Flowers For Algernon: An A-maze-ing Metaphor

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SWBAT analyze a narrative device to determine author's purpose in the story, "Flowers For Algernon".

Big Idea

When is a maze not "just" a maze? When you are probing for author's purpose.

What does it mean to be smart?

10 minutes

To kick off our class today, I asked the students to respond to this question:

What does it mean to be smart?  

I encouraged them to respond to the question in any way that they thought was appropriate.  They could write a definition, list and discuss implications of "being smart", whatever they were inspired to write about.

After I gave them time to formulate ideas, they shared them.


Battle of the Brains Video, Part 1

10 minutes

There is an awesome documentary called Battle of the Brains that was produced by the BBC.  In a nutshell, it puts seven "extraordinary" people and puts them through a battery of tests to measure their intelligence.  It's a great documentary for kids to see, because it is very informative (for example, they film an administration of IQ-test questions), but it also challenges your thinking about what intelligence really is and how it can be measured.  

My intention is to show them the whole thing in small parts, so that we can have lots of opportunities to discuss questions or issues that are raised in the video.

Maze Race

15 minutes

To start this section of the class period, I distribute the mazes with strict warnings for students not to peek at them.

Then, we run two races: the first is with the "medium" maze.  Students race to finish and record their times (I have a stopwatch up on the SmartBoard for this.)  Then, we do the more difficult maze.

Obviously, this connects to the story literally (which we will find out), but after the fun of doing the maze races, I ask the students, "What are the characteristics of a maze?"  

Then, I ask them, "How can a maze be a metaphor?"  

Reading in the Text

20 minutes

The next section of Flowers For Algernon takes the students through Progress Report 10.

After reading, the students respond to the following question in their "Case Study" section of their notebooks:

Identify and describe three examples of changes in Charlie, post-operation.  Support your statements with text references.


Summarize the effects of the surgery -- both good and bad -- on Charlie Gordon.

This question helps me to figure out who has a deeper understanding of the issues in this story.  At first blush, it seems like being smarter can only help Charlie and improve his life.  But, then again, IS ignorance bliss?