Understanding the main character is a first step in helping students find the theme in the story they're reading. My objective for this activator is to bring together the information we discussed and know about "young Langston."
To help them analyze the young Langston, I use the activator Words that come to mind when you think of...Young Langston which a variation on brainstorming. After writing the words students get into pairs and discuss their words. I then ask them to pick three words from both of their lists that they think best describes young Langston. I also ask them if they can relate to him as a preteen and if so why? This is followed by a short discussion with the class. I explain that knowing the main character is an important step towrds understand the messages the author is sending through his writing and that some of the words they came up with may be one the topics of the story.
I first write CONFLICT on the board and ask students to discuss with a partner what conflicts occurred in Salvation? I remind them that the conflict in a short story always involves the main character and that they can look in their journals to review internal and external conflicts: between the main character someone else, society or some force of nature, or within the main character himself.
I circulate among the students to keep the conversation focused and on task while reminding them to figure out specifically who or what young Langston is struggling against. After a few minutes of peer discussion I make a master list on the board of the conflicts they discussed.
I then ask the question, "How was the conflict is resolved?" because the resolution of the conflict can give my students a big clue as to the theme of Salvation. I facilitate a short discussion on the conflicts resolution and what that tells the reader about the message being made by the author.
The final stepis to help my students make a generalization by looking at the main character, his conflict and how it was resolved to determine the theme of the story. I start by discussing what young Langston learned. I then generalize that lesson or lessons to apply to everyone in the class. One lesson I want students to discover is that young Langston felt very anxious for not literally seeing Jesus when everyone else did. He then felt that he had to lie to his congregation and Aunt Reed about seeing Jesus when in reality he had not. I will finally ask students why do they think he wrote about this anxiety provoking experience?
Although this is a nonfiction text, I choose to analyze some literary topics in this text such as character development so I tag to this RL standard RL.9-10.3.
Finding Evidence of Theme
I pass out a Topic/Theme graphic organizer and ask students to decide on a topic of the essay by looking at the words they wrote that described young Langston RI.9-10.2. I then ask them to write the theme that the topic suggests while citing evidence in the text, RL.9-10.1, which supports their theme for Salvation. The evidence will be written as quotes in the boxes that surround the theme box. They are given the choice to work with a peer or alone. I circulate among the students checking for understanding.
Pick a Name - Report Out
I pick names of students written on pieces of paper and placed in a box and ask the student(s) to state their theme and read one quote that supports the theme. I end the lesson with this formative assessment in order to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the essay's theme and evidence that supports their understanding.