I tell students they are working in groups today to come up with a timeline of the main events in “A Rose For Emily.” I explain that the purpose is to untangle the plot because the story is told out of order and that they are essentially analyzing the development of Faulkner’s story. What I want is for students to unravel the story. Specifically, I want them to realize when Ms. Emily bought the poison, when the house started smelling, when Homer died, etc.
Students work in groups of 3 or 4. It takes them a bit to start writing events on their timeline. I see many rereading the story so I redirect. I ask for everyone’s attention and I tell them that rereading the entire story is not a good use of time. A better idea is to begin with the information that already exists in their memory. I point out that once they draw a line on their paper, the can write in all the events they know from memory and then fill in the rest afterward. Automatically turning to the text and rereading every word in order without a strategy is a common habit of students who have little experience working with grade-level texts. This is a bad habit because they are not taking advantage of the good work they have already done. They did a close reading of the text in the last two class periods and, for the most part, they were very focused on the story. Once they begin to write in events on the timeline from memory, this becomes apparent and the work pace picks up. This is a good example of one of these timelines.
Students have worked on several writing assignments in which they have analyzed some aspect of a text. Such written assignments require skills that my students are still developing and I want them to be able to practice with this short story. However, I am changing it up a bit to avoid monotony. I am assigning a written crime report of the murder of Homer Barron. A crime report sounds more interesting to students and I expect they will be able to overlook the fact that they are being tricked into doing one more character and story analysis.
I announce to students that they are writing a crime report and I do get the intriguing look I hoped to get. I tell them that the time line they just created can help them with this assignment because to write a crime report, one needs to understand the details of the crime committed. This is a genre they are only familiar with because of movies and sensationalist local media. So I give them a sample and go over every section. The sample I use is of the fairly recent Amanda Knox case. I use this because I know the twisted details of the crime will appeal to a teenage audience. I also use this report because it offers a structure that I am interested in asking my students to follow when they write about Homer Barron’s murder. Specifically, they are going to structure the crime report of Homer Barron’s murder be creating the same five sections of this sample report: Overview of the Case, Crime Scene, Suspects, Evidence, and Conclusion. The sections and purpose of each section will basically prompt students to analyze the setting, characters and details in the story.
I read the report aloud to students and let them know they will be writing a report that follows this structure. The details they highlighted on their copy of the story can be used as evidence. I ask students to take some time tonight to review the highlighted details and begin to select those they can discuss as evidence when they begin to write the crime report.