Oh, sweet commas. Commas in appositives, commas in compound sentences, commas to link dependent clauses with independent clauses.
When you ask students to analyze something, you're asking them to answer a big question by examining the little pieces. Today, I'm asking students to analyze the importance of Rue's death to Katniss, the reader, and the plot by looking the impact of her death on the characters, plot, and by examining word choice.
To help students do this, we're using the Cornell note template, but we're not taking notes and we're not writing a summary. We're using it to record thoughts, questions, comments, citations in order to turn those into a response.
I had students set up their papers like the picture below. The top box was for the essential question, the question that they're analyzing: Why is Rue's death so important? Along the left side of their paper, they have room to record questions they have. On the right side, the paper is split in to half. The top half is to record the notes, citations, and comments, and the bottom half is space to write their response.
You could also give students this on a template like this one: Lit Analysis Rue's Death Cornell Notes Style.
I posed three questions to students to help them analyze the importance of Rue's death--the impact on the reader and on Katniss, the ways that the author's word choice reinforced Rue's connection with nature and birds, and why the song Katniss sang to Rue was so fitting. I asked students to consider all of the questions, but I also separated the students into three groups and asked them to specifically concentrate on one question. Since my students are sitting in groups, and I have three "rows" of groups, each "row" of groups was assigned one question.
I read the passage aloud to students so they could hear the words, not just read the words. Sometimes it's not until you hear the words that you realize the impact or the importance. And reading aloud is just so important for everyone. I haven't read Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook in a few years, but this remind me that I should reread this. I started on page 231, after Katniss has destroyed the Career Tributes' supplies when she's waiting for Rue to light the last signal fire in order to provide context. I read until page 239, after Katniss decorates Rue's body with flowers and leaves the meadow with the words "Good and safe. We don't have to worry about her now. Good and safe."
After I finished reading, I gave students four minutes to discuss the passage in their groups. I reminded them that while they could consider all three of the questions posed, they should focus on the specific question their group was assigned.
After the four minutes were up, I pull the class together so that all groups could share out and we could make meaning of the passage. I recorded the students' comments on the dry erase board. The first picture, written in red, is from my first hour. The second picture, in blue, is from my fourth hour.
In considering these questions, students were able to move beyond thinking of Rue's death as simply a sad and tragic event. Students were able to see that Rue's death, since she's so small, so tiny, so young, highlights the inhumanity of the Games. Yes, the Games are brutal and horrendous, but it's when you highlight the tragic death of a tiny twelve-year old "bird" that the inhumanity leaps out at you.
Students were able to see why Katniss was so affected by Rue. Jasmine pointed out, it was pretty cold of Katniss to call Rue Prim as she was dying. Kayce countered that by pointing out that Rue and Prim were so similar in size and name that in Katniss mind, Rue was Prim. Rue wasn't just an ally, she was a connection to Katniss' sister. With Rue's death, Katniss lost her ally and her sister.
Students were able to trace Rue's connection to nature. It had already been established that Rue was tiny and could climb trees. Mockingjays would repeat her songs. Rue felt that she could trust Katniss because of Katniss' mockingjay pin. But through clever phrases, the author drives that connection home. The mockingays make an appearance and sing Rue's song, of course. Rue asks Katniss to sing, another connection to birds. The quote, "I can't stop looking at Rue, smaller than ever, a baby animal curled up in a nest of netting" (Collins 236). The phrase " a nest of netting" isn't accidental. Collins is using a metaphor to drive home Rue's connection to nature and birds.
Finally, we looked at the importance of the song Katniss chooses to sing for Rue. It's a lullaby. It's the one she used to sing to her sister, which reinforces the connection between Rue and Prim. It's the one that's sung to calm babies, which reinforces Rue's youth. And it can be interpreted, not as just a going to sleep song, but a song about dying.
Using information gleaned from our discussion and yes, other parts of the book, students answered the question why was Rue's death so important. They wrote their response on their Cornell note sheet, on the bottom half.
The quote in today's lesson picture is from the song Katniss sings to Rue.