I want to discuss the results of the quiz they took the day before. I scored them myself, which allows me to have a clear picture of how the entire group did. Many of the scores are a bit disappointing. I have two concerns to address with students regarding this. One is whether they actually read or lied when I asked them yesterday. The other one has to do with the way they read. Most of my students are not used to reading for extended periods of time and, the way I see it, part of my job is to train them to do this. Like they do with other challenging tasks, many of my students find ways of avoiding actually reading. Today, I give them a little speech to differentiate between reading and "reading." I list the habits of a good reader: good readers are engaged while they read, monitor for meaning, ask questions, stop every once in a while to digest what they read, etc. I affirm that this qualifies as reading. I then state that there are other students who claim they are reading, but they do things that only qualify as “reading” and I use air quotes when I refer to this kind of "reading." This is how I explain what I mean by "reading" and the consequences of not reading closely. Students get this explanation today. I know they are all very familiar with every aspect of "reading" and this is confirmed with giggling. I tell them that it is extremely important that they do real reading. I remind them that an eleventh graders should be able to easily sit down and read continuously, really read, for an hour a day.
I give them back their quiz and invite students to ask questions about any answer so that we can essentially discuss questions. They had questions about certain answers that didn’t seem like the right answer.
Students have been working on an assignment called “the hand we are dealt,” in which they have been tracking the major events that mark Janie’s quest for autonomy. They just finished this assignment and I want them to briefly look over this and make a conclusion about Janie’s quest for autonomy. I ask them to use a scale I set up for them to evaluate the extent to which Janie reached autonomy at the end of the novel. This is the the hand we are dealt they are to use to make this evaluation. I ask them to explain their response in a short paragraph on the back of the second copy of “The Hand We Are Dealt.” I give them a few minutes to write. This is meant to be a quick write and I want all students to basically get to the point where they understand that Janie was extremely successful at gaining autonomy. I think it is very difficult to arrive at a different conclusion. However, I expect some to give Janie a low score for various reasons and I want these to be heard. I ask students to share what they wrote. Sure enough, a couple gave Janie a 3 and lower. Their explanation had to do with a personal criticism of the choices Janie made. I am ok with this response at this point. I expect these students to find it challenging to maintain this argument once they are expected to back it up with textual evidence. Most students gave Janie a 4 or a 5. I ask them all to turn in this assignment.
I want students to look at the end of the novel closely because it is rich in language and because we get the main character’s thoughts about her quest for autonomy, which we have been discussing throughout our reading of this novel. I ask students to open their book to the last chapter. I remind them that the first part of the chapter narrates how Janie decides to leave the muck and come back to Eatonville. I ask them to fast forward to the second page of chapter 20 where it takes the reader back to the scene in chapter 1, when Janie is scrubbing her feet and telling Phoeby her life story. I tell students that starting with the sentence, “Janie stirred her strong feet in the pan of water,” the last two pages of the novel are rich in figurative language and give us a clear sense of the result of Janie's quest for autonomy. I instruct them to take out a sheet of paper and create a t-chart with the first column titled "textual evidence." I tell them they are to use that first column to copy quotes from these pages that fulfill the following two criteria: language is figurative, language speaks of something about her quest for autonomy. I tell them that this task is quite easy because these last two pages do mostly this. What I want is for students to do two things. The first is to get some practice identifying language that is figurative. The second is to push them to focus on this extremely significant part of the novel. I remind them of the definition of figurative language, which I always compare to literal language and use this chart on the wall to explain it. I tell them that literal language says what it means and that figurative language says one thing but means something else. I suspect students need an example and I ask them if they would like one. They say yes and I put the work back on them. I ask them to start reading from the paragraph I pointed to and raise their hand as soon as they find the first example of figurative language. A few students soon raise their hand and I call on a student who does not speak very often. She correctly identifies the words, "Ah done been tuh de horizon and back..." I confirm that this is figurative and then I ask if this quote speaks of Janie's quest for autonomy. After a few seconds of thinking, students begin to nod their head. I confirm their answer and tell them that this is an excellent quote to put on their chart. They all do. I assign the task of finding four more quotes and remind them that each quote has to be figurative AND has to speak of her quest for autonomy. Soon, students begin to call me over to show me the quote they are thinking of selecting and I have to tell some that the quote needs to fulfill both requirements. I assure them that there are easily more than five in these two pages and to not worry if the first one they find does not meet both requirements. Plenty others will. Students continue working through the end of the period. I ask them to finish selecting and copying the rest at home for a total of five. I tell them they will be writing an explanation of each quote tomorrow and to just focus on the textual evidence tonight.