Students spend the first part of today’s class reviewing answers to last night’s homework, which was to answer a series of questions for Gilgamesh the King, an ancient myth about a Mesopotamian ruler.
As they carry on conversations, I listen in to make sure they stay on topic and to monitor accuracy. Starting class this way provides them the opportunity to remember what they read and gets everyone involved and sharing. It also gives me a chance to check up on their work habits – who completed the assignment, who did not, who is showing great effort and who is just getting by. Then we review the answers to all of the questions together.
The main reason for starting off with independent work is to get a baseline assessment of how well the students do identifying how and why characters are transformed through plot events. Are they able to make inferences into a character’s state of mind or do they rely on what is explicitly stated in the text?
The students recently read the story Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman to build comprehension skills and also because this myth ties into their study of ancient civilizations in social studies class. Now they are going to go back into the story and find evidence of how King Gilgamesh, who is part god and part man, undergoes a tremendous change as he learns what it means to be human. To guide them through this process, I created a worksheet with questions meant to draw out details from the beginning, middle and end of the story that show how and why Gilgamesh is transformed. Questions 1-3 require the inclusion of direct text evidence to support the student’s claims. The fourth question asks students to predict whether or not there will be a lasting change in Gilgamesh’s character. Will he remain a kind and caring friend to Enkidu and treat his subjects with kindness? Or will he revert to his old selfish and cruel ways? There are two more books in this series, so we will soon find out.
The most challenging part of this assignment is to craft a written response with smooth transitions that introduce the quotes rather than just plopping them into the middle of the response. Okay, so ‘plopping’ is probably not a technical term or the most sophisticated way of explaining this, but it really gets the students attention! Another skill the students struggle with is retelling just enough of the story so the response can be easily understood by someone even if she did not read it, but not so much that the response becomes simply a summary and lacks analysis. Further explanation appears here:
Fortunately, they readily understand what is being referred to when shown work samples. For homework they finish the worksheet and revise their answers, if necessary.