I have not done much in the way of personal reading this week, so I thought I might once again post some of the literary discoveries my classes have made.
British Literature - we completed Pride and Prejudice this week, and the exam will be given tomorrow. On Wednesday evening a student listed her Facebook status as: Mr. Darcy is a Jerk. This immediately provoked a list of 42 comments from both literature classes, with boys as well as girls chiming in! I just love when "old fashioned books" grab a hold of our 21st century society; as much as we like to think we have changed, we have really remained the same. Anyway, this posting led me to begin class on Friday with the question: how much of the reading experience is controlled by the author - and how much of it is influenced by the reader's own background?
Personally, I never thought Darcy was a jerk, even when he uttered his rather insensitive comment at Netherfield Ball. I always thought Darcy was misunderstood. Bingley forced him to participate when he was really rather fond of being a wall-flower. He spoke honestly - not with any intent to harm, but rather with an intent to tell it like it is. I can totally relate to Darcy -- I do this ALL the time in life and oftentimes end up shunned for it as well. I thought perhaps this student who still cannot find it in her heart to forgive Darcy's faux pas might have experienced a similar humiliating experience in life - except she never received the apology that was due her. This would certainly taint anyone's view of Darcy - and inability to forgive. It was a great class discussion and a nice way to end the unit.
In 9th grade English we discussed Part 2, The Sieve and the Sand, of Fahrenheit 451. I tried something a bit different to try to help promote full class participation. We went into the foyer, which is large with lots of natural light (I have no windows in my "classroom" and it creates a very dismal atmosphere after a while) and sat on the floor in a circle. This immediately put the class at ease. I then had a ball of yarn that I brought to class. The premise is simple: when a student talks, they are in possession of the yarn. When they have finished, they hold on to the end of the yarn and pass it to the next person who has something to say. They then hold on to the end and pass it on to the next person....and so on. This creates a visual representation of who has talked - and who hasn't. Students know that the goal is to create a tangled mess of yarn at the end of class, so it prevents those who tend to monopolize conversation to allow others to have a say. It also forces those who tend to remain quiet to speak their mind. IT WORKED!!! As far as I am concerned, it was the best class of the year. I am very anxious to hear their assessment of the class on Monday.
As a side note....the students are really understanding the theme of this book. They know what Ray Bradbury is trying to say, and they can relate our 21st century society to the one depicted in the book. They understand that we are not dystopian yet - but if we continue in the manner in which we have been going (iPods forever turned on in our ears; hours in front of the big screen television; teachers teaching to the test rather than instilling critical thinking skills; watching videos and movies rather than reading the books), we are headed for the same hopeless, depressing world of Guy and Millie Montag.
Finally in 7th grade we have just finished reading and discussing chapter 3 of The Hobbit. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, these students are learning how to use dialectic journals, and so I spent Friday's class modeling what I might include in a journal if I were keeping one. Much to my surprise, several of the students were making these kinds of thoughtful, insightful entries on their own. How exciting! We discussed character development (the dwarves are becoming individuals rather than remaining as a group, such as Balin is the look-out guy, and Oin and Gloin are the fire starters). We discussed the race of the trolls and the fact that Tolkien gave them Human Names - Tom, Bert, and William - and a cockney accent. When we read about the elves of Rivendell we discussed how Tolkien creates these different races not only by describing their physical differences - but also by giving each race its own specific dialect. In a future class we will begin to compare the different poems of the dwarves, the elves, and the goblins to prove this point.
I believe I said that I am listening to the audio book this time, and I told the students that I might play portions of the CD so that they could hear how the narrator uses different voices for each of the characters. They seemed quite interested in this.
All in all, Friday was a very good day in all 6 classes. That doesn't happen very often, but when it does I relish in the wonder of it all.
I hope my dear readers on the east coast have fared well during the weekend storms. We had about 3 inches of snow on Friday, and are due to have another 6 inches of snow tonight. This winter weather is certainly one for the record books --- but it does lend itself to some lovely reading time by the crackling fire, which is what I hope to do a little later this afternoon.