Today, students are beginning to write the concluding section of the crime report assigned for Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily.” This section requires that students evaluate the evidence and explain how it is that we are to conclude that Miss Emily is the murderer. Additionally, they are to explain her motive for this crime, which requires a thoughtful analysis of the character and the details of her life that explain this twisted end. This is a text based analysis, central in the Common Core, and I want students to make sure they pay attention to all the important details of the story so I give them the first 10 minutes of class to review the notes they made on their copy of the story and the details they highlighted. This may seem like an unnecessary step for students because they already read the story carefully and wrote about it. However, I believe that taking 10 minutes to look over all the story details will give them an opportunity to see all the evidence and make the connections necessary to explain Miss Emily’s motive. I ask them to focus on the details in the story that will help them discuss her motive. Students spend 10 minutes looking over the story in silence.
The success of the concluding part of this crime report relies on students’ ability to analyze the story thoughtfully and make credible claims. One obstacle for my group of students is their inexperience communicating sophisticated, academic ideas typical of analytical writing. One way I try to help them become aware of how successful writers communicate these ideas is by showing them a process of nominalization, which I have introduced to students in an earlier lesson. Today I review this idea because it will be helpful in writing a successful conclusion of this report. Take a look at the “Direct Instruction” section of this lesson and you will find three short videos where I guide students to taking textual details that describe a process and formulate language that names that process. Today, I use a sentence that I saw on a few papers to guide students to do the same: take textual evidence from “A Rose For Emily” and name it so that they end up with something closer to academic writing.
The example we use is “Miss Emily killed Barron because she did not want him to leave her.”
Waking up to reality
Students are pretty impressed with our sentence and openly express this sentiment. I encourage them to try this process as they write.
I now give students time to begin drafting their conclusion. There are a few things I want them to keep in mind as they write. In this video, I explain the things I want them to keep in mind.
I also give them a couple of examples of faulty conclusions other students have proposed. One student concluded that Miss Emily killed Homer Barron because she was lonely. I explain that this is a rushed conclusion that is not supported by the text. They are able to understand this because they note that she chose to be alone. I add that she is surely not the only woman who feels lonely and that there has to be more to this explanation.
I let students work in silence to draft their conclusion. They ask a few questions as they get started. An important question is, “Are we now supposed to be subjective?” The answer is yes, and it is important that they understand this. Some call me over so I can take a look at what they are writing so far. I give them some feedback. For instance, I suggest to a student that she states her personal interpretation more clearly by saying that “Miss Emily clearly committed the crime” as opposed to saying that “Miss Emily may have committed the crime.”
I ask students to continue working on this at home tonight. I also give them a preview of tomorrow’s lesson, which is that they are going to share their conclusion with classmates and get feedback.