Call of the Wild begins with an epigraph, and I wanted my students to understand its importance. I also thought that it would be a great, rich -- yet short -- close reading.
So, I started class by putting the definition of an epigraph on the SmartBoard and asking students if they had read any books with epigraphs. I pulled out my copy of Into the Wild and showed them how each chapter started with an epigraph and we talked about why the author might do that. Then, one of my students brought up the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet. That was a really interesting connection, because, while both have a function, their functions are different.
With that in mind, I directed their attention to the epigraph and we did a close reading of it. This went really well, but in the process of looking at the epigraph on the SmartBoard, I made a discovery -- most of the copies that the students were reading DID NOT INCLUDE the epigraph. What the heck? Anyway, that didn't seem to bother them as much as it bothered me, so I guess that's good.
The close reading (done as a class) of the epigraph went smoothly, but only because we were doing it together. I found that the students needed a lot of support with vocabulary, beyond brumal and ferine (which I defined on the paper.) We talked about longing, chafing, and nomadic...just to name a few.
By the end of the close reading, we were able (as a class) to hone in on the central confict between the dominant primordial beast and the forces of civilization.
After we did the hard work with the epigraph, I opted to simplify the symbolism activity by having students number off and giving each student one symbol to define and find in the text. (In our next class, I will put the students in groups with other people who had their same symbol and have them talk about what they think it means. )
We have been talking about symbolism with each of our texts this year. I reminded the students of our activities with Tangerine and Romeo and Juliet, in an effort to jog their memories about how symbolism "works." As was the case with those works as well, I have about 75% of my students who are able to at least make an educated guess about what the symbol means and 25% who are still wondering why the author doesn't just come right out and tell you.
That's why we are going to move into groups tomorrow. I am hoping that there will be a few kids in each group who can bring the others along.