To Build A...Better Understanding of Naturalism

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SWBAT understand and explain how characterization and setting work together to build conflict.

Big Idea

Igniting student interest in hard work with serious literature with London's "To Build a Fire."

Latin Roots Warm Up: FLEX, LING

5 minutes

This is our daily warm up, wherein students work with two or three Latin roots per day.  The resource that I use to get my roots is Perfection Learning's Everyday Words from Classic Origins.
Every day, when the students arrive, I have two Latin roots on the SmartBoard.  Their job is to generate as many words as they can that contain the roots, and they try to guess what the root means.  After I give them about five minutes, we share words and I tell them what the root means.

The students compile these daily activities in their class journals.  After every twelve roots, they take a test on the roots themselves and a set of words that contains them.

Sentence Starter: The day dawned cold and grey...

10 minutes

Yesterday's class was dedicated to building background about Transcendentalism and Naturalism.  The students completed a close reading on a few paragraphs from "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," so today's reading (a few paragraphs from London) will really clarify the differences between the two movements.

So, to get us into the text a bit, I gave the students most of the first sentence of "To Build a Fire," and I ask them to finish it in the style of a Transcendentalist or a Naturalist.  [OK, some students decided to finish it in the style of a 13-year old and wrote sentences about Taylor Swift or dancing bears, but I did not let that distract me from my mission!] Students Discuss Their Openers -- there were some good ones -- and then I introduced the next part of the lesson.

Four Highlighters, Four Paragraphs

30 minutes

To prepare for this lesson, I asked the students to locate four different-colored highlighters and I distributed the reading, which is the first four paragraphs of "To Build a Fire."

We read the paper aloud, mostly because the sentences are long and it can be a bit dense for some of the less advanced readers.  

Then, after they read, I had them work with a partner to highlight different elements of the passage with different colors.   The students created keys and then talked it out.  I reminded them that some elements of setting, for instance, may also need to be coded for conflict, too. Using the highlighters gives the kids an "a ha!" moment about the relationships among setting, conflict and mood.  It seems silly, in a way, to highlight the elements separately, but it helps to make it concrete.   

While they were working, I circulated, asking questions like "Do you think you will find mood?" "What is mood, anyway?" "What kind of person heads out in weather that is fifty degrees below zero?" etc.

When I called time, I chose a student to put her highlighted paper on the document camera and I invited the other students to compare their work.  In one class, a really interesting discussion broke out about why a student had not highlighted some of the elements of setting.  When they have to explain their thinking, I think a real breakthrough is much more likely to happen...even for someone who is on the sidelines.