Monday, April 27, 2009

Iron Teacher - "A Separate Peace"

Tom’s Bionic Teaching blog and my good friend Michelle's blog have inspired me to attempt this first of hopefully many "Iron Teacher" Challenges. This challenge is as follows:

The Audience: 2 classes of 10th grade General Level Literature students.

The Secret Ingredient: The novel “A Separate Peace

The Challenge (as defined by the teacher): Students are beginning a book discussion of the novel “A Separate Peace.” These particular students struggle to demonstrate understanding of content through writing, but have recently become more motivated to read and respond to literature as their teacher has incorporated audio books and modern literature into the curriculum.

The teacher shares that the class performs better when asked to discuss personal experiences and would like to incorporate the book themes of envy/conformity into the book discussions. These students in particular are not easily motivated to participate in class activities. Their teacher is looking for an original and fun way to have the students discuss and share while demonstrating understanding in a way that goes beyond writing an essay or taking a multiple choice test.

Here’s my submission to the challenge.

BIG IDEA: Sacrifice

Essential Question: How does human sacrifice intensify during times of conflict?

or How does sacrifice affect our world during times of conflict?

When the Devon students return to school in the Fall, they are appalled at the idea of having no housekeeping services, along with many additional changes, due to the war. Sacrifice in "A Separate Peace" ranges from this minor discomfort to Gene's self-deprivation of sports while Finney is away, to the highest sacrifice one can offer: service to one's country during times of war.

Students in the 10th grade literature classes would start by brainstorming the examples of sacrifice in the story, along with the motivation and the result of each. Then, while applying ideas of parallelism, they would be in charge of searching for examples of human sacrifice in the world around them-- either from people's memories of historical conflicts or resulting from current political, cultural, or additional categories of conflict.

Motivate the students with a challenge of their own....

CHALLENGE Statement: Strengthen intergenerational connections by sharing stories of human sacrifice collected from around the world.

To collect and share others' stories of sacrifice during times of conflict.

Students could (in teams or individually) set out to find others' stories of sacrifices and bring them back to the class. The possibilities for collection methods are endless, but here are a few:

  • Cell phone calls
  • Audio recordings
  • Digital cameras - still pictures and/or video
  • Written transcripts of conversations
  • iSight camera video capture
  • Record an iChat or a Skype call
  • Emails
  • Creating a VoiceThread and collecting comments

A time limit (somewhat short to make it more challenging) should be imposed from the beginning.

This could even be fashioned as a "scavenger hunt" type activity with different point values assigned for varying degrees of complexity, for example...

Bonus pts for:

  • Someone from a different state
  • Someone from a different country
  • Story from more than 40 years ago
  • Collection of the story with video, as opposed to just audio or taking notes from a conversation

Once they have captured their examples of sacrifice, there is so much that students or student teams could do to compile the stories. Some ideas I considered include:

  • Creating a digital "scrapbook" of sacrifices
  • Organizing the stories in a "living timeline"
  • Using Glogster to link the stories to one main webpage in a "digital poster" format
  • Creating an iMovie video montage, slideshow presentation, or a podcast highlighting the stories
A Step Further....
To encourage narrative writing, students could be asked to choose ONE example of sacrifice and turn it into a longer piece of writing. Including references to the historical background of the story, would incorporate research writing skills as well as narrative writing skills for the students.

The Iron Why: What’s the justification for this challenge solution?

Open-endedness and student choice is at the core of my lesson. Students need practice in the interpersonal skills of interviewing, listening, and storytelling. Parallelism as well as compare and contrast comes through when analyzing the idea of sacrifice in the novel as compared to real-life sacrifices. Hopefully empathy is being developed by the students as they search for the stories to bring back to the class in this project.

Teachers' Note:

While fine details and procedural writing are not my forte, I truly enjoy thinking of ideas to engage my students. Working with another teacher to hammer out the smaller details, any challenge of this type could be much improved. No matter what, I did truly enjoy the experience of reading a great new piece of adolescent literature: "A Separate Peace."

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