The focus of this lesson is to allow the students the chance to reflect on how the novel is a representation of Alexie's experience. He puts it forth as "Absolutely True," which I think is intended to be tongue in cheek, but we haven't much talked about why he might alter or expand certain events for artistic effect. After all, the novel is pitched as "fiction" rather than "memoir," which is an important distinction for us to deal with in this class because the students will soon write their own narratives which might have elements of their own experiences combined with fiction--as all good writers seem to do.
Thus, we are exploring genre because the students will read a short story by the same author, "Indian Education," a short story which contains many of the same events, but casts them in very a different light. As a result, the students will be able to compare how the same events are represented across different mediums (RL9-10.7). While the media here are not as vastly different as comparing, say, an oil painting and a poem, there is enough slippage between the short story and the novel and the concept of memoir which both seem to skirt, that the resulting work will be a strong opening experience of this standard. Of course, we will go deeper.
Along the way, we will be pulling evidence from the text (RL9-10.1) and exploring theme (RL9-10.2) and character (RL9-10.3).
During parts of this school year, I have had the pleasure of working directly with university researchers in connection with Project READi. They encouraged me to do text-to-text connection type writing, in several lessons, and I think the encouragement really helped me to frame this lesson.
The image credit for the landscape shot is from wikimedia and it is of the Spokane Indian Reservation land.
PROJECT READI is a multidisciplinary, multi-institution collaboration aimed at research and development to improve complex comprehension of multiple forms of text in literature, history and science. READI is a project supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305F100007 to University of Illinois at Chicago. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.
Nothing fancy here. It's extraordinarily readable, and the students could easily read it in pairs, as well. I will pass out the study guide and stop at intervals to have the students write comparisons. Again, this activity of writing across texts is not all that common in 9th grade, and it lays the groundwork for comparison/contrast writing that the students will do in the next units.
These prompts are pretty exciting because they inductively lead students to draw key insights on characterization (RL9-10.2) across genres, from this text, "Indian Education" back to the novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (RL9-10.7). Again, I was absent on this day, but I did plan to read the students' work later that night.
The next day in class, I planned to carry on a follow-up discussion about a few of the prompts, drawing out some of the key insights in text-to-text connections, particularly examining how the author shifts tone and style to render the same experiences, how some of the experiences may be altered in order to develop characterization (RL9-10.3) in a more complex way or flesh our a certain idea or theme (RL9-10.2).
Aside from the actual prompts on the handout (see attachment above), I will ask the following global questions:
1.) How do you think that Alexie changed the story of his experiences the most?
2.) To what extent do you think he did this well in the novel? Do you think all authors do this?
3.) What does it mean to read two different accounts of the same "story"? In the next unit, we will be handling the topic of point of view, so how does a writer's experiences affect his or her purpose in crafting the story?
4.) Just for fun, what part of the short story did you enjoy the most? How does it compare to the novel?