Yesterday, we only had enough time to do round 1 of the inner/outer circle discussion. Today, we get to swap so that the group who discussed in the inner circle gets to discuss online and the group who discussed online gets to discuss in the inner circle. We are able to start soon after the bell rings because students already know what to expect.
This discussion is one of the last activities student are engaging in before writing their essay on this novel, which will be assigned in two days. Talking about the novel in this discussion will help students clarify their thinking, which is an important step to take before they start their essay. Today, I am also giving students a short assignment that has the same purpose as the discussion, which is to help them think of the novel before they start writing their essay. For this assignment, students will have to think of the development of the main character, specifically how she emerges as a person in control of her life.
Once students have sat in the inner circle and those in the outer circle have logged in to todaysmeet.com, I ask them to begin. I tell them that they have the option of beginning with one of the questions they prepared for this discussion or they can begin by sharing their thoughts on what their classmates discussed in the inner circle the day before. One student opens the discussion with one of his questions and students begin to speak. During this time, I mainly keep track of their responses on the word document I set up in advance. I also comment once in a while and mainly to focus student attention on something they may have overlooked otherwise. In this video of today’s discussion, you can see the set up: students in the inner circle, students in the outer circle on their phone commenting on todaysmeet.com, and my laptop where I am keeping track of their responses. This novel is generally quite challenging for students and a discussion where students are mainly talking to each other is a good time for me to see what sense they are making of the novel.
After the discussion, I ask students to write a reflection of the discussion. This is useful in helping students solidify ideas that were clarified during discussion. Specifically, I ask them to write about comments they agreed or disagreed and anything new they learned through discussion.
The other activity for today is a quick chart in which students track Janie’s emergence as a person. I ask students to create a three-column chart where they will write details that illustrate how Janie became a character in control of her life. I explain that this task may sound repetitive at this point, but that this is meant to help them think of this novel in different ways before they start writing their essay. I ask them to give the chart the title “Janie’s Emergence As A Person” and that they should be thinking of her quest for autonomy. To explain this assignment, I tell students that when someone goes through a process where they gain more and more autonomy, they also go through a parallel process of becoming a person, meaning that they are no longer the object of someone else’s plan but they are subjects in control of their life. I state that Janie is a character who definitely experienced this and that on this chart they will track this process by listing details that define her dependence on others at the beginning of the novel, details that define her effort to free herself from the control of others, and details that define her sense of complete freedom. We have repeatedly discussed details from the novel that will easily fit in this chart so this assignment can be done fast. The main reason why I assign this quick task is because I know there are students who still want to claim that Janie was not satisfied at the end of the novel, a conclusion not supported by the last chapter at all. I believe that they are getting that confused with their own personal dislike of the decisions Janie made. I address this by telling students that it is clear that many of them personally disapprove of the decisions Janie made and this is perfectly ok. However, I do tell them that this opinion should not lead them to misrepresent the character Hurston created for the reader. They personally do not think Janie should be satisfied at the end of the novel, but the fact is that Janie is satisfied and they have to make sure they don’t claim otherwise in their essay because that would be inaccurate.
I want them to see an example of the kinds of details they should include in this chart so we do a few together. I ask them to think of details that show that Janie was being controlled by others at the beginning of the novel. They point out that she was just a teenager and that Nanny controlled her. I agree and tell them to go ahead and write these on their chart. I ask them if there are any questions. There are no questions. I give them the rest of the period to finish it.