My students will begin today by presenting the theme posters they developed in the previous lesson, focusing on chapter four of Of Mice and Men. This is an activity that we did not have time to conduct yesterday.
I allow my students to sit with their group members and present from their seats. I instruct them to first tell us the subject they determined was central to chapter four, and then read to us how they have converted their subject into an expression of theme. From there, they provide a synopsis of the evidence they have used from each character in order to support their theme (in the interest of time, I may just have them select their strongest two pieces of evidence to share).
Through this presentation process, the students in each class will have the opportunity to hear between six and seven expressions of theme from their peers and the evidence used to support them. As each group shares their theme, it provides an opportunity to ask my students whether or not they believe each theme is viable and supportable. This should equip them with a clear understanding of how a theme should be worded and supported so that they are able to successfully complete such a task on their own in an upcoming essay.
After the presentation, we will spend the rest of the period reading chapter five of Of Mice and Men as a whole group. This is an outstanding chapter to read as a collective, as the suspense and intensity of the scene in the barn between Lennie and Curley's wife makes for a generally captive audience. In fact, I will probably do much of the reading today, allowing my students to do more of the reacting. While I often share in the whole-group reading sessions, most of my students consider it a special treat when, on rare occasions, I agree to do the bulk of the reading, and I do not mind occasionally indulging them.
By now my students are trained to record three entries in their on-going dialectic journal, which I instruct them to have out on their desks as we read. I anticipate strong reactions to the discovery of the dead puppy, and will pause to allow for whatever questions or comments my students will have. At any point through the reading, when my students are compelled to share, I encourage them to record their ideas in their dialectic journals.
Steinbeck is at his finest during the murder of Curley's wife, and especially in the quiet of the barn in the aftermath. I truly enjoy reading this scene to my students, as it reminds me of the magic that quality writing possesses, evident in the alternating gasps and reverent silence of my students in the past. I love to point out Steinbeck's command and control of the scene, established through his use of sensory details and strategic syntax. It is narrative bliss, and I am always sure to call my students' attention to it.
We will read until there is approximately ten minutes left in the period. At that time, whatever is left of chapter five will be assigned as homework reading, in addition to chapter six, which finishes the book.
Each class will have read through the murder scene at least. Before we adjourn for the day, I will ask for student volunteers to share their predictions for what happens next. Is there any way out for George and Lennie now? What about Candy? How will Curley react to the death of his wife? Did anyone see it coming? Such questions give my students a chance to utilize their skills as inference makers and to possibly piece together the seeds of foreshadowing that have been dropped along the way in the text.