I will start by asking how they are enjoying their choice books for outside reading. This short conversation has a two-fold benefit: I really want to know if they like their books, and I want to remind them that they should be reading at home. This is quick way to assess the students' progress: if they can explain how and why they are liking their books, then it's clear that they are reading them!
We have been reading chapters 1-3 in class over the past few days. Before we begin chapter 4, the students will complete the first half of a handout introducing new characters: Uncle Pumblechook, Mr. Wopsle, and the Hubbles. The activity is simple and fun. They merely have to write or draw what they think each character will be like, judging solely from their names. As we read, we will stop after new characters are described to see how accurate our instincts were and we will fill in the "after reading" boxes.
Dickens is known for his clever and humorous names. Although the names themselves may not seem important, they are a good example of how a word can connote tone and mood (RL.9-10.4). Plus, the activity engages the class in a new way. They become more interested in these new characters-- who treat Pip horribly-- and therefore, they are more interested in the reading, which is great for so many reasons, but mostly it helped them remember characters that will develop and play significant roles throughout the novel (RL.9-10.3).
Moreover, I hope that this activity will help them think about the characters in their own stories, which will be begin at the end of the week.
Today we will read the chapter, utilizing a fun and engaging strategy: Reader's Theater. I have created scripts for each character with a speaking role throughout the chapter, including the narrator, and I hand them out to different students. As they get used to this method (I utilize Reader's Theater probably six times throughout the book) and the characters, I will let them chose roles, but for today's class, I will chose students that I think will bring life to specific characters. It will be slow at first, mostly because they are still getting used to Dickens' language and long sentences, but reading aloud at the beginning of the novels helps all of us; I better understand which words and phrases are hardest; and they are more likely to ask questions about words when they are reading themselves. Together we can determine meaning (RL.9-10.4). This clip shows a small sample of us working through the language of the chapter and using it to complete the worksheet, which we started before reading.
I like using the scripts for chapters with several speakers because hearing the lines through distinct voices helps the students differentiate characters, which in turn helps them understand, not only plot, but theme. This method also allows for more participation from more students.
We will spend the last few minutes of class discussing the ending of the chapter, where Pip tries to run out of the house in fear and runs straight into a throng of soldiers. I will ask what the students expect to happen and why this might be an effective ending, especially for Dickens' original intended audience (RL.9-10.5).
I spend these few moments on cliffhangers because its an important element of the novel and because its something that I want them to practice in their own creative writing assignment. Creating an effective cliffhanger is much harder than it looks; it depends upon every element we have discussed: setting, characterization, conflict, and diction. Plus, the audience has to care enough to read further.