In this lesson I want students to be able to link all the various elements of the story together to get the entire picture. The only life that Mr. Shiftlet is saving is his own. Despite the fact that Flannery O'Connor throws in some biblical imagery such as Shiflet as a Christ figure (He is shaped like a crooked cross and he is a carpenter), Shiftlet is no one's saviour but his own. I will also incorporate some journalistic writing to allow students to present one of the main ideas of the story in the form of a newspaper article and frontpage.
In the prior night's homework, students researched the meaning to the slogan: "The life you save may be your own." Before we read the remainder of the story, I want to make sure students have a good grasp on the meaning of the slogan that O'Connor uses as a title. To assess whether students understand the meaning of the slogan, I will pull popsicle sticks and ask students to prsent their findings on their research in a whole class discussion. On the board, I will assemble a list of the information. Ultimately, once the story is completed, students will apply the slogan to at least two themes: selfishness and immorality. Essentially, Mrs. Crater and Mr. Shiftlet are only concerned with themselves. Although they appear to be in agreement in caring for Lucynell, each character has his or her own interests in mind. Mrs. Crater wants to marry off her special needs child and Mr. Shiftlet wants money and the Crater car. The only life either character wants to save is his or her own.
Students will continue to read the second half of the short story. Again, I will read by drawing popsicle sticks. As they read, students will complete a guided reading questions sheet.
I use this oppoprtunity to explain some of the elements of journalistic writing (non-fiction). I first give notes pertaining to journalistic writing. Then I have students think of the main ideas of the story as they relate to plot and pose the question: If you were to write a news story for a newspaper, what would be the headline that encompasses the central idea of the story? Students then write a news story with an appropriate lead and several quotes that tell a story.
To make this assignment Common Core aligned, students need to pull out three direct quotes from the characters in the text and incorporate them in the story. They essentially will use these quotes as support for their contentions. This part of the assignment aligns to citing "strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text."
The most important skills that students will take away from this assignment are the analysis and implications of the plot events in the story. Students will have to make predictions, establish the main point, and connect everything to significant themes of this story through an analysis of all its elements and support their ideas with text evidence.
I usually bring them to the computer lab and use Microsoft Publisher to create a front page with tthe O'Connor story as the lead story. There are newspaper template handouts that can be used if technology is unavailable.
For homework, I want students to think about irony and how Mr. Shiftlet is a figure who professes to do the right thing, but he is really a selfish, conniving man. Students will write a reflection explaining how irony plays into the role of Mr. Shiftlet and how the title links into the theme. I will engage the class in an indepth discussion about the assignment and field questions prior to assigning this as homework.
Whose life does Mr. Shiftlet save? To help students process this assignment they will consider why Flannery O'Connor paints him in two different lights: perhaps a savior for little Lucynell and a manipulative man. They may also look at his physical description and relate him to a perverse Christ figure. He is "shaped like a crooked cross" and he says he is a carpenter. This is a theme discussed in Gatsby. Sometimes I will go as far to ask them to compare and contrast Shiftlet to Gatsby. Both are perceived to be Christ figures, but both are very different in their motivations. These comparisons are both covered in class discussions where I present the character description from the text and students draw conclusions as to what is really being compared. Similar to what I did in Gatsby, I take the character description of Shiftlet and ask students to consider the words outside of the context of the story. What other individual is described here? They usually are able to brainstorm through a whole-class discussion that Shiftlet characterization is a perverse Christ.