Foiling Holden: Comparing and Contrasting Characters

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SWBAT analyze how a complex character develops through comparing and contrasting Holden Caulfield to other characters in "The Catcher in the Rye."

Big Idea

Do we learn more about ourselves through those were are more similar to, or those we are more different from?

Introduction and Welcome: It's the Anniversary of the Founding of UNICEF

5 minutes

As students enter the classroom, I welcome them and provide a copy of the "foils" activity that we will be doing in class today. As they settle at the bell, I ask if, on Halloweens past, any of them trick-or-treated for a service project. I also ask if any of them have participated in "Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF. 

Today is the 67th anniversary of the founding of UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, an organization devoted to provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by World War II. Today, UNICEF advocates for the protection of children’s rights and provides services to help meet their basic needs. In order to introduce the organization, I share the introduction video presented by UNICEF. We have established that Holden Caulfield will claim to be motivated by a desire to protect children, and I ask the students to consider how a character motivated by this goal might react to UNICEF. 

Later, after we have completed the novel, we will revisit Holden's development as a character (RL.9-10.3), and his connection to the theme of Adulthood and Growing Up/The Loss of Innocence (RL.9-10.2). Students will evaluate if Holden really wants to protect children, or if he is more concerned with protecting himself. 

I stress that UNICEF is but one of many organizations seeking to protect children's rights and meet basic needs. While like every organization, UNICEF has an agenda, I'm bringing up their role to connect to the central thematic motif of "Adulthood and Growing Up/Loss of Innocence" and the development of Holden's character traits. 


Summative Assessment: Vocabulary Quiz

15 minutes

We are at a turning point in the novel, both plot-wise (Holden has left Pencey Prep and begun to explore New York City) and vocabulary-wise (I have provided students with thirty words to know and fifteen are from chapters 1-10). As we have read the novel, students have located, identified, and taught each other these words as part of the literature circle roles assignments. The words were chosen from a standardized-test-aligned list of vocabulary for the novel, in order to provide students with the opportunity to determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text (RL.9-10.4), as well as to increase their own personal lexicon as well. I have chosen to assess vocabulary via a quiz, as only two students in the groups have been formally assessed on vocab thus far as part of the "Vocabulary Finder" literature circle role. This assessment will determine how well students have verified preliminary definitions (L.9-10.4d) in order to determine/clarify the meanings of words (L.9-10.4). Today's quiz is entirely multiple choice, testing student knowledge and ability to apply the words in context. Students will utlize both context clues (L.9-10.4a) and parts of speech/usage patterns (L.9-10.4b) as they did while reading, in addition to memorization, to demonstrate understanding of the terms. 

Foiling Characters: Holden, Stradlater, and Ackley

25 minutes

Students are paired in order to examine foils in other works, and directed to consult the foils assignment they were given as they entered the classroom. In a mini-lecture, I share the examples of how Mercutio and Tyblat serve as foils for Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet." I ask students if they remember any other ways in which the three characters compare and contrast each other. 

This part of our look at foils establishes character foils and refers back to a work all students should have studied last year. The objective is to create a working definition of character foil, that students can know, understand, and use in class. This defines the terms we will be looking at as we explore the development of characterization of Holden Caulfield in "The Catcher in the Rye, and develop the overall thematic motif of identity (RL.9-10.3).  

With their partner, students select and identify similar and contrasting traits between two well-known foils. They have ten minutes to complete this part of the assignment. By activating their prior knowledge, students will be able to put their definition of "foil" to practice, and understand how readers learn about characters through their interaction and conflicts with each other (RL.9-10.3). As students work, I circulate the classroom to ensure on-task behavior and informally evaluate if they are demonstrating understanding, as well as offer any clarification. In the unlikely event a student is unfamiliar with any of these characters, we will negotiate a different set of foils. 

As a class, we will share a few examples of their similar and different traits, and then I ask students to flip the sheet over. In their pairs, students locate information about Ward Stardlater and Robert Ackley based on Chapters 4-7 of "The Catcher in the Rye," discussing examples of these aspects of characterization, judging which is the most effective for understanding the character, and copying it to the t-chart on the foils sheet. Students have twenty minutes to complete this activity, and to begin the homework.   

For homework, students are to identify or draw conclusions how Holden reflects these traits of both Ackley and Stradlater. 

As an assessment of this project, student pairs will compose a paragraph expressing how the reader learns about Holden's characterization though that of the two foils. These will be written in sharpie, on a sheet of aluminum foil, and hung in the classroom. This assignment will be done in class tomorrow. 


Wrap Up & Homework

5 minutes

I ask students to pull their desks back into regular rows, and take a look at the directions on the bottom of the sheet. For homework, students are to identify or draw conclusions how Holden reflects these traits of both Ackley and Stradlater. 

I remind them that well will wrap this assignment up tomorrow, before we get into the reading day activities. 

As an exit slip, I ask students to jot down what they think is the most important or revealing comparison or contrast in the pair of character they analyzed together, and to briefly explain why.