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AYER — What makes a classic novel memorable? What kind of literature stays ingrained in a student’s mind for the rest of his life? These are the kinds of questions that Ayer High School 11th grade American literature teacher, Melanie Wittmier, asks herself when planning her curriculum.

Her honors class was delving into John Steinbeck’s novel, “Of Mice and Men,” and she pondered how to examine their understanding of this classic piece without administering a test.

“Tests are so anticlimactic,” Wittmier said. “I wanted to use a more creative way of celebrating that we had just finished an incredible novel.”

The way she chose to do this was in two parts. Each of the students had to write a paper on the novel, demonstrating their knowledge of the book, and the second part was to use their creativity to show her that they understood what they had read.

Wittmier, a Fitchburg State College alumnus who has been at AHS for six years, found that her students surpassed what she had imagined they would do.

“They did some really amazing projects,” she said. Three of her students did a female version of the book titled “Girls and Nails.” They drew a parallel between the actual characters wanting to own their own ranch, and their created characters wanting to own their own beauty salon. Kris Kauffman, a junior, created a musical rock adventure celebrating the characters and themes in Steinbeck’s classic novel which focuses on the topic of “outsiders” — individuals who do not fit into society. Kauffman utilized songs from Styx, ACDC, and Meatloaf, just to name a few.

Some groups tackled the assignment by doing a silent movie, a Regis & Kelly-esque talk show segment, a poetry book, and a quiz show, while others created scenes from the book out of playmobil legos.

Wittmier, who aims to inspire her students to have a love for learning and literature, says that she herself found that she wanted to become a teacher because she had fabulous teachers at Leominster High School. Wittmier, whose family immigrated to the United States from Germany when she was 14 years old, now lives in Ashburnham with her family, which includes an active 14-month-old toddler.

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