Temptation in the Garden: Analyzing the Serpent's Rhetorical Strategies in Paradise Lost

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SWBAT analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material by considering the rhetorical strategy in Milton's characterization of the serpent in "Paradise Lost".

Big Idea

Some characters just get a bad rap...or is it deserved?

SSR and Notes About Structure of Today's Class

10 minutes

We will start with our customary 10 minutes of choice reading time. I will read with the students and will make sure to remind them that their next summative reflection will be later in the week.

And now a note about today's class structure...

To accommodate the team-taught, humanities style curriculum offered in 9th, 10th and 11th grade at my school, all students are required to register for a 2 period, blocked class. Because there are two teacher teaching each blocked class, there are between 50 and 60 students per class.

Each period is 53 minutes long and within that time, my social studies partner and I have to make sure we design lessons that meet both of our standards. This poses many challenges, mainly keeping students engaged for 106 minutes a day and making sure that one content area doesn't trump the other in terms of emphasis.

For today's lesson, my teaching partner and I decided to focus entirely on Language Arts. Our reasoning was that we wanted students to spend time with the artwork immediately before reading Milton's writing so the analysis would be richer. To balance this extra time out, we will spend all of the next block on Social Studies. Sometimes this extended time is perfect for the students--here's hoping that will be case for this lesson.


Review of Milton Reading from Book 1 of Paradise Lost

5 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watchClassroom Video: Connection to Prior Knowledge

The students were supposed to finish their reading/annotation and artistic analysis of Paradise Lost Book 1 on Friday. To ensure that they are able to make transfers between Book 1 and Book 3, we will spend a few minutes reviewing Milton's characterization of Satan and his use of archetypes.

To do this, I will have students share their artwork/quotes they used to support their thinking verbally with the class. I will ask for 3-5 volunteers and ask the other students to add to their notes/annotations of Book 1 as they are listening.

Analysis of Eve Artwork

30 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Developing a Conceptual Understanding

To set the stage for today's reading and to further solidify the student's ability to meet the standards which asks them to analyze a subject in multiple artistic mediums, we will begin by Analyzing a series of Adam and Eve that depict the temptation of Eve.

The shifting requirements of the Common Core have made the traditional English classroom much more humanities focused. As I explained in my initial rhetoric lessons, I believe it is really important to teach students how to read visual texts so that they can meet this new standard. We have been leading up to the activity by practicing with the visual advertisements in our rhetoric studies and the overview of archetypes earlier this week.

I will ask the students to analyze the artwork for rhetorical situation asking them to identify the intended audience, purpose and tone of each piece. In addition, I will ask them to look for archetypal patterns, specifically with the serpent, the forbidden fruit and Eve. We will practice a few together and then I will ask students to complete written analysis of additional prints with their Faulkner square groups.

The literary text standards require students to be able to analyze a work as compared to it's source materials and to look at the treatment of a theme in more than one artistic medium (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7). With the combination of this activity and the close reading/analysis, students should also be able to see multiple interpretations of source material and recognize the wide variety of perspectives this Biblical story has inspired, which will hopefully allow them to recognize and analyze the reasons for the diversity of thought in the world/period we are studying.

Debrief of Artwork Analysis

5 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch:  Classroom Video: Flexible Grouping

After the students have had a chance to analyze additional artwork on their own, I will ask each group to send a representative to the front of the room to write 3-5 observations from their discussion on the main classroom boards.

I will ask the students to copy down any new or different ideas onto their written analysis. I will tell them that these are observations that will help them to analyze the text and to keep them in mind while reading.

Their written work on the boards will be further evidence of their ability to trace a theme in more than one text. I am hoping that they will notice the similarities/differences between the portrayals of the serpent (i.e. it looks human in some images and very monstrous in others) and Eve (she looks innocent and/or subjective to Adam or the serpent in some and domineering in others).

After they have had a chance to write their observations on the board, I will highlight a few of the most insightful observations orally.

Paradise Lost Book 9 Close Reading Activity

25 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Student Ownership

I will send the representatives back to their groups with copies of the Milton--fall of eve. I will ask the class to listen to instructions for the next step of the class period, which includes the close reading and analysis of this passage of text.

Due to the difficult nature of the text selection (the hardest we have read so far this year), I will allow students to read out loud in small groups. I will build their reading/discussion groups based on their reading scores. With a text this difficult, I will group them heterogeneously, with the exception of one or two groups of students who need to have more support, which will allow my teaching partner and I can provide as we circulate the room.

While they are reading, I ask them to annotate the text for words they don’t know, level one (concrete) questions about the text, level two (inferential) connections and examples of ethos, pathos and/or logos. While they read, I will circulate the room to answer their vocabulary or level one questions or to assist them in determining the answers to these questions using context clues or background knowledge, which will help me to determine what kind of instruction I will need to provide for the vocabulary standards.

I will also encourage them to read through the passage once before taking any notes and then going back to re-read and look for answers to the questions. This is to reinforce a technique they have been learning in Social Studies, which teaches them that reading a text in its entirety allows them to determine what is important vs. what is not. I also hope that it will allow them to identify the narrative structure that Milton is using in this particular passage, which is basically a dialectical between Satan and Eve.

In addition, to reinforce their work with standards, I will ask them to compare their analysis of the text to their analysis of the artwork so that they can synthesize their conclusions about Eve as an archetype and look for textual support based on Milton's treatment of this theme/idea.

Numbered Heads Together Discussion

20 minutes

Once students have finished reading, I will call them back together and, using questions intended to draw their focus to Milton's rhetorical strategy, use my polyhedron dice and/or spinners to do a numbered heads together discussion. As I've mentioned before, this is my favorite way to debrief reading because it allows for variety in voices sharing out and holds students accountable to participating in the reading and analysis.

During this discussion, I will define the term dialectical and point out how Milton's use of this style demonstrates his Renaissance mindset and rhetorical strategy. I will ask them to identify other passages or ideas that are specifically Renaissance or rhetorical.

I will also bring them back to their observations from the artwork and ask them to make some synthesis statements about the treatment of Eve in the art and in the writing. I am hoping that they will make some philosophical jumps in their thinking/discussion to make note of how Eve herself becomes an archetype for female characters. Depending on how the conversation goes, I may try to manipulate them towards those conclusions.

This lesson provides a nice overlap between the literature and speaking standards. To demonstrate comprehension on a deeper level, students have to provide textual evidence for their interpretations and then participate in analytical conversations with their peers to deepen their understanding of the big ideas of this unit. Additionally, by tackling a text that is above their reading level, they are able to practice skills in a group setting so that they will be able to apply these skills effectively when reading at their own level and independently.



Wrap up and Next Steps

10 minutes

To see this part of the lesson unfold, watch: Classroom Video: Flexibility

Depending on how much time is left, I will either ask them to verbally share final thoughts or do an exit slip. In either case, I will ask them to write about Milton's rhetorical purpose and choose the rhetorical appeal that they feel Milton employed the most and support their answer with specifics from the text. This will allow me to assess their understanding of each of the devices as well as their comprehension of the text. If it becomes clear that they need more practice, I will do a whole class analysis of a passage the following day.