Second Chances: Discussing The Secret Garden with Sarah Kiesewetter
By Avery Lacey, ’20
“The Secret Garden is one of my very favorite books to teach,” says Sarah Kiesewetter, 5th grade teacher at Golden View Classical Academy. The novel’s sympathetic characters and themes of friendship and renewal engage 5th graders particularly. Kiesewetter likes to focus on this theme of revival throughout the novel: “Despite hardship and what you think might be your future, there’s always a second chance.”
“One literary element that we draw out,” Kiesewetter says, “is how the author uses the garden in the novel coming back to life as a clear parallel to the children’s souls reviving. It’s a great way to get students to look at the setting as a driving force for the characters’ lives and for the plot itself.” Sometimes one has to draw out parallels before students see them, but in this novel, Kiesewetter says, “it’s so organic that it teaches itself.”
When it comes to student work, Kiesewetter recommends open-ended activities for The Secret Garden: “You can easily kill a novel by making students take home a sheet of comprehension questions. Try to preserve the main ideas. If you’re going to assess the novel, try to give students a question that ties to the main theme of the novel and let them write about it.” If a teacher can get a student to “really appreciate the beauty of the novel, they’ll remember it much more. Just enjoy it!”
Click here for a downloadable Secret Garden poster (PDF format) to use in your classroom.