What Teachers and Students Are Saying About Sleeping

We are honored to know that Sleeping is being used in classrooms across the U.S. and Canada and we thought we would share some of the feedback we have received from teachers and students.

“Sleeping” is Not Only Okay in My Classroom, it is Encouraged…

By Kily Keeling, M.F.A., OKCPS E.L.A. Teacher

I came across Katharine Weber’s work while in graduate school at Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth M.F.A. program. Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl, taught a class focused on Narrative writing and used Weber’s short story “Sleeping” as one of the readings. I was drawn to the story. I couldn’t stop brainstorming about how I could use it my middle school classroom. So, when classes started back I couldn’t wait to teach a unit on fiction. Finally, we read the story, and I awaited their response. Now, I’m not sure if my excitement was contagious, but the students talked about the story in the hallways, told other classes about it, and bugged me to watch “the movie,”—to which I simply replied, “There’s no way this is a movie! The story is like 5 paragraphs long!” However, this did not deter them. They bugged me, bothered me, and pestered me to find the movie, so I broke. I told them if one of them was able to find the movie, then I would buy it for them, and we would watch it together.

It only took them two days. They found the movie. It existed. I had to buy it. We had to watch it. End of story. I have taught “Sleeping” (both the short story and film) in my classroom ever since. The film allows us to read a great work of literature and then to visualize it. As a teacher, both the story and the film allow me to cover fiction, point of view, character inference, Venn Diagramming, narrative arc, setting, plot, internal conflict, external conflict, theme, and the comparison of different forms of media.

One of the lessons I created using “Sleeping” includes passing out M&Ms to one half of the classroom and secretly telling the other half to watch them and write down what they do with their candy. Then, we create a chart showing inferences which can be made about their partner’s character from what they have done with the M&Ms. Finally, we compare ourselves to Harriet, the main character of “Sleeping.”

***Kily Keeling is currently writing a pedagogical book entitled, “H.O.T. Fridays: 9 Weeks of Higher Order Thinking” which includes lesson plans created with “Sleeping.”

From Ms. Keeling’s Students

“I loved both the story and the film.” –Lizbeth

“I very much enjoyed this film! It was amazing.”-Amy

“This film was interesting and creative.  I liked it.” –Beatriz

“This film is interestingly weird, but sad at the end.” –Nayeli

“The movie was very interesting and intense.” -Richy

“The film and the story were both unique.  They had both mystery and emotion.  I loved it!” –Jazmin

“The movie was so intense and you really get into it because of the baby.” – Edgar

Dot Dannenberg, English professor, Westwood College

“The film “Sleeping” adds texture to an already gripping story, deepening Harriet’s uncertainty of her own capabilities. It presents, by the end, that resounding moment in adolescence when a child becomes aware of the complexities that reside outside of herself. Every moment, from the reflections in a china cabinet to the anxious comb Mrs. Winter runs through her hair, enhances the feeling of mystery–the whole film exists on the cusp of the unknown–that tenuous, glittering space between certainty and the unthinkable. My students were spellbound.”

Reactions From Professor Dannenberg’s Students

“I thought the movie was very touching…some could learn from this young girl. She made no judgments for or against the family after learning the truth about their child.”

-Patricia Briggs, student, Westwood College

“The actors were outstanding, especially Mr. Winter. He knew the situation his wife was in—she was in denial and didn’t want to face reality. Harriet was rebellious, but at the end appreciated that she had her mom and her mom had her.”

-Jose Marin, student, Westwood College

“I like the fact that Harriet at first does not help her mother, but after the experience babysitting, she becomes more mature. She is now thankful for life.”

-Santos Quintanilla, student, Westwood College

“This movie shows a few things that we all need in this world, but that some of us are not willing to give to others. These things are love, dedication, sacrifice, and understanding. These basic human needs are portrayed very well by these actors who play the Winters, Harriet, and her mother.”

-Domingo Aguilar, student, Westwood College

Sue Anastacio, 6th Grade ELA, White Plains Middle School

“As a middle school English teacher, I am constantly looking for new ideas and stories to share with my students. This year, a student teacher brought in a piece of “flash fiction,” a genre with which I was not familiar! When she shared the story, “Sleeping” by Katharine Weber, the kids were immediately hooked! After a Socratic Seminar based on the story, the kids still wanted to know more! I headed to Google to see what I could find. To my surprise and delight a short film had been made about the story. What a bonus for us! Then we realized that it was only being previewed at distant film festivals, and the likelihood that we would actually be able to see it was small. We were terribly disappointed. At this point, I had become as excited as the kids to see what a filmmaker would do with this tiny piece of text! Although we knew it was a longshot, we decided to email the film’s production company to see if maybe they could tell us how we could see the film. We couldn’t have been more excited when we got a reply! Even more spectacular than that was the fact that he was willing to send us the movie!! 

Once we watched the film, the students had such an amazing reaction – and more importantly, they had an incredible learning experience. We worked on critical discussions about the text, the film and our thoughts of both. Before I go on, a reader must understand that my advanced English students are avid readers, and they are incredibly critical of movies based on books. Poor Harry and Percy never had a chance with them! They loved the books and found the films to be practically blasphemous!  However, when they watched “Sleeping,” they were thrilled. They felt that the filmmaker had kept to the story – a MUST in their opinions – while still answering some of the questions that are left unanswered in the original text. It was so wonderful for me to see the students so excited about what had originally been “just another story.” 

It is also interesting to note that one of the highlights of the sixth grade ELA program at Eastview (and something that I personally take a ton of pride in) is the Young Playwrights Program. We scramble every year to find funding, but we always manage to pull it off. During this program, an artist-in-residence comes in and works with our kids for 6 weeks. During this time, the students take stories and adapt them into one-act plays. Most recently we have used Greek myths, as it is part of the sixth grade social studies curriculum. Our playwright is very serious about her work, and she leads the kids to develop these amazing plays! (They learn the ins and outs of theater, but the focus is on telling the story through scenes, stage directions and most importantly dialogue – no narrators allowed.) The reason I bring this up is that this film allowed the kids to see what can really come of adapting a story into a script. This experience allowed the program to come full circle, and for that I am most appreciative!

If ever the time comes again that my students can work with one of Doug Conant’s films, I would jump at the opportunity! Thanks again for your generosity in sharing the film with us!!!” — Sue Anastacio, 6th Grade ELA, White Plains Middle School – Eastview Campus

Some Quotes from Sue’s Students

“I loved how there was a mysterious sense to the movie, and my favorite part was when Harriet started to open the door. That’s when the father shows up. It was amazing!”
Leah B.

“Full of suspense and possible events, ‘Sleeping’ is the best short film! It makes the original story even better!”
Abril L.

“This movie is very well-thought-through. You don’t feel as much drama in the story as you do in this film. Perfect!”
Nicole M.

“I loved ‘Sleeping.’ It had mysterious twists. And you are always wondering what will happen next!”
Katherine M.

“I was deeply intrigued.”
Grace H.

“The movie interpretation of ‘Sleeping’ fills in some of the blanks that the story left open. It is definitely a piece of high-quality film-making!”
Elana H.

“I wish it was longer!”
Kristal C.

“The movie ‘Sleeping’ is the kind that keeps you on the edge of your set – – it has drama, suspense and plenty of mystery!”
Nikki D.

“I think ‘Sleeping’ was interesting. It was mysterious; every minute I wanted to know what was going to happen.”
Jada V.

“The movie was awesome! I got scared when I thought she was going to open the door!”
Steven S.

“I think that ‘Sleeping’ was an excellent film!”
Meghan W.

“A very mysterious movie. Very intense, it got my attention!”
Nicole E.

“’Sleeping’ stuck close to the actual content of the story, and it kept me interested throughout the film!”
Chris K.