Survival of the Fittest: Naturalism in London's "The Law of Life"

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT draw strong and thorough textual evidence to demonstrate understanding of the ideas of Naturalism and the author's life, as presented in "The Law of Life."

Big Idea

"Jurassic Park" teaches us "Life finds a way," but Jack London shows while life continues, the individual may not.

Introduction & Welcome: It's Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day!

3 minutes

It's "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day," one part of National Engineers' Week, and I open class encouraging all students to explore their interests in the STEM options at our school; we have an Engineering Club, a Robotics Club, technical theatre crew, and a host of other options.

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class.

*In today's welcome, I use the term "test." By traditional standards, it is more of a quiz; I tend to use the terms interchangeably. 

"The Law of Life" Reading Check Quiz

35 minutes

Students are given a "Pop Quiz" on their reading for today, "The Law of Life" by Jack London, part of our extended look at the American short story and more specifically, the Naturalism literary movement. 

Primarily plot recall questions, the Reading Check Quiz asks students recall strong and thorough textual evidence of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text (RL 9-10.1), as well as a single short-answer look at how the ideas of Naturalism develop over the course of the text, how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details (RL 9-10.2). 

Students are asked to hold on to their quizzes in class, we will be exchanging and grading the fill-in-the-blanks in class. When complete, they are asked to take out and review the biography of Jack London, considering how London's life is reflected in the story. 

Students have completed similar discussion guides for the other short stories, independently, but the primary purpose of  this quiz is to ensure students are completing the reading and remind them homework completion is important. 

We grade the quiz together as a review of the key ideas and development of Naturalism in the story. I write the answers on the board as we discuss, and ask for student volunteers to share their responses. Students exchange the quizzes with another student, and we grade them together in class. This is partially to provide ownership for the students as they grade the work, but also partially to encourage discussion, as there are inevitably the students who ask "Would _____ be correct?" For example, if a student provides the answer, "Because he is going blind," for item #2 on the quiz, another student may ask, "Would 'Because is is old?' be correct?" This allows for a whole-class discussion, as the class poses and responds to questions and/or clarifies, verifies, or challenges ideas and conclusions (SL 9-10.1c).



The Life and Times of Jack London: Biographical Context

10 minutes

In order to look back at how author's lives influence their writing, a key idea in the last two stories we will address: Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat"* and Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour, we re-read the biography of Jack London with which they have been provided.

Although students have read this on their own, in order to give them an opportunity to practice presenting to the class, demonstrating command of formal English (SL 9-10.6), I ask for volunteers to read the biography of Jack London aloud. As we read, we determine, in discussion between passages/paragraphs, how the draw of the Alaskan wilderness drove London, and analyze how that central idea appears in his writing, how it emerges in "The Law of Life" and is shaped by the details of his own life (RI 9-10.2). As we read these stories, students will be able to return to the biographies to reinforce their understanding.

*"The Open Boat" is included in the collection, "Men, Women, and Boats" on Project Gutenberg.

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

For homework tonight, students are asked to begin reading the biography of Stephen Crane and "The Open Boat."* They will have a significant portion of class tomorrow, as well as the weekend, to work on this. However, by getting started tonight, the can budget their time in class as well as out of class, as it is a longer story. 

*Again, published as part of "Men, Women, and Boats" at Project Gutenberg.