Charting our Great Expectations: Personal Timelines

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SWBAT present information logically and then evaluate a speaker's point of view by engaging in class timeline presentations.

Big Idea

Helping students make a personal connection to a 1850s English boy by reflecting on their own childhood

Note to the Teacher

I have never done with project before with Great Expectations, but I'm desperate to intrigue them early. I have taught Great Expectations for five years, but never in a way that satisfies me. The beginning and end usually go well, but I lose the class somewhere in the middle and getting through the reading really does feel like "getting through the reading," which I hate. And I completely understand why they feel this way; I have clear memories of my freshman self despising this novel: it was too long, too old, and had too many big words. 

I have a few tricks up my sleeve to bolster interest (more creative writing, projects, and musical connections, for example), and the Life Map is one of them. I am hoping that it helps students connect more to the narrator: adult Pip, reflecting on his childhood. This is a perspective that adults understand easily and enjoy, but freshmen, still children themselves, do not have the same reflective tendencies. 

On this project, I have asked students to make a timeline with seven significant events or moments in their lives that has helped define them in some way. I have also asked them to select one said event on which to reflect. They were asked to write about the memory from their current perspective. I specifically asked, what do you understand now that you didn't understand then? I am hoping that I can refer back to these responses once we start reading the novel. Students often think that Pip is stupid and always ask why he doesn't just run to the police or tell Joe that a convict threatened him. They might better understand his experiences and fears if they have spent time looking back at their earlier selves.

Getting started

5 minutes

Today students present the Life Map they have been working on at home for a week. I begin by explaining the protocol for the class: we will present in order by birthday, starting with October. I emphasize the importance of being a good audience; therefore, we will listen when others are speaking and clap when they finish sharing. As they present, I will sit among the students, listening, giving encouragement to the nervous students, and asking questions at the end of each presentation, when needed.


45 minutes

Each student will briefly present the events they included on their timeline to the class (SL.9-10.4). Here is an example. The timeline consists of seven significant events of their lives so far, plus a written explanation about what they understand about one of these events that they didn't understand when it happened.  I asked, what do you understand now that you didn’t quite understand then? This question is especially important because it will serve as a way to understand the narrative of Great Expectations: Pip tells us his story as an adult looking back, and thus he provides details (and humor) that only the adult Pip grasps. I am hoping that I can use some of their reflections when we discuss perspective in chapter 1. In the presentations, I will ask that students spend more time explaining the event they wrote about for homework.

Wrapping Up

10 minutes

In the last 10 minutes of class, we will review vocabulary words to prepare for a quiz on Monday (L.9-10.4). On the quiz, students will be asked to write sentences using the vocab words, so to prepare, I will give them a scenarios, such as trick-or-treating and family dinner, and ask students to verbally describe the event using the vocabulary. 

I give vocab quizzes once a month. Each week, three more words and a commonly confused situation are added to their vocab list, which doesn't seem like a lot, but because the list is continually growing, they will have over fifty words by January. I select the words from the texts we read and from lists of common SAT words.