?
  5. By the second section, work out the Vaseline incident and what’s on the cards McMurphy brings to the ward. Those are between the lines a bit and a good way to begin analysis.
  6. Paint the differences between McMurphy and the rest. Hit those things hard now so it’s clear moving forward.
  7. Watch out for an F-bomb or three. We read one aloud and the other two were during a silent reading part.
  8. Define Acutes and Chronics. What happened to Ellis and Ruckly?
  9. Why does Kesey have McMurphy talk and act the ways he does? What do we now know about the ward and the characters in it? How does the ward treat its patients?

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