Today we are beginning our unit on Anthem, by Ayn Rand. We are reading this book because it fits in with our unit, Making My Point, and we will be exploring how the main character, Equality, feels compelled to act on his values and beliefs. Not only will we be reading the text, but we will also try to create a similar society in our room by avoiding the use of singular pronouns and getting new names. I am hoping that this will help students understand how Equality, the main character in the text felt living in the dystopian setting in the book. This lesson focuses on character motivations and conflicts that advance the plot (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3.)
As my students enter the room today, they will see the Anthem Names chart on the SmartBoard. I am having them select three names today (even though there was no choice in Anthem) because I want them to experience what it might be like to be called by an abstract noun name and set of numbers since this is how the society lived in the text. I'll explain this to them after all of the names have been assigned. After we have assigned all of the names, I will have students create a name tent so that we can keep track of all of the names. We'll use the name tents in other lessons as well. This is a great way to begin the unit because it helps us to explore one of the themes in the book (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2), the idea of collectivism. This structured name development process will show students how the society in Anthem sought control over the lives of the people.
We'll spend just a few minutes previewing the text to get a sense of Ayn Rand and to preview the content of the book. I'll give students about 3 minutes to read the front and back covers and to survey the beginning, middle, and end of the book. I'm having students preview because I think it is necessary to put the book in context and to understand why the author may have chosen to write about this society in this way.
In this part of the lesson, I will also explain the idea of collectivism. I will tell my students that we will try not to use the word, "I" while we are reading the book because in this society, there is no "I"; we are all one. Here is where I will explain the idea of collectivism so that they understand the philosophy of the society in Anthem.
I'm thinking there will be some looks of astonishment and some will think that I have finally lost my mind, but I will be very explicit about why we will attempt to mimic the society. The reason is that we live in a completely different society, and I want my students to experience the discomfort that collectivism may cause. I'll take some time to answer the multitude of questions that I am expecting after students realize that I this is not a joke. I plan to answer the questions they ask very simply: "Because we are one."
For this part of the lesson, we will read chapter one together in a shared reading. In a shared reading, the teacher or a student reads aloud while the rest of the students read along with a copy of the text. During the shared reading, the reader shares his/her thinking aloud as well to model comprehension and analysis. I am modeling the process that students will continue as they read portions of the book on their own. I will also pass out an Anthem chart that I created from these materials. Today, we will try to determine the transgressions and sins of the narrator in order to understand how these interactions advance the plot of the story (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3).
As we read this first chapter, we will keep a running list on the board of all of the sins and transgressions that the narrator has committed. In other words, we will be stopping at various points in chapter 1 to discuss what is happening in the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1.d). I think this is important to do in the first chapter as my students try to make sense of this society because this first chapter really sets the tone for the rest of the plot. We are also doing this in order to discuss our opinions about why these simple acts are condemned in the text. We will be charting our opinions as to whether we think these acts should be condemned. (I'll be sure to remind my students that in this society, their opinions really don't matter, but we will chart them nonetheless to aid in a full understanding of the text.)
For this part of the lesson, my students will be completing the first two rows of our chart (transgression and sin). The first row is partially completed and I am sharing this with them to give them a model of the examples from the text with page numbers and the complete sentences that I expect to see on their papers. During the application, I am encouraging students to add to the middle column (examples from Anthem) (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1) and to complete letter a on the chart (Why is this character or act condemned in Anthem?).
Twenty minutes might be too much time for some students, so I will encourage any students that finish early to continue reading the text to find examples of the curses (which it the next term on the chart).
For this part of the lesson, students will write their opinions on whether they think the transgressions and sins should be condemned on the chart (if they haven't already done so). I am having them state their opinions because it helps them to reconcile their reviews of society with those of the characters in the story. I will have a few students share their entries from the chart during the closure and share the rationale for the opinions that they have entered on the chart (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4). The video in the application section shows sample responses to the closure question.