In the previous lesson, I introduced students to a new writing assignment, which is to write a crime report for the murder of Home Barron, the love interest of the main character in Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily.” Students will begin to draft their report today and I want us to look into the genre of the crime report a bit more. Specifically, we are looking at the appropriate tone of the writing. Students have a copy of the Amanda Knox case as a model and they were asked to write their report of Homer Barron’s murder using the same sections.
I ask students to look at their copy of the Amanda Knox case as I explain that the first four sections should maintain an objective tone because a crime report relies on the objective reporting of all pertinent information. The “Conclusion” section, on the other hand, is where they will have to switch to a subjective tone because that is where they will be analyzing how all the available evidence points to Miss Emily as the murderer. Also, I am asking students to identify a motive for the crime and explain it in the “Conclusion” section.
Today, students will begin drafting the first sections so they have to maintain an objective tone. My students do not know what objective means so I explain it alongside subjective. I define each as follows:
Objective presents facts without opinion.
Subjective includes a personal opinion.
It is necessary to give students some examples as well as suggestions on how to establish an objective tone in their writing. In this video, I explain different ways of being objective in writing.
I leave these up on the board for them for reference as they work today.
Different ways of being objective in writing:
Some useful phrases that help you remain objective
It is believed that…
There are rumors stating…
I give students the rest of the period to write. I tell students that the goal today is to get most of the first four sections done. This is because I want them to spend more time on the concluding section. The first four sections mostly ask for description whereas the concluding section requires that students make sense of all the details to explain why Miss Emily committed the crime, which is essentially a character analysis. A character analysis makes cognitive demands that my students need time to meet. I let them know that I don’t expect these first sections to be lengthy so I suggest they stick to the most important details and move on.
The classroom is mostly silent, except once in a while when students ask a question. I also use this time to scan some of their papers to address trends. Today I address the use of the word “Negro.” Students know it is a racist term but because it is used in the text, they are using it in their writing to refer to Miss Emily’s servant. When I tell students they are not to use this term, they are confused and exclaim, “But it’s in the story.” I remind them of the author-text-reader relationship to explain that Faulkner uses the term to place this story in a historical context and that we are supposed to understand that this racist term was freely used in this society. However, when writing about this story as a student in 2014 we do not use the term unless we are making a point about the racism that term refers to, in which case we put the term in quotation marks. Students also share part of their work with me to make sure they are going in the right direction. I interrupt the whole class once in a while to address observations I have made in their drafts. For instance, I have to talk to them about verb tense. Specifically, I state that the verb sense that makes sense for this report is the past tense when they are discussing the evidence and background information and the present tense when discussing what is believed happened. I address this because I see students using the present perfect tense like a student who wrote, “She had met a man named Homer Barron.” I think they are using this verb tense because it sounds more formal to them, but it doesn’t work in a report that has the purpose of providing background information, that clearly happened in the past, and make conclusions, that make sense to state in present tense.
This is what one student was able to finish of her crime report today.