This the first lesson in our "Flowers for Algernon" unit. So, to make the activities and connected readings seem different and fun, I have the students mark out a section of their class notebook -- they can use a post it or a paper clip -- and label it "Case File."
I like for students to approach this text like scientists, and I want them to practice evaluating Charlie Gordon as a narrator and as a character.
Their first "job" is to take a very simplified Rorschach test, which is the test that Charlie takes in the story. I use the basic ten ink blots by projecting them on the SmartBoard, and I have students write down what comes to mind. Their answers are recorded under the heading "Rorschach Test."
After "taking" a Rorschach tests, the students compare their responses and show each other the visions that they see in the blots. We will come back to this later, after we read the section wherein Charlie can't see anything in the inkblots but ink.
This is the first time that I am going to have students try the SOAPSTone technique for a non-fiction text. So, after having fun with the inkblots, I we will do a "bump" reading of the article (with each student taking a paragraph) and then we will break down the information using the technique.
I learned this technique at an AP workshop that I took years ago, but there are lots of web resources about it, and I have seen teachers use this for students as young as sixth grade.
Usually, the students struggle most with tone, but the other categories can be tricky sometimes, too. This article is a pretty straightforward one, so it's a good one with which to start.
The reason I chose this article is that it is a timely discussion of a topic that is integral to the story, "Flowers for Algernon." I think knowing more scientific and historical background about Rorschach testing will help the students better understand the text.
After "taking" a Rorschach test and reading about the validity of the testing system, I will ask students to evaluate the test. What do they think of such a test and why do they think it has hung around for so long? Based on their own very limited experience, what do they think the problems with the test could be, other than those posited in the article?
The students will write this as an entry in their "Case File" section of their notebook (see video).
Students will now read the first few pages of the story, stopping before Charlie's writing begins to change (just after the operation.) Then, in their Case Files, students will record their impressions of Charlie Gordon in their notebooks.