Uncategorized,  Week in Review

TSS – 02.07.10

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.


  • C.B. James

    You have me thinking about moving up to high school. I love the yarn idea. I may use it myself. Typically, I prefer a literature circles type approach so I don't do that many whole class books, but using the ball of yarn for a discussion sounds like too much fun to pass up.

  • Wendy

    Molly, I love reading your posts about teaching – a big part of me envies your job…bringing the love of reading to your students. I know there are plenty of frustrations in teaching, but the days (like this one you just described) when they all seem to "get it" or get involved with the characters must feel so rewarding!

  • Vivienne

    You know I would love to sit in one of your classes. They sound brilliant.

    I am impressed that Darcy took over Facebook. I wonder how Jane Austen would react to that. I have just read about a quarter of Pride and Prejudice this week and I don't think he is a jerk.

  • Alyce

    Your classes sound lovely. It's amazing how much I took for granted (and didn't appreciate) my English/lit classes in junior high and high school. I think it would be so much fun to participate in classes like that again (although I could really live without the homework). 🙂

    I agree with your opinion of Mr. Darcy, and the yarn participation game sounds great!

  • Sandy Nawrot

    I'm getting a total kick out of your classes! I just love it when younger people get into the classics. I really like Mr. Darcy as well, but you have to admit that if you were to read the book "cold", he does appear to be a jerk at first. Perception is reality, you know. He does end up being misunderstood, but you don't find that out until the end!

  • Lisa

    How fantastic that a modern thing, like Facebook, was the instrument to get young people talking about a book that's over 150 years old! Love what you did with the yarn; what a neat idea.

  • Belle

    You are such a creative teacher, Molly. I loved what you did with the ball of yarn, and the idea of a discussion on Facebook about Darcy! I want to listen to The Hobbit too.

  • Meghan

    I'm so amused that Pride and Prejudice started a facebook discussion about Mr Darcy! I always liked him, but we also watched the BBC version shortly after reading the book for the first time and I don't know if that had something to do for it!

    I love your idea with the yarn. It's so creative. I've always been shy and class is always dominated by the opinionated kids. One of my English teachers decided to grade us once on how much we spoke up, just noting down every time someone said something, and that always bothered me. Your idea is so, so much better and I'm glad it worked!

  • Kathleen

    Boy do I wish you had been my English teacher in high school! Your classes sounds great and the Mr. Darcy is a jerk comment must have made you so happy. For students today to carry something out of the class and into their online world shows you are making a huge impact on them! P.S. I never thought Mr. Darcy was a jerk either!

  • Margot at Joyfully Retired

    I'm a few days late in reading this post but I'm glad I didn't miss it. I worry sometimes about younger generations not embracing critical thinking or reading. But your tales of young people reassure me that there are still readers and good thinkers out there. I'm so glad you are where you are.

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