Juxtaposition, Research, Fathers, Visual Motifs--Writing a Literary Analysis of Maus (Day 1 of 2)

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Objective: SWBAT write a clear claim and support it with evidence from the text in order to meet their audience’s knowledge of Maus by writing a group literary analysis our Maus.

Big Idea

Get out your writing shovels; students dig deep into Maus.

Let's Get Started: How Does History Shape Our Culture and Identity?

15 minutes

Today is the second day of presentations.  Students are presenting on a event in their life time that they believe will have a lasting impact on their community, nation or the world. The students have worked in groups to answer the question: do all families bleed history. The subtitle of Maus is My Father Bleeds History.  They researched their topic using multiple sources to create a coherent presentation (CCSS SL 9-10 4). The goal of this project is for students to realize that the events that are happening now will shape their lifestyle in the future. I assess these presentations using a group presentation rubric. 

Today's presentation focuses on long-term impact of pop culture.  Embrace your inner fanboy or fangirl, it is time for Death Star News.

Building Knowledge: Introduction to Literary Analysis

15 minutes

It is hard to get excited for a lecture; sometimes it is even more difficult to get the class focused and interested in a lecture, so I try to keep the introduction to literary analysis as short and interactive as possible. I try to illicit questions and responses from the students that engages them in the lecture. I want students to ask questions and help to guide the progression of information on writing a literary analysis (CCSS SL 9-10. 1).  I have specific information about literary analysis to share with the students lecturing is the most effective and least time consuming way to make sure all students have the same reference information.  As the students work on their literary analysis, I can differentiate the needs of individual students and provide the appropriate support. 

First, I ask the students, "What is Literary Analysis?" I want them to really understand the difference between analysis and summary.  For my sophomores, it is fine line.   I share with them the following definition and ask, "What does this mean?"

“A method by which a thing is separated into parts, and those parts are given rigorous, logical, detailed scrutiny, resulting in a consistent and relatively complete account of the elements of the thing and the principles of their organization.” (from A Handbook to Literature, 5th edition. By C. Hugh Holman & William Harmon. New York, Macmillan Publishing Co, 1986, p. 20) 

After about 30 seconds of silence, I admit to my students that I don't understand it either.  Then I give them another definition (see below)  and pose the same question.

"A literary analysis is an investigation of a specific topic of a literary work that contains evidence from the text to support the claim (thesis)."  
This definition is way more understandable and I hope to hear an audible exhale.  We have consistently worked on developing a clear claim and supporting it with evidence (CCSS.W.9-10.2b) Now the students have to apply it to a work of literary nonfiction.  I point out to the students that when writing a literary analysis, they can assume that their audience has read the book.  Why read of an analysis of something you have not read?  
This discussion leads me to the next point: analysis vs. summary. I give them the following information.
  • When you write an extended literary essay, you must support your thesis with evidence from the text; you are essentially making an argument about the text.
  • You are arguing that your interpretation  or critical evaluation of the text--is a valid one.
  • Analyze!  Do not simply summarize.  We have all read Maus—create a context do not retell the story.
  • In order to analyze, you consider in detail the text in order to discover essential features or meaning.  A summary only retells the story.

The last part of the lecture is on plagiarism and incorporating quotes using TIE.  This section is a review from prior writing assignments. It is on slides 4, 5, and 6 of the introduction to literary analysis powerpoint.

Lecture Done! The students are ready to work on their collaborative essay. It is time for the groups to choose and break down the prompts for the Maus collaborative essay. 


Building Knowledge: Breaking down the Prompt

10 minutes

The last slide on the introduction to literary analysis powerpoint is the four prompt choices. All the prompts connect to something we explored in depth during our discussion of the graphic novel.  After I read the prompts to the students, I tell them to take a few minutes and discuss with their group about which prompt they want to use for their essay. The groups can choose the prompt that most interests them or plays to the strength of the group. When students have a choice, they have a greater sense of ownership of the topic. Writing the essay is not an imposition it is the option they choose.

We have worked on breaking down prompts in prior activities.  I do not give them specific directions beyond asking them to break down the prompts and, as a group, choose the prompt the group will write on.  I want to see if they can apply the skills necessary to figure out the prompt without me guiding they through the process. 

Once they choose a prompt, they begin working on the pre-writing and planning sheet for the Maus collaborative essay (CCSS W 9-10 5). Before they leave, they need to develop a working thesis. Students have to explore the various claims and counterclaims that could lead to a response to the prompt in order to develop a working thesis (CCSS W 9-10 1b).  Their homework is to identify examples from the text to support their claim. 

Wrap up: Assigning Roles for Homework

10 minutes

Once the students have completed the pre-writing and planning sheet, each group member should know which section of the essay they are responsible for writing. Their homework is to find textual evidence that will support their section of the essay and explain how the evidence supports their working claim.  

Next class, they will share their evidence and work with their groups to choose the best evidence and how best to organize it in their essay.