Recent Assignments and Projects

We’re just finishing up our end of year projects, and I’ve been pleased with the progress my students have made with their exploration of theme. We started several months back with Socratic Circles as a lead-in to our reading of Lord of the Flies. Students were given short poems, quotes, and ideas to discuss that related to the themes we’d be exploring in the novel. Probably the most surprising aspect of this was how adept the students already were with Socratic Circles. Most of them had done them before in previous years, and many had done them this school year in other classes. Students benefit from school-wide adoption of learning tools and techniques, and it helps to create ties between their courses and years. The power of vertical and horizontal alignment is awesome to behold when it’s done correctly.

We then went through the novel in about three weeks. My awesome intern created the novel unit, and she incorporated weekly Socratic Circles on the novel to encourage deep reading and use of textual evidence. She actually implemented many of the ideas from the Broz article I posted about recently.

We then entered into book clubs. I offered a selection of books that had thematic tie-ins with Lord of the Flies. Students were asked to treat each book club as a Socratic Circle. Amazingly, the students were now capable of directing their own discussion without any audience or much supervision. They were discussing books like true readers and without any of the superficial “roles” that we often use to direct book club (discussion director, passage master, researcher, etc…). While these roles can be beneficial scaffolding for students, they also detract from the authenticity of discussion and give the book club a contrived feel.

The students’ final project was to decide on a common theme between their book club book and Lord of the Flies. They were also asked to include a section on why the audience should care about this theme. How does it relate to the human experience and tell us about ourselves? They used a variety of tools to create these projects, and then they presented and explained their projects to the rest of the class. See a few of the selections below, and I’ll likely be linking to some of the products in the next few days as students get them published online. I’ve paraphrased from memory most of their themes and relevance sections, but this is the general gist of it.

Book Theme Relevance for Us
The Book Thief There is light even in darkness. We need to reach out a helping hand to others during disasters like theJoplintornado.
Little Brother Some forms of power should be resisted. Repressive and restrictive governments should be fought against by their people.
The Wave Group think and peer pressure are dangerous and should be guarded against. Even in high school, peer pressure can make us do things we normally would not.
City of Thieves The human will to survive in the face of overwhelming odds is powerful. We’re stronger than we realize and able to survive situations we can’t imagine.
They Cage the Animals at Night Humans can survive horrible situations. We need to understand and sympathize with the plight of those around us.
The Kite Runner The loss of innocence can drive us toward evil or redemption. When we face horrible situations, we can find redemption or give in to the evil.

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