"Flowers for Algernon" Excerpt Part 1

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After presenting their findings about particular events on the timeline of American special education, students will read the first of a two-part excerpt from Daniel Keyes' story.

Big Idea

"Good" Things Come to Those Who Persevere, Right?

Anticipatory Set

25 minutes

I give the students about 3-5 minutes to prepare themselves for their short presentations on one of the key events on our timeline of special education in America from the previous class period. I then follow the timeline to determine the presentation order. While each group is presenting, the other students are expected to take notes, using the Timeline Graphic Organizer, of the key elements of each presentation. These notes will help to facilitate thinking as the students read the first excerpt of the story. 

The student groups go to the front of the room and gather on either side of the SmartBoard as one member of the group pulls up whatever material(s) or website necessary for the presentation. They then introduce themselves formally, one at a time, and then give their presentation. They are expected to state their concept/event, what their source(s) is/are, and what details are key for understanding. I make it a point, as one group finishes and the next is getting set up, to summarize key information one more time for the class. 

As this is intended to build capacity in the students that will allow for deeper connection to aspects of the text, I am not formally grading content. I am looking for quality evidence provided, clear message presented, and evidence that all group members were involved. If students miss any elements when sharing out about their particular topic, I make sure to fill in the gap(s). 

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Once all groups have presented, I have the students take out their textbook (I have also used a printed copy in the past as well that kids can take notes directly on). We open to the story and take a look together at a couple key details of the text: The first journal entry and what it says, as well as the date the story takes place.

I start by reading the first journal entry aloud for the class. I do this to model inflections and fluency, as well as to help them to make sense of the creative spellings of the words and phrases Charlie uses.

Once I complete this first entry, I ask the students to share with me what stands out to them. They commonly go straight into talking about the way Charlie writes; How he spells, primarily. I ask them to tell me what that tells them and to share how they come to that conclusion. Since we have prefaced the story by studying the history of special education, the students immediately share that they feel he is intellectually disabled and use his spelling and grammar as evidence, as well as the simplicity of his thoughts and ideas. I then ask them to tell me what year it is in the story and what special education was like at the time.I then ask the students to turn to a partner and take 90 seconds to talk about what that means for Charlie.

I then do a short and simple math problem that helps the students dig deeper. I ask them to tell me how old Charlie is (37) and then to tell me what year it is in the story (1965). The next step is to determine what year Charlie was born (1928-ish). Using their notes, I give the class a couple minutes to look over and review the times from 1925-1965 to see what experiences Charlie may have had leading up to this story taking place. 


Independent Practice

15 minutes

The remainder of the class period is reserved for independent reading of the first part of the excerpt. Whatever they do not complete becomes homework.

I also ask that students create a timeline of events from the story that they will continue to build upon as they read the second part as well. Since the author uses the journal entries to tell the story, it is pretty straightforward for the students. It becomes a practice in concise summarizing of details as they read.