What the Dickens? Analyzing the Author's Life to Understand the Novel
Lesson 1 of 10
Objective: SWBAT initiate and participate effectively in a collaborative discussion about the life of author Charles Dickens and how it overlaps with his characters by taking notes and learning about his biography.
At the beginning of Great Expectations, I like to give a motivational speech about the rigor of an honors class. I explain that only the honors level classes read this text because it’s lengthy and the language is difficult; therefore, they need to be focused and persistent. I tell them that I expect them to have a hard time, especially at first, but that it will get easier.
Like all dedicated teachers, I have high expectations. This brief intro talk reminds them that the expectations are such and that they need to act accordingly. Plus, it makes them feel special-- most of their friends are not reading Dickens-- which in turn builds confidence. Only the honors classes read Great Expectations because it is complex and can require months of class time (RL.9-10.10), but I think that a motivational speech and a reminder that this is doable and worthwhile can make all the difference.
Through powerpoint, I present on the life and career of Charles Dickens. The presentation is just under an hour and through it, I aim to make Dickens relatable and human, instead of an old, dead, white guy (SL.9-10.1). I’ve tried other ways to get this information across, such as through webquest, but ultimately, I’ve found that my presentation is more time-effective and thorough than the other methods I’ve tried.
I lecture exactly three times a year. And today is one of those days. I don't really enjoy doing it; my theory is, if I'm doing all the work for an hour, what are they doing? But, at times, it is the best plan. I feel that I'm able to make Dickens more human and fun than a computer screen or the preface of a book can. I also try to integrate the information from today throughout the reading; here's one way I try to do that.
At the end of the presentations, students need to write two comments and a question on an exit slip. Since I did most of the talking this hour, I want to check in on their understanding (SL.9-10.1c). I find that this is a good way to do so, since it is quick and informal.