Today is our first day back after we all enjoyed a week off for Thanksgiving. Students were assigned the task of finishing the rest of Their Eyes Were Watching God during the break. There is a concern that many of them may not have bothered to fulfill this requirement. I put pressure on students by reminding them that when we come back from the break we will be three weeks away from the end of the semester and they will not have a chance to catch up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I start class by welcoming students back and chatting lightly about their Thanksgiving break. Then I move on to check in. I ask students if they finished reading the rest of the novel. Except for a couple of students, they all read! The talk apparently had the intended effect. I offer students an invitation to ask questions or make comments about the last chapters they read over the break. Students call out personal responses, such as, “It was sad,” and, “Oh, my God, she shot him.” A student asked if Janie died at the end. I did not expect this and I asked the student to explain what led her to wonder this. She referred the entire class to the very last paragraph when “… Tea Cake came prancing around her” and she had “the sun for a shawl.” She said it made her wonder whether Janie is dying because Tea Cake is gone. I bounced the question to the rest of the class. A few students remember a line where the author said that Janie “crossed to the other side” and that made him wonder the same thing, whether Janie had died. Several students say they do not believe she dies but can't point to specific evidence. I leave the conversation open like this stating that we will be discussing the novel orally as well as in writing. I point out that there are several passages most readers believe are very significant in this novel and that last chapter is one of them. I let them know this is a passage we will be looking at in more detail and to hold on to their thoughts for now. This is meant to be a brief question-and comment session so I move on to something else for now.
Today, I want students to do some more writing. I give them back their chart where they analyzed a couple of quotes they connected to a Feminist theory concept during a previous lesson. Their chart has feedback I gave them and I want them to keep in mind as they write today. I address some of the problematic trends. The trends are typical of struggling writers. I tell them that some papers still suffer from lack of coherence, meaning that they begin to write on a certain topic and then wonder off to something vaguely related. I also tell them that some of their analytical sentences are written in a way that does not make it clear that the author is making the statement. For instance, some sentences may say, “This example shows that men are superior to women.” I give them this example and point out that this sentence is suggesting that the writer, one of my students, is the one who believes this. I remind them that this is analytical writing and that they need to discuss what the author communicates or what the characters communicate, not what they personally believe. I tell them that a simple way of fixing this problem is by adding a few words to their sentence so that it may say, “This examples shows that Jody, Janie’s second husband, believes that men are superior to women.” Students get the point. I tell them that today they will be analyzing one more quote and connecting it to a concept. I ask them to create the same three-column chart on the back of the one they already have. I tell them to make one change, which is to title the first column “concept” instead of “feminist concept” because I want to give them the option of discussing other concepts. Specifically, I want them to discuss any detail from our definition of autonomy, in addition to any concept from feminist theory. I point to the board to remind them that autonomy and feminist theory are the two lenses we have been using to read Their Eyes Were Watching God. The board offers a good visual of these two lenses we have been using to read Their Eyes Were Watching God, as I discuss in this video. For this chart they are about to create, I want them to include anything from these two concepts. For example, they can select a quote that is a good example of moral independence, which is part of the definition of autonomy on the board.
Students will be working on this at different paces so I want to make the best use of the time. For this, I ask that students who finish analyzing this additional quote go ahead and give me their paper and to then work on finishing a couple of assignments that are already started and that they can work on with no support. My plan is to have them work mostly in silence and give me an opportunity to work one-on-one with students who really need the support to improve their written sentences on the chart. The two assignments they will be working on independently are these:
Students get started on their chart and I hold as many one-on-one conversations to help individual students address the feedback I have given them.