Today we will start by reviewing the students' homework. They were asked to write a letter to Charles Dickens, in much the same way that his original readers did (W.9-10.4). They could tell him what they like and dislike so far, ask questions, and make requests about future chapters and events. I will ask for volunteers to read their letter or excerpts from their letter. Then I will collect them all.
I love this activity and think it's important. It makes them think about the novel in a new way and it forces them to be honest in their opinion. Even if they say that they hate everything about the book, they need to specify those parts and explain their reasoning. Typically when that happens, they realize that it isn't completely bad.
After we share and review the students' homework, we will transition to writing. Today, students will be preparing for an open response, the term we use for a one-page informative/explanatory essay (W.9-10.2). When they arrive this prompt will be written on the board:
In chapter 18, we begin to understanding the meaning of the novel's title. Using your knowledge of the chapter and the novel thus far, explain what having "great expectations" means for Pip. Think literally and symbolically. Use relevant and specific details from the text to support your answer.
We will spend about 25 minutes brainstorming the literal and symbolic advantages and disadvantages of Pip's new life. Working through the literal changes should not be too time-consuming or difficult; their knowledge will act as proof of attentive reading. I expect the symbolic understanding to consume much of our time, but it is the most important part. For many of them, the most prominent question I ask on their papers is "so what?" They are sick of reading it and I am growing more tired of writing it. I am hoping that the time today helps clarify the difference between plot points and more symbolic meaning, especially since we have been focusing on analysis so much as we read the first third of this novel. Ultimately, I am hoping that they can see that Pip's windfall money and education are important to mention, but do not fully answer the question; they need to understand how Pip's new wealth and status will impact his current relationships.
I realized today how much the word "literal" is misused, or even more accurately, how much the definition has seemed to change.. into precisely the opposite definition. I didn't anticipate confusion over the literal and more figurative ways in which Pip's great expectations will change him, but because students use the word "literal" to mean "not literal," it was confusing. In the discussion, I used the example "and then my head literally exploded" to make my point, but instead of clarifying, my example just seemed to mimic what they already say regularly. It wasn't until I talked them through the fact that my head couldn't have actually exploded or I wouldn't be standing in front of them that they understood the misuse of the word.
It was an unexpected conversation, but it wasn't a waste of time. It was a good opportunity to stop and focus on the value of language and the importance of purposely choosing our words.
Once we have completed the brainstorming as a group, I will ask each student to write a full and thorough thesis in his or her notebook (W.9-10.2b). I will go around and check each individual's work, giving specific feedback (W.9-10.5). My approval will work as an exit ticket for today's class.