An Investigation Into Story Order: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"

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SWBAT analyze how Ambrose Bierce's choices to manipulate chronological order create sympathy and suspense by unraveling the plot in a comic strip.

Big Idea

There's a mystery in Owl Creek, Alabama, and it's up to the students to find out what led to an execution.

Introduction & Welcome: On This Day, "Of Mice and Men" Was First Published

5 minutes

I begin class today with a welcome, and sharing with my students that the novel, "Of Mice and Men", was published on this day in 1937. Students have read "Of Mice and Men" their Freshman/Grade 9 year, so they are familiar with the novel. I note this means "Of Mice and Men" is two days younger than Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", which I find mind-blowing. Students may feel this way, as well, as one of the comments about "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" two days ago was it's "timeless." I also take a few minutes to allow students to share their thoughts on"Of Mice and Men," it seems to be a perennial favorite of the students from their Freshman year.

As it's also the first night of the 2014 Winter Olympics, I share this with the students--as a big Olympics fan, I let students know they'll probably be hearing about it a lot over the next few weeks. 

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class.

Understanding Chronological Order: Stick Figure Theatre Comic Strip

40 minutes

Students have read Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" already, and the directions to the "Chronological Comic" are projected in the front of the room, and students are given the option to work individually, or with one or two partners in order to complete this assignment. The options for grouping are in order to choose the best, most effective way for themselves to work, and demonstrate self-determination and self-awareness. 

Students create a six-panel (although I tell them they may go as many as eight) "Stick Figure Theatre" comic identifying six significant events/plot points from the story in order to show they understand the chronological order of events in the story.  

Video #1: This video shows "Students at Work" on the comic. They discuss and identify the main ideas they wish to use, and how to go about expressing them (Please excuse the upside down focus temporarily).

Video #2: This video (vid 2) explains student examples, including how they were able to make changes to meet chronological order.  

For this project, students cite strong and thorough textual evidence to infer the order of events that lead to Peyton Farqhuar's execution in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1) in order to analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to manipulate time create sympathy for the character and build suspense for the reader (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5). By telling the story linearly, the "surprise" of the main character's role as a saboteur, despite his sympathetic portrayal is removed; the sympathy becomes less apparent as well, as his seemingly good nature and harmless appearance, patriotic loyalty, and family-man history, would be revealed immediately, instead of after the reader is hooked by the mystery of his hanging. As they work, students are to consider three questions (written on the whiteboard in the front of the room), which we will get their reactions to and discuss once the comics are completed:

1. What details does Bierce include make us sympathize with Peyton Farquhar? 

2. What details does Bierce include to make us believe Peyton's escape might just be "all in his head"? 

3. Why would Bierce, a Northerner, write a sympathetic story about a Southerner who attempts sabotage/an act of terrorism? 

We will discuss these questions, as well as the plot of the story, in class. I ask students to turn in their comics before the end of the period, so that I may give them feedback and they may make any needed corrections tomorrow. 

Homework Turn-In/Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

5 minutes

With five minutes remaining, I ask students to take care of the "housekeeping" that needs to be done: return their desks to rows, return any art supplies, turn in their comics, to turn in the descriptive writing samples from yesterday, as well as to copy the homework from the board, a reading in their textbook on "Regionalsim", a brief biography of Mark Twain, and a reminder of the types of literary irony: dramatic, situation, and verbal. Students have studied irony in the past; this serves as a reminder for our look at Twain and Kate Chopin. I provide five minutes in order for students to wrap everything up as there's a lot for them to get completed and turned in in a short period of time.