Close Reading: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Cannot Read"

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SWBAT analyze the rhetorical strategies used by an author and question their effectiveness by peer discussion and asking questions of the text.

Big Idea

Recognizing your own biases will lead to more thoughtful discourse.


Jigsaw Discussion of Text

70 minutes

Today we will spend the day with Francine Prose.  It is a rather long essay, so we will jigsaw the questions they did for homework to really dig in to the material, particularly to cite and discuss strong evidence to support their discussions and share with their peers (with less questions to focus on, the students can practice deeper reading--if I had each group discuss all the questions, the rigor would fizzle after two or three questions anyway).  I will put students in five groups (there are ten rhetoric and style questions they answered for homework, and also 5 discussion questions I will ask them to discuss).  I will assign each group two of the homework questions and one discussion question (for the homework questions, group 1 will focus on questions 1 and 10, group 2 will focus on questions 2 and 9, etc.  I’m doing it this way in part for accountability; the first questions are often ones students spend the most time on.  This levels the playing field for all the groups). 

For about 20 minutes, groups will discuss their assigned questions, and also ask each other some of the questions they wrote as part of the homework.  I will walk around and join groups when appropriate (if they have questions or seem stuck), and also listen in to get an initial assessment of their response to the text.

After students work in groups, we will gather in a circle (groups will sit together).   This will be like a modified Socratic seminar:  the first group will read each question out loud, followed by highlights of their discussion.  After they share their response to a question, the floor will be open for anyone else to add information, respond, etc.   I want to leave discussion to them as much as possible, but I will interject mostly to keep the discussion on topic.  One of the fun things about teaching this class for the first time is that, while I am facilitating, I am also a participant in some respects.  I have no pre-set directions to go with the text based on previous experiences, so my responses will be as genuine as the students.  As part of the facilitation, if I hear a comment that relates to one of the other questions, I will steer the conversation there and have that group share their thoughts to keep a more free-flowing nature to the conversation, and model how students can look for entry into the conversation by listening carefully.  Hopefully, in this way we will cover a lot of varied ground regarding the piece.

Next Steps:  to work on some semi-edited writing in a different genre, students will write a letter to the editor of Harper’s Magazine in response to this piece.  I will hand them copies of the letters to the editor regarding the article about math entitled “Wrong Answer:  The Case Against Algebra II” (September, 2013)Algebra II letters to editor.pdf that I read to them yesterday, and point to two in particular that are good models (one thoughtfully refutes one of the author’s claims, while the other applies a section of argument to a different content area) to show them a couple different directions they can take their response.    I want them to spend some time editing this, so it will be the only homework.