To begin today's lesson, I draw my students' attention back to the timeline we have going on the white board. I have added the publication date of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and the setting date of the novel (sometime between 1836 and 1846). I ask students to look at those two dates in relation to the other events on our timeline and make some observations.
I am hoping that students will notice that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published after the Civil War but that it was set before the war.
I then display Thinking About How Authors Use History in Fiction and read the text from the Twain biography.
I ask students to turn to an elbow partner and discuss how Twain felt about slavery.
Once everyone has had a chance to talk to a partner, I will ask a few students to share out their ideas. It's a good idea to have them cite the part of the text that led them to their conclusion.
I hand out Twain's Use of History to my students. I tell them that we're going to be detectives and find clues in the text that reveal Twain's opinions about slavery and what he wanted his readers to think about.
I first walk them through the different sections of the sheet. I ask if someone can remind us of the meaning of "paraphrase." Once everyone understand what we will be doing in each box, we work through the first quote together.
I read the quote aloud to the class and ask them to paraphrase the statement. Once I see that almost everyone is done writing, I call on a few students to share what they've written. Inevitably, someone will go beyond paraphrasing the quote, and this is a great teachable moment to review the idea of paraphrasing versus analyzing.
I then ask students to write a sentence or two explaining what Mr. Twain wanted his readers to think about. I draw their attention to the excerpt that is still displayed on the screen, the list of Twain's experiences with slavery we have created, and the timeline. I want them to consider all of these things in their analysis statements.
Again, once I see that most everyone's pencils have stopped moving, I ask a few students to share. With any luck, a few have noted that Twain has shown us that Tom lumps family members into two categories: dogs and children in one and slaves in the other.
After my students have had about 10 minutes to work through the remaining two quotes on their own, we discuss their responses to close this lesson.
I ask a few students to volunteer answers for the paraphrase and analysis of both remaining quotes. I find that I still have to guide them through their paraphrasing and analyzing skills, but they are able to make some insights on their own.
I collect this assignment as a formative assessment, looking for completion and effort.