"What Men Live By" Day Two: Articulating Theme

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SWBAT articulate and justify the theme of "What Men Live By" through writing and collaborative discussion.

Big Idea

“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” ― William Ernest Henley

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  Activities in this lesson take about one class period to complete.  Today students explore the connection between theme and technique in "What Men Live By" from last class.

The lesson below outlines Day Two of activities.

Warm-Up & Debriefing

30 minutes

Today, I only have 16 of 25 students in class.  To begin, I tell students we need to review the story from last class, especially since I have not seen them in two days.  I have been working with them all year on particular strategies they can use to review content in college, emphasizing that it will be important to review content prior to attending class.

I ask students to write a 10-bullet summary of "What Men Live By." They may work with a partner.  We review that a summary provides main events in the plot. Students may write down what they deem most signficant.

I like having students work together in this way because they must negotiate the most important events in the plot.  I see them discussing the text and going back to it for clarification.  

This activity takes longer than I think it will, but the students engage in rich review of the plot.

Once student summaries are complete (Student Work: One Summary), I post their summaries on the bulletin board. I give each student a highlighter for our Gallery Walk. For the Gallery Walk, I tell students to read each summary. After doing so they are to highlight an event listed that seems most significant to them. 

I have included excerpts from the some of the summaries with highlighted items (Student Work: Gallery Walk Highlights). I read the highlighted items and ask the class to explain characteristics of the events highlighted. Sample volunteer responses are as follows:

  • All of the highlighted items have something to do with Michael.
  • Some highlighted items deal with Michael's interaction with people who come to Simon's shop.
  • Some highlighted items deal with lessons Michael was sent to learn.

After surveying students for additional questions, I am convinced of their textual comprehension and move forward.


Small-Group Collaboration: Theme and Technique

40 minutes

Students have been working in the same groups all year; they will continue in these groups today. I introduce the assignment (Assignment: Articulating and Justifying Theme) by explaining that today we will explore the connection between theme and technique. We have explored this connection all year, but I want students to work collaboratively to create a theme for "What Men Live By" along with a presentation that explains how Tolstoy uses literary devices/techniques to convey the students' themes. I display the assignment on my screen and provide students with hard copies. I like to use color to differentiate between separate tasks because students tend to focus better, and I learned in a school-wide professional development on Brain Research and Learning a few years ago that color helps the brain distinguish and better recall steps in complex tasks. 

I provide students with a checklist (Handout: Presentation Checklist), review it, and instruct them to use the checklist to (1) double check their work as they are completing the task and (2) ensure all items are completed once they write out their presentation. Further, I ask that each group choose a person, a good proofreader, to check their work, leading the group through the quality check process. This checklist is not a rubric but a tool to assist students in double-checking their work for accuracy before their performance assessment.

Groups work collaboratively to complete the task, returning to the text as they discuss and develop their themes, cite evidence, and write rationales for their claims. I circulate to monitor and ask clarifying questions as necessary, but I find my students do not need my assistance much. 


Group Presentations

20 minutes

Before presentations, I ask students to listen thoughtfully to each presentation and make a mental note of what they learn for the ticket out. 

Please view my narration video in this section to see what transpires (Narration: Presentations). The overview of the student work in the video provides a detailed assessment of the written work based upon the requirements of the assignment, which are outlined on the presentation checklist found as a resource in the previous section, Small-Group Collaboration.


Ticket Out

3 minutes

I ask students to reflect on their learning and articulate exactly what they learned in today's lesson via Twitter (Student Work: Twitter Part One)(Student Work: Twitter Part Two). During our class debriefing on tweets, we realize our sensitivity to the human condition and helping those in need.

Letter to Dr. Watts

5 minutes

Since I had a few minutes left, I asked students to write me a letter about what they have learned in my class this year and any additional strategies or concepts they would like to learn about before the school year ends.