In the previous lesson and at home the night before, students worked on formulating sentences to explain the meaning of a couple of examples of figurative language in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I open class today by asking students how that went. I am not sure if they struggled with it a bit or found it excruciatingly difficult and I want to find out. They are spending time today formulating written explanations for the remaining quotations on their paper and I need to find out what type of support I need to give them. Several students ask about their interpretation of the quotes they selected and we discuss them. For example, several selected the quote that says that love is like the sea. Someone asks me if this means that love changes. Someone else asks if it means that it can come and go. They are basically wondering if their interpretation is accurate. I thing both suggestions are accurate and they are the beginning of a fuller response. However, I first bounce the question back to the class and students collaborate to clarify the meaning of the given quote. Students have a pretty good understanding of the figurative language in this section. They are just a bit insecure about their interpretation. I share this observation with them and tell them that as long as their interpretation is backed up by the text, it is valid. I assert that the two suggestions made about love being like the sea can work and that they just need to add more to that interpretation.
I want to know how they feel about this process, interpreting figurative language, so I ask them. One student asks, “So there can be more than one meaning for the quote?” This is a great question and I say so. I explain that there can be multiple interpretations and each different interpretation is right as long as it is backed up by the text. I add that this is actually what literary analysis does, it attempts to give fresh and original interpretations to texts that have been interpreted by many others already. I tell them that there are two ways of responding to this. One is to feel insecure about your own interpretation. The other is to appreciate the freedom of thought this offers you and really tackle it. I ask students which response they have experienced. Several say they appreciate the freedom this offers them. Some say they feel a bit insecure about their interpretation. Several say they feel ok about this process, but I suspect some of these feel a bit insecure. To make them feel at ease, I affirm that as long as they stick close to the text, their interpretation will be valid.
Before students begin working independently to interpret the remaining quotes on their paper, I remind them that the process is: circle the words that are packed with meaning, think of the words' connotations keeping in mind the context of the quote and what we know about the story, brainstorm possible meaning of the quote, elevate the language and use it to formulate the two analytical sentences. Students work independently on analyzing the rest of the quotes on their paper. I assist students as needed and they turn in their work.
Students were making an effort to use the process I offered them. This first student is following the process, literally circling the words he identified as being packed with meaning. This second student is also following the process. Her written explanation is thorough. Also, it is evident that she is explicitly using analytical verbs and making connections to the concept of autonomy, which we have been discussing throughout our reading of this novel.
I let students know that they will be holding a class discussion tomorrow about the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God and that I want to give them time to prepare. They immediately ask what exactly they will be discussing. I respond that I want them to discuss anything they are interested in discussing in the novel. I also give them a preview, that this discussion can help them with an essay they will be writing about the novel in the near future. I ask them to think of good questions they are interested in discussing and I give them a post-it note on which they are to write the question. I ask them to post the notes on the board so we can refer to them during the discussion tomorrow. The post-its with student questions that I share in this video are a nice addition to the board that has served as a good visual for students during this unit.