Analyzing Theme and Resolution through a Close Read
Lesson 5 of 14
Objective: Students will be able to determine the theme of a teleplay by close reading the resolution and making connections to a nonfiction article.
We practiced another superlative adjective error today. "Worse of all" should be "Worst of all" because the narrator isn't comparing this bad thing to just one other bad thing. It's the worst thing out of ALL THE THINGS.
We also practiced the correct placement of a comma in a complex sentence. Many of my students want to put the comma after a conjunction. They'll write but comma or and comma or because comma. In today's paragraph we practiced placing it in the correct place.
We spent just a few minutes reviewing the main ideas in the Serling biography, because those ideas help us understand the theme of "Monsters."
Serling wrote as way to deal with his anger and confusion with real world events, like war, racism, and Cold War paranoia. He didn't want to deal with the censors and advertisers saying what he could and couldn't write about, so he did two things. He created his own show so he was in control. He also wrote about real issues, but hid them in science fiction. He felt that he could tell the truth about our real world through science fiction.
If so, then what real world lesson is he trying to teach us? What message is he sending through "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street?" Let's look at the resolution.
Resolution: First Read
I've already learned that highlighter tape doesn't work well with close reading because I want students to interact with the text, not just slap a piece of tape on it and go back to it later. Therefore, I typed up the resolution on a sheet of paper so students could easily make ALL THE ANNOTATIONS! Here it is.
For the first read, I asked students to look for details that told them what issues or concepts Serling wanted the reader (or rather, viewer, since this is a teleplay) to consider. What specifically did he want his audience to think about? What words helped them identify those issues and concepts?
The resolution is super short. It's two paragraphs if you count the stage directions as a paragraph, but there's a whole lot packed into those five sentences. I gave students five minutes to read and annotate, then asked them to share in their groups what they'd annotated. We shared out as a class, and then I had them write their quickwrite paragraph on the prompt in the picture below.
They quickly picked up on the words conquest, bombs, explosion, fallout, weapons, prejudices, and scapegoat, even though they didn't know what the word scapegoat meant. They concluded that Serling probably wanted his audience to think about the dangers of thoughts, attitudes, and prejudice.
Resolution: Second Read
Even though we'd already identified the important words (conquest, bombs, explosion, scapegoat, etc), we went a bit deeper with those words for the second read.
The second read, of course, is when the teacher reads aloud for prosody. For the second read, I asked students to specifically consider the connotations of those words. They could use an additional annotation symbol borrowed from math. If the words had a positive connotation, they would label it the word with a +. If the word had a negative connotation, they'd label it with a -. For neutral connotations, students would use a 0.
I gave students time to share with their groups before sharing out with the whole class. In the whole class share out, we agreed that overwhelmingly, all the words they had picked out from the first read had negative connotations. Even words that they hadn't noticed the first time, but now did notice, had negative connotations. Finally, to finish this second read, students wrote a paragraph about those connotations. I did hear again that they still didn't know what scapegoat meant.