Narrative essay drafts are due today and so I plan to devote the first 10-15 minutes of class to the mad scramble of students who will be locating and assembling the process pieces that I require they turn in with the final draft of a processed essay. I have learned to stay as zen as possible on days that essays are due, and part of that includes providing time in class for essay assembling.
Even though I have listed the process pieces on the Final Draft Requirements handout that I provided my students last week, I have additionally listed the pieces on the whiteboard, for easy reference. A stapler makes its way around the classroom, and when all has settled, I collect each student's masterpiece.
Once all essays are collected, we turn our focus to The House On Mango Street, to two vignettes specifically, in order to expand my students' understanding of allusion.
As we begin, I ask a student volunteer to recap the events of the vignette "The Monkey Garden," which was read in class during a previous lesson.
I then distribute the handout The Garden of Eden and The Fates. I direct my students' attention to the Garden of Eden story on the front side. At the top of the handout, I have included the actual standard upon which the heart of this lesson is based, in the event that any student questions how or why the Bible is making an appearance in their English class. In fact, I explain to my students that when they get to high school and/or college, they may have the opportunity to take a "Bible as Literature" class, where they would read the Bible the same way we are reading The House On Mango Street: as literature.
After the students have read the Garden of Eden story, we address the task on the handout as a whole group, asking for volunteers to share a connection they see between the two story lines. I point out that the Bible is a very common source for allusions, even offering this piece of advice to my students: "If you suspect an author is making an allusion, check the Bible first."
Next, I ask my students if they can think of another source of popular allusions. Usually at least one student will bring up mythology. As I have found that many/most of my students are not very familiar with Greek and Roman mythology, and specifically The Fates, I show a clip from the Disney version of Hercules (I have learned that animated connections are almost always crowd pleasers in 8th grade).
From the clip, I then direct my students' attention to the back of their handout, where I have included a brief explanation of The Fates. I ask a student to read it aloud and address any comments or questions from the whole group.
Finally, we return to The House On Mango Street to read the vignette "The Three Sisters." I ask a student volunteer to read it out loud, and then we again, as a whole class, address the task of identifying how it alludes to the story of The Fates.
Identifying the links from the text to the allusions is generally fun and relatively easy for my students, once the allusions are brought to their attention. Before they leave for the day, however, I try to nudge them toward a deeper analysis of the chosen allusions by asking them why they think Sandra Cisneros uses those specific allusions in her book. What do they add to the text?
I am searching for evidence of a larger awareness in my students, one that not only indicates that they can spot an allusion, but that then asks why Cisneros has specifically invited the Garden of Eden story and The Fates into her text. Why has she done that?
I allow students to share their ideas as a whole group and conclude this class session with a reminder to always ask why as a reader.