It's amazing how much the students have accomplished up until now just by being interested in the story. They have read over 100 pages, and ALL of them are up to date and absolutely nailing the quizzes. However, we will be entering the sort of middle chapters of the book: Amir and Baba will escape Afghanistan; they come to America; Amir finds courtship with Soraya and marries. Gone is the the pace of the earlier chapters, and with it perhaps some of the exigencies to keep reading on time.
Two Frameworks--#1 Quiz
Thus, I am offering some frameworks here: first, I am giving a quiz nearly every day. I feel that younger high school students benefit from the dramatic and quick feedback that a quiz can offer, so I am committed to writing them, giving them, and grading them. If I can grade them right now the spot, I will; if not, I think it's essential to get them the feedback right at the beginning of class the next day. Yes, these types of quizzes are recall-oriented and not meant to be an exit ticket; rather, they are a ticket of entry into each day of this unit, which will focus on task persistence as we read a long novel together.
In addition, we have the reading framework, with metacognitive journals, coaching, and interviews. I am adding, also, today literature groups of four students each (these are large groups in my class) to produce a visualization (RL.9-10.7) of a key chapter moment and provide some affective prompts to go along with them. In the lesson image above, I drew Amir's memory of Hassan, his head domed over Kabul like one of the mosque domes. I will show this to the students to reveal my commitment to imaging as an important act of interpretation (see my earlier lesson on map-o-lage in American Born Chinese, as well, on this topic).
Two Frameworks--#2 Reading Schedule
A second extrinsic framework is simply a reading schedule. I will put the schedule on a little card stock printout and cut it into bookmark shaped rectangles. Each student gets one, and each student is required to have the book AND the bookmark in class every day. I will enforce this by using my own personal persuasion (requests, stern reminders) and eventually, if needed, make the presence of book and reading schedule required to take the quiz. The goal here is to give each student the necessary tools to be on schedule, to keep reading and finishing the book. Falling behind by even a day or two could derail students completely, and they might not finish. Up until now, they have done so very well, but it's important to keep slugging!
Students each have chromebooks, so I will ask them to create a single google doc and to each select a part of the project to complete. They can do the visualization through google draw or through physically drawing the image and then taking a photo and uploading that photo to google docs. In any case, I will talk them through my example, get their feedback and let them work for a significant chunk of time. I expect that they will need a second swipe at this activity in order to finish it completely.
Please check out the attached handout. **The first page of the handout is an exemplar that I wrote, and the second page is a template with directions for the students to use. I include my sample first because I want to show a high standard for the activity and because I can then enthusiastically show how much I have enjoyed doing this (incidentally, I recommend that you do one, also!). I will make this available for students on google docs so that they can have their own close-up copy to view. I will explain that we are imaging, or looking for different ways to represent the characters (RL.9-10.3) through visualization and the mood of the story through a music link (RL.9-10.7), but they need also to provide two specific quotations and explain them (RL.9-10.1).
This activity might be considered a "soft" sort of activity in that it focuses on the more affective dimensions of the story, but I do believe that the timing is good. We are firmly in a reading pattern now and are moving along nicely. The students have appropriated certain character insights from class discussion (earlier lesson on venn diagram, e.g.) and from their own reading. This activity will allow them to teach out to the class in a bit more depth about what they have discovered in their reading groups. As you can see from the reading model that I have developed in this unit, I will use a range of social dynamics to move our class through the text, and these larger groups (3-4 students each) are well suited to the task, which calls on each of them to add insight and perspective to the events that have unfolded. In this way, they can be a community of learners for one another as they complete a task that should be reasonably enjoyable--even fun!
This is a key scene in the story in terms of character development (RL.9-10.3). It hightlights Amir's failure as well as his need to change. Baba provides the exemplar for that change when he stands up to the Russian Soldier. The students will supply evidence in a thoughtful and respectful manner (SL.9-10.1).
I will ask:
1.) What does Baba say to the Russian soldier? Why?
2.) What does "negate decency" mean? Why does he say that war makes decency even more prevalent?
3.) In what ways is Baba advancing humanism in this chapter? How is the Russian soldier's action de-humanizing (we talked about dehumanization in Fahrenheit 451, check my earlier lessons on that, if it is of interest to you!).
4) What is Amir's response?
5.) What would have been your response? Do you think that Amir was right to want to hold Baba back from intervening, or was Baba right to risk his life to protect the decency of the young woman?
6.) What is the take-away for Amir? What do you think he'll remember most?