A Whole Lot of Relevance: Holes as Symbols in Maus

2 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT participate in collaborative discussions by working in groups to analyze the use of holes as symbols in Maus.

Big Idea

Students will jump in and out of holes in search of symbolic relevance.

Introduction: Student Ownership of Work

Let's get started: Creating group roles

10 minutes

Students will work in groups for the entire class. The goal is for the students to lead their small group discussions with limited support from me.  In order to improve the functionality of the groups, each group member will have a role.  Each group has five members if everyone is in class.  I combine the last two roles in case some groups are only four due to absences. 

The group roles are below as well as on the  Let's get started Powerpoint slide.

Recorder:  Writes the responses for the group and makes sure that everyone's name is on the final product.

Reporter:  Speaks for the group when it is time to share with the whole class.  Serves as docent for the group during mini presentations.

Task Master:  Keeps group focused on the activity and checks the time.

Credibility Checker:  Makes sure  the group responses contain textual evidence and that evidence correctly connects the response to the text.

Illustrator:  Writes on the board on behalf of the group. Takes care of any drawings necessary to complete the activity.

I allow students to self select their roles in a group.  I remind them to take a different role than they had the last time we worked in groups.  If I see a group is not rotating roles, I may assign roles to that group.

Next we review the responsibilities of each group member.  The primary responsibility to contribute positively to the group by sharing ideas and listening to his/her team members' ideas.  The secondary responsibility  is to fulfill his/her role in the group. 

CC SL 9-10 1 requires students to engage in a range of collaborative discussions.  By designing activities where students work together to accomplish a series of tasks, student will use a variety of discussion strategies to accomplish their goals.  These strategies include: coming to the discussion with prepared material, accessing and sharing prior knowledge, questioning, and decision making. 

Their first task is to answer a question: What element in chapter 5 makes it unique from the first four chapters? Why?

This question is similar to the final question on their homework from the previous class.  If they did the homework, it is an opportunity to share ideas and elevate some of the anxiety that comes with small group learning--no one can remain under the class radar in a small group. 

Building Knowledge: Holes Homework Review

15 minutes

The goal of this group activity is for students to identify and analyze symbols in Maus.  At the beginning of each chapter, the students analyze the cover illustration for that chapter.  Chapter 5 is called Mouse Holes, however there is only one hole in the picture.  The students have to infer why Art Spiegelman writes mouse in English for this chapter instead of German.  Additionally, they have to identify what the one hole in the picture symbolizes.  

The students answered these questions for homework, so now they share their inferences with the group. By discussing the answers to their homework, students will discover common inferences about the types of holes in Maus.  Additionally, if an individual student struggled with the homework, their group can help him/her complete the assignment through discussion instead of just allowing the student to copy the answers.  Hopefully it will lead to better comprehension of the text and the use of literary elements like symbol in the text.

After each group has a consensus answer with textual support.  I call on one or two groups to share the answers with the class.  By reporting out to the class, I check that all the groups are working toward the same goal. It is also an opportunity for students to ask clarifying questions. 

Next I move on to the last part of the homework.  Students have to infer what the other holes in the chapter title might be.  They list them as either part of Art's narrative or part of Vladek's narrative. They create a list in their groups and then we put a master list on the board.  Before the students can move on to a deep exploration of the possible symbolic meanings of the other holes in chapter 5, they have to find common ground as an entire class.  They need to agree on what symbolic holes need exploration. Creating  consensus  in the whole class, invests the students in the product of each group.  They also realize that they will have to share their product with class.  

The goal is to have seven potential holes.  I have seven groups.   

Building Knowledge: The Symbolic Hole

20 minutes

Now that every group has an assigned hole Symbolic hole, they have to explain how that hole impacts the three central people in Maus: Art, Vladek, Anja.  Next they have to explain why this hole is relevant to the text.  I want them to tie their assigned hole to either written passages or images in the text.  What inspired them to identify this event as a hole.

This activity expands the discussion from relying work prepared before class to asking the students to work together to engage the text.  They have to examine how their inferred hole impacts development of the three main characters.  A close look at evolution of a character connects to RL 910 3 which asks students to analyze hoe complex characters develop over the course of a text. This analysis will also help students identity the key events in these characters' lives and the juxtaposition between the events in Vladek and Art's lives. Creating a timeline of plot development is an on-going project in the class. 

 Finally, they have to create an illustration or their own symbol for their hole and explain how it ties to the text.   

Applying Knowledge: Gallery Walk

30 minutes

Sharing the finished product in a gallery walk gives students the opportunity to teach each other the relevance of symbol in a text.  The moment of truth, can students shift between groups and maintain the thoughtful level of discourse they have created in their original groups?  The gallery walk creates six new groups every time the students rotate.  I want the students to maintain and/or possibility elevate the depth of discussion by listening to the conclusions the reporter and then engaging in a new discussion about the relevance of the symbolic hole.  I am looking for questions like:  how does the text support your inference?  Why did your group illustrate the hole in black and white or color?  What inspired this  hole?  

The reporter for the group stays at the table while his/her group mates visit the other tables to learn about the other holes.  Each reporter has three minutes to educate the visitor on the symbol.  The reporter states what event the hole connects to in the book, whose narrative it impacts, and why his/her group chose to represent the hole the way they drew it.  

The illustration represents an alternative symbol than the one created by the Art Spiegelman.  They already analyzed why Art Spiegelman chose his symbol.  Now they investigate what other events have symbolic meaning in the text.

When they return to their groups, I ask someone beside the reporters to share something they learned on their gallery walk.  I want three or four students to answer.  It gives the reporters a chance to hear some of the different ideas on symbols.

This culminating group activity requires students to use both speaking and listening skills.  Students have to listen to the presentation of the reporters, ask questions, and then summarizing their learning with the reporter in their original group.  The gallery walk is a formative assessment of SL 9-10 1. Successful implementation means student work with diverse groups, build on others' ideas, and clearly express their own positions.  




Closing: Independent writing

10 minutes

Deep breath--everyone is sitting down, it is time to write.  After the whines of tired brains, I give them the following writing prompt:  How does Spiegelman use holes as a symbol in Maus?  Use evidence from the gallery walk and the text to support your response.

The students are still struggling with using textual evidence to support a claim.  They either do not have evidence or they basically rewrite the text and do not connect it to the claim.  I hope that the on-going opportunity to discuss with their peers how the text supports an inference will lead to an improved ability to use textual evidence in their writing. 

Ultimately, the students need to synthesize their knowledge with the information that they have gained from interacting with their group and the other groups on the gallery walk.  This connects to W 9-10 2 (f). Allowing students to take the time to reflect on their learning and write about it, creates a concluding statement on not only the symbolic use of holes in Maus but also the information presented by their peers.  It allows me to assess how well they listened and encoded information from their peers. 

Their response to the writing prompt is the ticket out the door.  Once I tell them they can't leave until it done--the moaning stops and the writing begins.  I also collect the illustrations of each groups' maus hole.