What It Means to Be a Catcher in the Rye: Board Game Debrief and Poetry Analysis

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SWBAT analyze a specific aspect developing the theme "Adulthood and Growing Up" in "The Catcher in the Rye" by making textual connections between the novel and the poem "Comin' Through the Rye" by Robert Burns

Big Idea

Loss of innocence as a character experiences the world; is it anybody's business but the characters'?

Introduction & Welcome: It's National Clean Off Your Desk Day!

10 minutes

I welcome students to "National Clean Off Your Desk Day," mentioning it seems like a good way to end the semester: with a fresh start

In order to gauge how the previous class went (I was chaperoning a student conference), I ask students for feedback on their final exam review period, particularly how they chose to use the review time and if they felt it was effective. Students were given time, following the completion of a project, to review for the final exam. (See "Revision Day" for more information).


Board Game Turn-In

5 minutes

Students are given five minutes to meet with their groups, add any revisions to the board game project that needed to be completed over the weekend, or to fill in any students who may have been absent, and turn in the final product before we move on to Robert Burns. 

As I've spoken of before, for the designers of the games, they serve as a formative assessment of the development of Holden Caulfield as a character (RL.9-10.3) and the themes of adulthood and growing up, trust, and identity in "The Catcher in the Rye" (RL.9-10.2). For the other students, the games are a formative assessment of the novel, Holden Caulfield, and its themes. Sharing these ideas, discussing the games and the concepts from the novel, and propel this review by responding to each other's contributions to discussion of the game and novel (SL.9-10.1c), and to respond to each other's perspectives and justify their responses to the review (SL.9-10.1d). The final products demonstrate this understanding, and also builds collaboration and community within the class, as the groups build a sense of team identity. 

"Comin Thro' The Rye": Connecting Poetry to Title to Themes

20 minutes

In order to further analyze the development of the theme of adulthood and growing up/the loss of innocence in the novel, we look at how it ir shaped by a specific detail of the text: Holden's reaction to the poem "Comin' Thro' the Rye." (RL.9-10.2). Holden's reaction to this scene allows students to analyze his development as a character, and the role he; his sister, Phoebe; and the small boy play in developing this theme (RL.9-10.3).

As I pass out copies of Robert Burns' poem, "Comin' Thro' the Rye,"I provide a brief background on the poet, information the students may know tangentially:

  • Burns was a Scottish poet.
  • He's known for writing in dialect.
  • Lines from his poems inspired the titles of "The Catcher in the Rye" and "Of Mice and Men."
  • He's also famous for coining the phrase, "My love is like a red, red rose." 

I then ask students what details they remember about when Holden Caulfield heard the poem in the novel:

  • A young boy was singing it, he was walking on a curb and could fall into the street at any second, it did not appear his parents were paying attention
  • Later, Phoebe (his sister) points out to Holden that he misheard the lyrics, it wasn't "If a body 'catch' a body," but "If a body 'meet' a body".
  • This comes up after Holden reveals all he wants to be is "The Catcher in the Rye", keeping kids playing in a field of rye from falling off of a cliff.
  • Holden's vision of being "The Catcher in the Rye" is symbolic of his self-proclaimed desire to "protect" kids from harm, and from growing up. Holden sees both of these as connected, a connection I point out to the students (Holden does not think adults do enough to protect kids, like the boy's on the curb; Holden sees adulthood as "falling," like the boy on the curb is about to do).

I ask students if anyone can "do" a good Scottish accent (usually there's one student who's at least willing to try. If not, I will read it with an attempt at an accent). After reading the poem, I ask students to form pairs with the student sitting next to them, and read the "translation" to Standard American English in the right-hand-column. These pairs then address the questions at the bottom of the poetry guide. As pairs review and discuss these items, I circulate the room, answering questions and monitoring time and on-task behavior. 

We hold a whole-class discussion on the questions at the bottom of the poem guide. Ultimately, I'm looking for students to gain an understanding of the irony in the novel, how that irony illustrates the theme of adulthood and growing up/the loss of innocence, and as one grows up, one loses their innocence. Holden's confusion about adulthood leads to his "innocent" understanding of the song, about two lovers having a tryst; and the irony comes from the boy and Phoebe, both younger than Holden, appearing to have more acceptance or maturity about sex.   Throughout this discussion, students must respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented (SL.9-10.1d). In order to facilitate this discussion, students must be mature enough to handle a conversation about sex and sexuality. It's key to have knowledge of students' maturity level before addressing this poem. 

I break down this activity into sub-sections in order to ensure even flow and transitions between the ideas, and to have opportunities to stop for informal, formative assessment of students' understanding. Dealing with a "mature" topic as this, I want to be aware of students' reactions to the conversation as we progress. As this is one of our last formal activities of the semester, it serves as a recap of the various ways in which we've addressed materials: mini-lecture, brainstorming, reading aloud, reading by oneself, pairs discussion, written questions/reflective questioning, and whole-class discussion.

Final Exam Prep: Student Questions & Review

13 minutes

Once we wrap our conversation on the connection between the poem and the novel, I ask if students have any questions for the final. I answer any questions that may have arisen during their independent review time, and encourage students to take notes in the space provided on the study guide. and provide in-class time for students to review individually or collaboratively. I  again remind students that, since the final exam is primarily skills-based, the best way to study is:

A. Know the definition of each term.

B. Know an example of the term from the reading.

C. Be able to explain how or why the term is utilized in the literature.

The semester final exam assesses students ability to read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems (RL.9-10.10), as well as literary nonfiction (RI.9-10.10) in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently. The questions on the final exam are drawn from all material we have studied this semester, with a focus on questions that require students to be able to use the skills we have practiced this semester, rather than require recall of minutiae from the readings. Students are presented with multiple choice and short answer/free response questions  at the appropriate level of skill (W.9-10.10) that evaluate their understanding of these skills. The Core Standards focus on practical, skill-based learning, so our summative evaluation follows a benchmark or standardized test format, with passages from the works we have studied or from the same authors, and questions that evaluate their ability to recall, use, and evaluate the skills we study in context. Students are presented with those skills on the above-attached review. As many of the questions are drawn from and adapted from our textbook, they are not reproduced here.

Working individually or collaboratively, students chose the means of study most effective for themselves. Students are given the opportunity to review, giving them the opportunity to focus on that which they find most challenging or on which they feel most comfortable. During this time, they can take note of those ideas they cannot remember, struggle with, or feel confident, bringing these to our next class discussion, and immediately ask me as I circulate the classroom.  

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining in the period, I call students back to their seats, ask them to ensure desks are  in rows, and let them know any more questions they may have for the final exam will be answered tomorrow. Additionally, I let them know I will give them the general topics of the written response questions on the final exam as well.