A few days ago, I posted about a passage I found to connect to "The Tell-Tale Heart." I was excited about the prospect of the piece, but in my rush to incorporate it into class, I had not thoroughly processed the potential - at least not until waking up in the wee hours of the morning.
My new favorite book (Don't I say that about every book?) for reading comprehension strategies is Notice & Note by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. The strategies are almost so simple, one wonders why one didn't think of it on her own (her being me).
With my midnight genius, I realized that "The Horror" is a perfect piece to introduce the signpost Contrast & Contradictions, especially as a contrast piece itself to "The Tell-Tale Heart." I already had my presentation for this strategy created, and a first period conference time allowed me to do some quick editing and revising to teach this concept today.
The idea behind the strategy (and the others in the book) is for students to look for repetitive patterns to help understand text. With Contrasts & Contradictions, the kids look for (notice) character actions that are the opposite of what we expect.
We began the lesson by discussing the concepts in the slide - everything from the stop sign, what notice and note mean, and examples of contrasts and contradictions. Now, as an edutainer, I have no problem making fun of myself, so coming up with real-life examples to teach this was easy:
- If Ms. Foti came to school in a dress, you would be asking... (this is where they all chime in with, "Why?").
- If Ms. Foti was mean to you for a day, you would be asking...
- If Ms. Foti got married this weekend, you would be asking...
Hook, line, and sinker, all in one.
Before reading the piece, I set the mood. I turned the lights off (I have a big window). I got everyone quiet. I reminded them that we were focused on identifying contrasts and contradictions within the reading. Then I read "The Horror" as if it was the scariest, most frightening, terrifying work ever written.
I didn't even have to teach after that. Each class period, the kids were already commenting about everything that was "not right" with the passage. The contrasts and contradictions stood out like me in a dress (for those readers who do not know me personally, I am a bit of a tomboy and do not even own a dress). Of course, we did discuss afterward, identifying and labeling (noting) the CCs. But I would not call what I had to do at that point work. It certainly helps to have middle school students who are horror movie connoisseurs.
I have to give a genius student credit for pointing out an obvious CC that I completely overlooked. At the beginning of the text, Eggers sets up Sandra as fearful, yet by age thirty, she is ready to write a horror novel. Can Ms. Foti say contradiction?
It always feels fantastic when students grasp a concept (and quickly), but the best reward is watching them enjoy education. Today ranks as one of the best learning days of the year.