Characters in the Story World.
During this section of the novel, I am still curious to see if the students can access the story world, as there are often barriers to this, particularly when some of the students are possibly caught off guard by the prospect of reading what they would consider to be a loooong book.
I think that grasping the world of Afghanistan is first and foremost of importance, so I have built in the previous lessons a lot of historical and background knowledge components, all of which have helped to create a schema upon which to place the events of the novel. Now we are rolling into the text, and the next hurdle comes in bonding with and understanding the characters (RL.9-10.3). If students don't care about the characters, then reading the novel will be of little importance, so I will be striving to draw out from them their key understandings of characters as well as to develop empathy for both Amir and Hassan.
Graphic to Guide Reading.
Thus, I will present the attached graphic to them on the board (sorry for the horrifically fuzzy notes here). I was going for a typical venn diagram, but with a level of complexity that is appropriate for high school students. I experimented with several models that I found online, but I ended up with this one, as it allows me four distinct levels from which to draw the contrasts. Much of this mirrors our earlier cultural studies, so there is a sense of build here:
AFGHANS (religion, social class)
BROTHERS (deep friends, almost family)
CHARACTER TRAITS (courage, practicality, schooling)
RELATIONSHIPS (with fathers, family, each other, others)
Predicting Character Change.
The contrasts are interesting to note, and I will elicit from the students several but also offer a few points for the students to read into as they do their SSR today. Also, there are areas of commonality that I have put down with a big question mark. What do Amir and Hassan have in common with respect to their identities as Afghans, with respect to their characters, with respect to their relationships (RL.9-10.3). I ask the students this because has so far to grow as a person, but as he becomes more of a confident, bold and loving man at the end of the novel, he develops Hassan's courage to stand up for those he cares about. This is important to preview a bit here, but I am loathe to give away any spoilers, just a few hints that Amir will grow.
Setting the Stage for Successful SSR
In any case, I want the students to READ this book, so I give them this character frame beforehand and then set them to the task of SSR, sustained silent reading, so that they are reading with a purpose.
My Model for Extending Reading in this unit. You will see in my graphic (attached) that I created for the purpose of sustaining reading (drawn heavily from Reading for Understading by Greenleaf, et al.--check it out), that SSR is not exactly a time to kick back and read--at least for me. There is a lot going on when the students are reading, and setting aside this time in class comes with the challenge for me to monitor, prompt, but to not get in the way (RL.9-10.10).
Today, I am pulling two metacognitive moves into play:
1.) Metacognitive journal. Often, this will be done after reading in order to solidify understandings, but today, we wrote prior to SSR reading. This metacognitive journal can be rolled out right at page 1 of the novel or a few lessons into the study, once the students are acclimated. The goal of doing the journal notes before reading was to frame the reading that they would be doing, especially in the area of character development (RL.9-10.3). This journal activity, which will be used recursively throughout the unit, will serve to help students to focus their thinking and to articulate their reading process to themselves and to me. By writing in short, frequent bursts, the students use writing differently than they do when we are focusing on longer papers that draw together multiple sources. Here, the focus is on crystallizing understandings in real time. In addition, I will ask prompts that draw students to do some troubleshooting to improve their reading; for example, later in the novel, the narrator switches from Amir to Rahim Khan, creating an interpretive challenge for the reader, so I will likely ask the students a metacognitive prompt about this shift and have them discern why the author decided to make the shift.
Think-aloud protocols can be time consuming, but they are the best way to see how students are doing with the reading, if they are perceiving the changes in character that are so foundational to these chapters. Thus, I will pull aside students, for about two minutes each to have them read a key section and to ask them key, in-the-moment prompts about what they are understanding. I can differentiate these questions by asking more hidden/inferential questions or dialing the complexity level back to the concrete by asking more literal types of questions first. I will use student progress on quizzes, past readings, and contributions to class discussions to form the basis of my starting point. In this way, I can assess how students are coming to appreciate each character's development and interactions (RL.9-10.3).
- What does suggest Hassan should eat? (dirt, page 54, chapter 6).
- What is Hassan's response?
- What does this answer reveal about Hassan?
- What does the question reveal about Amir? He admits that he was being cruel.
- Point of view: Why is Amir telling us all about his shortcomings? Why do you think he's making Hassan look good to such an extent?
A key component of this unit is to compare the perspective of U.S. culture to the international culture depicted in the book (RL.9-10.6). This sounds good in theory, but I think it's a challenge to make such broad cultural comparisons, particularly when the U.S. is so diverse (what is U.S. culture, anyway?) and as Afghan culture is changing so much.
As a result, I will be looking for hooks in the unit that can serve as entry points to make the comparisons in specific ways. At the end of the SSR, I will ask the students about how Amir and Hassan's friendship has been developing, and I expecting them to bring evidence and insight to the discussion as they respond (SL.9-10.1a).
I will ask:
Based on your notes, do you think that they have a typical friendship, much as you would have had with your best buddies in grade school, or is their relationship very different because it exists in Afghan culture? What similarities and what differences exist between their friendship and yours? What do these points of comparison and contrast reveal about the characters involved? The cultures?