Free in Freemont? Analyzing Amir's Attempts to Escape the Ghosts of Afghanistan (day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT track cultural differences and life developments of Amir's character by engaging in a systematic study of the middle chapters of The Kite Runner by using my patented Extending Reading Framework.

Big Idea

We turn our attention towards extending reading!

Unit Introduction: Why Extending Reading, and Why Cultural Perspectives?

Why Read a Longer Text.  No doubt about it, this part of the unit serves to help students to learn to persist in reading, to extend their reading of literature through a nearly 400-page book.  And while this aspect of successful reading is so important for students, it gets somewhat short shrift in the CCSS, and I think this is because English classes for many years focused solely on "covering" a book rather than the embedded skills that go along with the process of reading.  Now, perhaps we have swung too far in the direction of boiled-down skills, and we need to avoid neglect of two key areas: reading an entire text (at least once in a while) and enjoying it (at least once in a while). The latter dimension, the affective domain, is not a focus of the CCSS, but strong affect really does help students persist in their reading and to read successfully.


Cross-Cultural.  One benefit of reading the entire text of The Kite Runner comes in the cross-cultural exchange that the book promotes (RL.9-10.6).   The plot of the book begins in Afghanistan, comes to the U.S., then returns to Afghanistan, and finally back to the U.S.; such a complex flip-flopping plot structure (RL.9-10.5) addresses the complex reality that many immigrants face in the U.S. when they have to "code switch" between life at home (in a traditional culture) and in public/school in which they engage in modern, mainstream U.S. culture.  Along the way, we will analyze cultural terms that do  not translate from Farsi into English very well, and thus Hosseni retains the original in italics.  For example, he will use the term khastagari to describe a virtuous betrothal ceremony.  Such a concept is not firmly enmeshed in mainstream U.S. culture, so rather than settling for an imprecise translation, the novel maintains the original term.  And in this section of the novel, several terms are retained in the same fashion.  The cool thing is that they ALL turn out to be easily searchable on the internet, and definitions as well as images easily come up for students as they read.  What is more, these terms help define the worldview of the Afghan characters (RL.9-10.6), something that is hard to teach about but must be experienced in the novel. 


Plot--Lunar Notes.  The plot part of the novel makes a bit of a mountain range with two peaks (RL.9-10.1).  The first peak occurs when Amir fails to protect Hassan and even betrays him.  The second peak occurs when Amir goes back to Afghanistan to find Hassan and eventually his son, Sohrab.  In between, there is a sort of trough of experience when Amir is in the U.S., growing into his adulthood, graduating, courting, getting married, attempting to becoming a father, experiencing his own father's death, etc.  All of these events are huge life  markers (RL.9-10.3), but somehow they seem to have a lower voltage than do the two sections in Afghanistan.  However, this is precisely the section during which the students might be tempted to nod off from their reading and lose interest.  Thus, I will maintain my Extending Reading.  This model calls for SSR, book groups, writing, quizzes, questioning, role-playing, etc.  All of these attempt to put the act of reading front and center, giving students to do this intelligently and with focus in class.  I will quiz the students every day. 



10 minutes

As I have mentioned, I will quiz the students every day (QUIZ 125-155).  Some quizzes won't count for grade points, some will be qualitative in nature, some will be recall questions.  The main goal will be to return the quizzes to the students during that same day or on the next day in class.  The reason for this is that frequent feedback is often a help for motivation.  The attached quiz is one of many in this section of the unit that will help students to self-monitor. 

This is a "split quiz," a technique in which the student fills out both identical sides, hands one in for the grade, and then self-checks the other side, marks it and keeps it as a record.  I like splitting these down the middle, vertically, because the student's copy becomes just the right size to fit into the book as a bookmark. That way, when the student goes home to do the next reading, the results from the day's quiz are visible and tangible.  I don't do a split quiz every day, but it's a bit of novel diversion from other formats and does provide some reinforcement. 

Class Discussion and Elicitation

25 minutes

Graphic Organizer for Class Notes.  I am using a graphic organizer during this section of class to help clarify key moments in the text. As I mentioned before, this part of the text has a number of key life-events, and I will place these on the graphic.


Paired Work.  Here's how it works:  I will assign students in pairs to look up a key textual moment in their books.  I place the lunar notes on the board for them to jot into their notebooks, and then give them the assignment to look up the key textual references (RL.9-10.1) that delineate that event  and will ask them to explain the textual references in their class collaborative notes.JPG.  I will add key words and phrases to the "lunar" (reminds me of a moonscape with the various elements of the jittering plot here, so I affectionately called this plotscape "lunar notes") notes and ask them to do the same. 

Processing Discussion.  After we build the collaborative notes, I will ask the following questions, and I am hoping that each of the students can enter into the discussion with examples and evidence (SL.9-10.1):

1.) What changes has Amir undergone?  How has he changed, and how has he remained the same?  (RL.9-10.3).

2.) How does this section of the novel build the cross-cultural experience?  What do we learn about Afghan culture?  (RL.9-10.6)