My students have been reading short stories since probably 4th or 5th grade. When thinking about my typical short story unit and the Common Core, I knew I had to revise the unit to increase the rigor and relevance. I also teach AP Literature and in that course I've done a rigorous Short Story Bootcamp. I thought, Why Not? My English 10 students can do this with a few modifications. It has been a good unit and I'm eager to teach it again and improve it next year. I begin this unit in week 4 of school and I follow it with a narrative writing unit. The timing went well.
I project the following prompt and ask students to respond (W.9-10.10),
"The year was 2081, and everyone was finally equal." This quote is from "Harrison Bergeron" a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. I want you to think about this quote and respond to it. What does it mean if everyone is equal? What does that look like? Why do you think the author chose 2081 as the year this would happen?
I ask students to respond to this prompt because I want them to think about the themes of Harrison Bergeron.
First, I define the words irony, simile, and tone with students. I ask them what they know about these words and then give them formal definitions. They record these notes in their classroom binder under the notes tab. I explain that while we read "Harrison Bergeron" we are going to look for similes and instances of irony and determine what they add to the story's meaning (L.9-10.5a). Next, we will determine the meaning of these instances and analyze the impact on meaning and tone (RL.9-10.2, RL.9-10.4). This video explains why I begin rhetorical analysis with irony, simile and tone.
During this mini lesson, I will read and annotate the first page of "Harrison" and model the type of annotation I want students to do today. I will note the irony of the characters not being able to use their brain because it is an unfair advantage. It's ironic because our brain is what makes us who we are but it's not okay for us to use it. We will discuss why Vonnegut uses irony in this instance to provoke thought in his reader. Additionally, the irony causes the reader to question the authority, clearly denoting what "side" Vonnegut is on.
I will stop reading at a simile and explain that simile paints a picture for the reader, but it also compares the character's feeling or emotions to something else which helps us understand the character better.
During student work time, students will continue silently reading the story and using post-its to annotate instances of simile and irony. I will walk around and observe students reading. Since this is the first time students have independently read a complex text, I want to observe reading habits. Specifically, I want to observe and identify students who follow text with their finger or students who are particularly slow readers. I will note this formative data so that I can use it to group students for conferences in future lessons.
With a few minutes left in class, I will ask students to write a response (w.9-10.10) to the following prompt,
You've done a great job reading this story and finding instances of irony and simile. We have analyzed these two devices and thought about the purpose they serve in the story. Now I want you to think about how they impact the tone of this story. What is Vonnegut's opinion about everyone being equal? How do you know that's how he feels about it.
I will use these answers to guide our work tomorrow which deals with tone and plot development.