A Wise Man Once Said: Analyzing and Writing Aphorisms

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SWBAT write with a clear style, purpose, and audience by composing an aphorism providing instruction or insight.

Big Idea

What exactly does stitch in time save nine of? Students will explore Benjamin Franklin's aphorisms and compose their own insightful, instructive phrase.

Introduction: It's Hug a Vegetarian Day!

3 minutes

We open class observing "Hug a Vegetarian Day!" (although the actual date is not until this coming Friday) and quickly ask any students who may be vegetarian/vegan to share their favorite dish ideas. As always, Daily Holidays serve to build a sense of open communication and community in the classroom; today especially engages students who have made a specific lifestyle choice (or need) in an effort to embrace them, as well. 

Understanding Aphorisms: Analysis of Language

45 minutes

Students will be work on an “Aphorisms Project” today. In order to gain a deeper understanding of Franklin's writing, and cultural literacy into the short witty saying so many people throw around in response to adversity, students are provided with a list of Benjamin Franklin's aphorisms, directions for looking at these sayings today, project directions, and a list of "modern" aphorisms to inspire their work today. This is an individual project, but students may bounce ideas off of each other. (I am out of the building at a workshop during the two days students complete these. The students know they need to complete everything by the time I return. This provides them an opportunity to work independently and make personal connections to the aphorisms.) 

They begin reading the list of Franklin's aphorisms, and are asked to select five to paraphrase, demonstrating understanding of the diction used in the saying (RI.9-10.4) and drawing from their own experiences to clarify the central theme of each (RI.9-10.2) Students are then asked to respond to the meaning of the aphorism, explaining if they agree or disagree with the intent of the saying (W.9-10.10). These short explanations and reactions demonstrate understanding of the sayings, and set the stage for writing their own. 

If students complete this part of the assignment, they are asked to begin crafting their own aphorisms, using the modern examples here as a guide (Student Aphorism Samples.pdf). In doing so, students not only demonstrate understanding of how Franklin narrows a broad truth down to a few simple words in these sayings, (RI.9-10.3), but also how they draw upon Franklin's model in explaining and reflecting on their own example of an aphorism (W.9-10.9b).

Students have been looking at the longer writing from The Enlightenment: Franklin's autobiography and "The Declaration of Independence." The "intellectual energy" of the period is echoed in the smaller pieces as well. In this project, students evaluate the message of some of Franklin's more infamous aphorisms, and (tomorrow) create their own modern-day aphorisms. These are to be written for the specific purpose of providing instruction, directed at a contemporary audience, and incorporate some of the poetic and rhetorical devices we have studied in class (W.9-10.4). 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, students are called back to their seats and reminded they will have time to complete this assignment in class tomorrow before they move on to pre-writing their short persuasive research paper. This paper (explained fully in the unit "Persuasive Writing: Research and Rhetorical Skills") requires students to apply the rhetorical techniques we address in our study of the writers of The Enlightenment.