The Silence Experiment: Learning from Faber
Lesson 3 of 6
Objective: SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop over the course of the text and interact with each other by reading to understand Faber and recognize the changes in Montag because of his friendship with Faber.
At the beginning of class, we will quickly share and hand in the homework. Students were asked to fill in in the last box on the paper we worked on in class yesterday. We illustrated the three elements of happiness, and for homework, they were asked to write a paragraph connecting Faber's words to our society (W.9-10.10). I asked, Where do you see overlap? Is Faber right about happiness?
We are going to spend 20 minutes in silence. Really. We are going to sit in silence. We are going to practice exactly what Mildred fears: being with herself. The students are quick to condemn Mildred for being stupid or fake or "annoying," but they are less quick to condemn themselves for similar practices. I struggle everyday with cell phones and headphones in the classroom and work lifted from the internet. They are always connected and many look for answers on Google, instead of in their own brain. Most don't even have silence before going to bed, instead they fall asleep to a tv or music. There is nothing inherently wrong with this picture, expect that they never have quiet time during the day; they never sit alone with their own thoughts. I want this to be a time to let their brains lead them.
There are a few rules: no headphones, no school work, no distracting others. They can only have a single sheet of white paper and a pen or pencil on their desks (W.9-10.10). That's it. I will remind them that they can do anything for 20 minutes. And I, too, will sit for 20 minutes with nothing but a sheet of paper, a pen, and my thoughts. Lead by example. Here's one example of silent time. Yes, it looks like a bunch of doodling, but it also shows some of the things she is really worried about, such as the upcoming student government election.
If you walk past my classroom during these 20 minutes, it may look like I'm "not teaching" and the students "aren't learning." But I think that it might be one of the best lessons of the year. Of course, sitting silently in a room of 20 other people is a bit contrived, but it makes a point nonetheless that we will connect to the next section of text, wherein Montag is searching for clarity and needs some quiet time to think, something he finds in forest at the end of the novel.
Reflecting on Being Silent
Before we transition into reading, I think that it's important that we talk about what we just experienced (SL.9-10.1). Students have been silent for 20 minutes and for some, it will be difficult. They have earned a few minutes to speak about being quiet.
Read: The plan
There is a difference between being silent in order to hear your own brain and being silent because you are afraid to speak. Faber believes in quiet reflection, but he has been silent because he is afraid, but he is also ashamed of this. In this section of the text, Faber and Montag make a plan to fight the status quo and their own fear. Actually, Montag guilts Faber into developing a plan. Faber is overcome with fear about acting against the government and he almost lets Montag walk out of his life. Ultimately, he agrees to help, but analyzing his fear in this section helps students see just how much external forces can affect someone. Faber is scared to death of the firemen and all they represent. He has seen his colleagues silenced and killed for their work and their beliefs, so he stays home and hopes for the future. I will ask the students if they think his reaction is normal or realistic? What real life examples parallel Faber's response to the government? We will also discuss Montag's reaction: is it ok for him to bully Faber in this instance? At the end of this section, Montag starts to question his own plan, but mostly he is questioning himself because he can't trust his own thoughts yet (RL.9-10.3). Take a look at a key passage showing how Montag is changing.
Faber is the antithesis of Beatty. Analyzing him in this moment will prepare us for upcoming events, where Montag has to decide whether to follow Faber or Beatty until he finds his own way. This section of the text also transitions naturally from our first activity. Faber shows Montag around his house, showing him that he just has plaster walls, instead of giant tv walls. He is a clear thinker because he spends time thinking.