Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel:Teachers & Lesson Plans

Donna Denizé

Donna Denizé has taught English at St. Albans School for Boys in Washington, D.C. since 1987. She is an oft-published poet and a contributor to scholarly books and journals, including Shakespeare Set Free (The Folger Library). Ms. Denisé has also contributed to programs of NCTE, NEH, Mobil Masterpiece Theatre, and the Smithsonian Institution. She has received numberous grants and awards, among them the Distinguished Teacher Award (The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars). She has an MA from Howard University in Renaissance Drama and has completed the PhD course work. Ms. Denisé serves as chair of the Faculty Diversity Committee at St. Albans and is the faculty advisor of the school's literary magazine.

Lesson Plan for Great Expectations

Objective:

To allow students to become active learners and even teachers as they read
and understand Great Expectations.

Activity/Plan

(Ninth grade, six weeks)

  1. Lecture: Definition by the teacher of the genre, the four elements of fiction (character, plot, setting, and theme), and many literary terms that will allow students an opportunity to speak about the book.
  2. Reading assignments: About 25 pages a night.
  3. First 28 or 29 chapter(s): Reading quizzes on the nightly assignments (objective, non-interpretive questions) Also, notes on the rise of the novel, Dickens’s contribution to the genre, and his symbolist method, his social and political changes and criticisms that the novel presents to readers.
  4. From Chapter 29, once the love story has begun, students take over teaching. Students in groups of two or three are assigned two consecutive chapter(s) each. The aim is to encourage students to take ownership of their learning and to develop cooperative and respectful skills. Students have a week to prepare to teach their assigned chapter(s) according to a required format. The format requires a handout, which should raise themes, questions for discussion or essays, and propose motifs and major concerns raised in the assigned chapter(s) regarding the elements of fiction. The format also includes guidelines for evaluation—both the content and the form. Creativity is encouraged, as is ownership of the novel and of the moral, social, and philosophical issues raised by the text.
  5. Students have a full class period to teach their chapter(s). They are in charge, deciding on such matters as quizzes to give and so on, all under teacher guidance.
  6. Students must reflect thoughtfully on their teaching and then write a five-paragraph essay evaluating that experience, which is evaluated by the teacher. The essay should reveal that learning is an active process, one in which the “teachers” make discoveries.

Assignment to Students (Handout):

Great Expectations Assignment and Guidelines for oral reports/teaching the class:

  1. You must have a handout that includes the information itemized below; you may arrange this information in the format that best suits your chapter(s) and your teaching style. You will be evaluated not only on your knowledge of the novel, but also on the effectiveness of your teaching methods and style, so be creative and try to engage your audience fully in the subject matter through lively discussion.
  2. This information will appear on the formal Great Expectations test, as well as the final exam, so it behooves you to do a thorough job as teacher. In effect, you should become a master of your chapter(s), and the class should be a thoughtful, inquisitive audience.
  3. You need to present a provocative analysis that looks carefully at the individual elements listed in the Guidelines listed below.
  4. You may decide to place some challenging question at the end of your handout, questions or problems that you had when analyzing the chapter(s).
  5. You may give a quiz, but it must be fair and thoughtful. Remember that you will have to grade it, so you will want to make the questions clear.
  6. Do not give biographical information about the author in your report or the handout.

Guidelines for Handouts

(Listed in no particular order)

  1. Major issues raised in chapter(s): For example, identity, class, race, family relations, church, social problems, education (formal and informal), and ethical choices and dilemmas.
  2. Elements of fiction: Write a plot summary of your chapter(s). Identify conflicts (internal/external) and discuss resolution if there is one. Identify the setting for events in your chapter(s) and how the setting affects the conflicts you’ve identified. Identify characters’ major recognitions that occur in the chapter(s).
  3. Dialogue: How is dialogue used (i.e., to reveal character, social problems)? What does dialogue reveal to you about British culture, fears, contradictions?
  4. Literary devices: irony (verbal, situational, dramatic), imagery, metaphor, symbols, simile, catalogs, personification, parallel sentence structure, puns, satire, tone, etc.
  5. When appropriate, give evidence of capitalism in your chapter(s) and explain.
  6. Type out key passages from your chapter(s) for the class’s consideration.
  7. Identify any motifs and discuss what the motifs suggest.
  8. State the theme or the several themes of your chapter(s). Suggest topics for three papers.
  9. Identify questions or issues for discussion raised by the chapter(s), as well as relevant current events and movie suggestions that are related to issues in the novel.
  10. Identify any historical allusions that appear in our chapter(s).
  11. What moral virtues appear in your chapter(s) and who or what demonstrates these virtues? What vices appear in your chapter(s) and who or what demonstrates these vices.

 

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