Friday, November 21, 2008

responses to TKAM workshop

As those who attended the workshop I just gave with Jay Richards at the NCTE Conference will know, I'm attaching here, as promised, the responses of the K-College teachers who attended the Summer O8 Invitational Summer Institute of the San Jose Area Writing Project. The entire collection of vignettes that I use for this workshop (on Dill Harris, Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson) can be found by visiting my entry entitled "TKAM at NCTE in NYC." Our Writng Project Tech Liaison also tells me that we an post Jay's PowerPoint on our SJAWP website and then I'll be able to link to it on this blog. So stay tuned. Now here are the responses:

Responses of the participants in ISI 08 to TKAM workshop

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for a very interesting lesson this morning. Trying to develop a character analysis in ten minutes was frustrating, even frantic, and I’m not surprised that high school students resent that activity. Still, after reflecting on the experience and “walking in students’ shoes,” I had perspectives on their experiences that I hadn’t expected to encounter.

For one, I felt admiration for high school students, and not necessarily honors, who tackle such tasks routinely. True, they want to succeed and pleasing a teacher is primarily how they try, but writing on command is a daunting task and still they take it on. I also felt great empathy and respect for English Language Learners who wrestle such tasks to the ground in efforts to succeed. I imagine the staggering difficulties that ELLs, especially those newly arrived, have in trying to understand the character of someone like Mayella Ewell let alone writing about it. Still, they try.

Tragically, aliteracy often begins in second-grade when young children are forced through lock-step pacing calendars, benchmark exams and stories not of their choosing or interest. Children who read successfully often choose not to because they associate reading with tests. Still, at the core, I believe that both elementary and high school students are asking the same essential question: “Why should I care about this story and/or character? (aside from trying to get the teacher off my back!) Today’s role play helped to answer that question as I asked, “Why should I care about Mayella Ewell? I don’t like what she does, and she wouldn’t be my friend!”

Strangely, shockingly during the role play I fell into her character very easily. What we shared was not entirely clear, and I certainly didn’t agree with her, but I knew her well. What a surprise that was! Still, making that connection with Mayella helped me to grow both as a reader and a person. “What is in all people is in me,” it has been said. Role play in particular enables children, young and old, to use what they know very well--social relationships-to access the characters and ideas of the stories or novels. The various combined activities give students avenues to access the ideas that will help them grow.

One last recollection. Years ago in an evening credential class, it was my task to teach Nancy Atwell’s In the Middle. To do that, I had brought in a box of books of YA literature to replicate Atwell’s “dinner party” approach to reading workshop. Suddenly, these groggy teachers came alive! Eyes gleaming as they excitedly riffled through pages of beloved books long forgotten, they furtively asked to borrow “their favorite books” to read over the week. (I’ve since come to learn that many teachers are aliterate.) Atwell addresses the issues of aliteracy as middle/high school students are consumed by innumerable issues that keep them from reading. Still, teachers had not forgotten the books that made them feel alive. This is all to say that children WANT to read. They just don’t know why. Application of lessons such as today’s help them see. Thank you for some great strategies! Constance Bruinsma-Kelly

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you for a wonderful workshop. I feel that engaging students with visual and auditory aids to enhance their reading experience, and in turn making them write well is a great idea. We always emphasize the importance of “show; don’t tell” in our classroom, and this is a perfect example. I will certainly be using this technique on a more advanced level in my English Composition courses next semester.

My character is Mayella, and since I read To Kill a Mocking Bird a long time ago, I have to rely on the excerpt and my instincts to write my initial response or character analysis. Mayella seems to be a typical teenager at first. She is poor but has an aesthetic sense that she cultivates. Caring for the geraniums shows her softer side. Mayella also comes across as a vulnerable but outspoken girl. She speaks her mind but is just an insecure little girl inside. Mayella is loyal to her father who has a hold on her. She is scared of him and to cover her fear, she is angry and furious.

This is as far as I got on the first attempt. After having worked my way through the workshop, I gained further insight into Mayella’s character. She is not just any teenager. At age nineteen, she is an extremely complex human being. She has to take care of her siblings and live in fear of her abusive, tee totaling father. Love and tenderness are sorely lacking in her life. I agree that there is a flaw in her personality. She has no integrity and she lies to frame Tom, a good and kind hearted man. Can we really understand what is going on in her mind? What are her values and morals? Is she raised with any? How can we be righteous and pass judgment on her?

Beneath the hard exterior, we see some level of tenderness in Mayella. She looks after her “red geraniums.” They are “cared for as tenderly as if they belonged to Miss Maudie Atkinson.” Mayella loves her geraniums and nurtures them because they do not want anything in return. This is one aspect of her personality. In the courtroom, we see a distraught Mayella. She is vulnerable and insecure inside. She responds to Atticus’s questions with outbursts and eventually silence. She knows the consequence of incriminating Tom, but is willing to take that chance because she is pressured by society. In the end, she saves herself. Can we blame her for that? Mayella is selfish; she sacrifices Tom to save face, but her behavior is nothing but a true reflection of human nature at its darkest. Roohi Vora

Dr. Lovell,

It’s been a number of years since I’ve read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Tom Robinson’s character exudes kindness, gentleness, even tenderheartedness and he’s simply a fascinating character to study. I couldn’t help compare his daily reality of victimization and marginalization to that of most Afghan women. The latter is fresh on my mind after having reread The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. Both Tom and Afghan women have limited value in the eyes of their communities and have little or no voice. To speak up would mean certain punishment and perhaps death.

I found the first reading of the TR excerpt to be similar to that of reading a poem for the first time. For me, the first reading reintroduced the character and each of the subsequent activities added a deeper level of understanding. Interestingly, the most helpful activity was listening to the audiotape as it made the sections of dialogue, in particular, more real. I can see how helpful this creative process of adding layers of understanding would be to my students. Trish Murray

Dear Jonathan,

Today's workshop had a cumulative effect on my characterization comprehension. I'm one of those students who wasn't against reading a selection and responding in paragraph form, nor was I one hundred percent for the timed writing/comprehension assignment. I certainly was willing to try the assignment, trusting that the outcome would be interesting or perhaps it would be a lesson on how I could improve. I was right on both predictions of the result.

My initial paragraph was a quick-write without much depth. It truly was a description matching the paragraph of Dill's personality. Digging deeper, to write about Dill, wasn't possible. In fact it wasn't possible until I had discussed the possibilities of the character, designed metaphor symbols, drawn them and participated in the role play. I learned that Dill was a deeply designed character, rich with metaphoric qualities. As a learner, I am primarily visual. I need to attach metaphors to most literary analyses in order to deeply understand. This approach to learning would match Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence theories.

Here are my pre and post writings that reflect the above explanations:

Pre-write: Dill, a summer visitor, to Maycomb was from Mississippi. He brought with him a sensitive approach to dealing with people. His family provided the necessary things he needed, yet he felt emotionally neglected by his parents. His self image was projected as a shy, humble individual. As he had not been nurtured, he projected an overly sensitive approach to his interaction with people, even complete strangers. Generally speaking, his personality seemed puzzling to his closes friend Scout.

Post-write (continuing from the above): Dill could be metaphorically represented as a bird with a broken wing wearing a purple heart halo, crying. Symbolically Dill's broke bird wing represents his ill-equipped approach to flight through life. The purple heart shows the embattled sensitivity due to his neglectful background. The tears reflect his sensitive cry for fairness toward people. Dill is not aware of the cultural black versus white prejudices that exist during his lifetime. He seems to act, naively, as the conscience of right versus wrong. Perhaps his own lack of family nurturing created a searching, longing for a feeling of acceptance. It could be that his sensitivity radar crosses all lines of racial social etiquette at the height of black/white racism. his character represents the needed balance of characterization within the plot. Thanks for an insightful look into characterization. I truly enjoyed it! Julie Jenkins

Hi Jonathsn,

In response to the HW prompts, here are my thoughts after your workshop. In the pre-writng activity, I pegged Tom as a sitting duck, a target, a victim of circumstance due to the setting of the novel. I tried to process and write all of the information fast, as we were restricted on time. After participating in the several activities leading up to the post write, I really began to see that Tom's geneoristy, kindeness, and honesty is what ironically hurt him. How dare a black man feel sorry for a poor, white girl! It was his humanity which worked against him.

As I reflect on the sequence of events, I felt that you started with a broad topic and really narrowed in or "zoomed in", helping us to truly focus on the character. (It all comes back to zoom!) We did an initial read and then wrote about our character. It was rushed, very broad, and I really wasn't sure wanted you wanted. Do I integrate and use blended quotes? Was this a test for me to use what we had previously learned? The Cumulative Graphic Organizer, started to focus our attention on the dynamics of the courtroom scene. This also helped us to look at the other key players in the scene. The character received a face, a voice, and became human. Next, moving into our character groups, we really started to hone in on this character that we read about and watched in the film. As we discussed our central symbol and various personal symbols, I learned that this is an individual with only a kind heart who has nothing bad to say about Mayella and answers honestly while trying not to hurt her feelings or calling her a blatant liar. He has accepted his place in society. During the gallery walk, we had a further chance to get into the skin of Tom as we shared our poster and listened to the perspectives of the other Tom group. We were analyzing him from the outside in. During the role play, we literally got into the character's skin. It was a good way to test our knowledge and share with our peers. I felt more empathy for Tom as I became him. I thought like him; heck I even tried to talk like him. After listening to the vignettes, we were able to do a partial second read of Tom, where I caught things I glossed over the first time. By the post write, I felt that I truly understood this character. He was an abstract painting from afar, but as I "zoomed in", I was able to see the brush strokes, the writer's ink which created the essence of Tom. See you tomorrow. Tara Holcomb

Dear Jonathan,

Today I learned that Mayella Ewell, my character of study from To Kill a Mockingbird, was no lady. She was a victim, a fighter, a survivor, and a bully. Abused, impoverished, and trapped by her role as a woman and the oldest child in the bleakest of scenarios, she scrounges for what little power she can seize within her existence. Mayella’s world is loaded with injustice and abuse. What coping skills could she know for survival? In her loneliness and helplessness, she chooses her victim, Tom Robinson, to project onto her own inner turmoil. Living in the deep South before the Civil Rights Movement, an isolated black man is an easy target for Mayella to use psychologically for working through her own loneliness and sexuality, her feelings of helplessness in a dire situation, and her fear of an abusive father. Tom becomes her scapegoat, her relief. When he is there, she feels powerful over someone.
And why should she care what happens to him? No one seems to care what happens to her! In the trial, she screams out in desperation and anger, wanting someone to care more about her than the black man. Her ego desperately needs to pull rank. To her it doesn’t matter if it isn’t fair. Since when has she seen any justice given to her? This neglected, broken girl is starving for recognition that she matters, that she is not the same as the trash that she lives in. She is the vulnerable geranium in the garbage dump and there is hope in her if only someone, anyone would take the time to care for her. Tom is the only one who takes that time, so in her desperation, she takes advantage of his vulnerability, publicly humiliates him, falsely accuses him of her own sins, and feels justified in her anger.
During this workshop time, I learned that I can learn almost anything in almost any modality. However, if I am given the opportunity to learn in every modality, the knowledge acquired becomes engrained. I also learned that I get frustrated with a common learning attitude of “just do what’s required,” and the excuse, “I can’t do that, I wasn’t born with the talent.” It makes me want to scream, “well, you might be able to if you just took the time to practice it!” I take great pride in my work, and I rarely do anything half-ass. I wasn’t born with talent, only potential. The only time I do something half-ass is when something major interferes. I can’t even relate to keeping things casual and simple. Seems lazy, bland, and offensive to me, like the people involved aren’t worth the time or effort. I’m driven, and I care. I want the whole experience without missing a beat. The whole sha-bang. And I think that generally people don’t try hard enough. There is nothing I respect more than a learner who tries hard and has a positive attitude. I don’t know why.
Yet, I generally don’t voice that opinion, because I also think it’s rude and offensive. But that’s often the way I feel inside. That drive makes me want to take charge and do assignments individually. Realistically, most work in life requires a team. So I have a whole set of inner mantras that I tell myself during group work so that I refrain from monopolizing activities, overwhelming others, or the worst, having someone think that I am better than someone else, a show-off, or hoggish. I hate those assumptions and accusations! I’m just trying my best, and that’s all. I’m not trying to make anyone else feel bad or intimidated or competed against or overwhelmed or miffed in any way. I’m really a nice person, and as a learner, I’m an intense, passionate, voracious tiger. Just know that about me. Thanks for asking, Laura Cain

Dear Dr. Lovell,

I really love Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I really enjoyed your workshop today. My assigned character was Dill Harris and when I started I wrote a half a page response that was very “scientific.” I took Dill and explained all the aspects of his personality and character that I gathered from the passages you assigned, but the response did not elicit much empathy for him.

I really think the activity with the posters and the role play activity is a fabulous method for students (and teachers!) to gain further insights into the characters being studied and to help us gain more empathy for the character we've been assigned. I really felt far more compassionate toward Dill after completing the sequence of activities that you had us go through. I know it’s because the activities had me metaphorically walk in Dill's shoes, as Atticus Finch tells Scout near the beginning of the novel. My second attempt at a character response was more than double the length of my first and it was far more empathetic and in depth and I am proud of it!

I know that I am a learner who appreciates both visual and audio cues and also appreciates the occasional kinesthetic activity to get me moving around, which was provided when we did the poster and gallery walk. I had seen your presentation previously when I was your student in the Methods class for the credential program, and I want you to know that I use your cumulative graphic organizer when I teach TKAM and it really helps to set up the courtroom scene for the students and I want to thank you for that excellent idea. Thank you for your presentation! It was even better the second time around :-) Sincerely, Jeanette Craff

Dear Jonathan,

My first take on Dill was extremely limited because I was putting up the metaphor posters, the non-linguistic representations, made by previous workshop participants. So I skimmed the text excerpts very rapidly. I did manage to link some attributes of Dill’s dreaminess with my own vibrant inner life as a kid. I got his sensitivity as well as his story-telling acumen.

What changed my understanding the most, however, consisted in two things. The first was the very articulate conversations my team group made over what central metaphor to create for our poster. I felt as if I were meeting a real person, unlike the bits of information that were strewn in my head from a quick-read and an attempt to summon memory from other workshop experiences. We had, alas, little visual of Dill from the movie. . I could relate to the childhood journey into fantasy when the parents and home life aren’t connected with the child.

The second piece that brought Dill more to life in my understanding was the tidbit that Jonathan explained about the author, Harper Lee, having used Truman Capote (whom she knew in childhood and as an adult author) to create the character of Dill. Such an enigmatic character – Dill the curiosity—became my acquaintance when I remembered the movie “Capote” I saw several years ago. My understanding of Dill shifted from my own southern upbringing experience of the racism to the quandary Truman presents in his autobiographical film. “Ah haa!” I thought. I’d say he’s a genuine eccentric, not just a curiosity. In any case, the boy Dill in TKAM became more accessible to me as a result.

So, do I really I learn more from movies and visual arts than reading? Maybe. Maybe it is the combination that is so effective. I observed how much more acutely-formed my own images were while listening to the reader on tape. Her phrasing and intonation was beautiful. I am reminded of the true power of a good read aloud.

Thank you for the carefully crafted, explicit roles and tasks for us. You already know how impressed I am with cumulative graphic organizers, and today, I realized I could actually do a literature experience like this with fifth graders, with the right novel. Laura Brown

Dear Jonathan,

I really enjoyed your presentation today. I think I really missed discussing a character in a classroom setting, with me as a student. It reminded me of the MA years when, pencil in hand (a habit I still have), I would read closely and carefully, trying to understand the characters in the fictional works we were assigned. Today, with your help and the help of my colleagues, I had the opportunity to discover Dill. The first things I noticed when reading the excerpt from Harper Lee's novel were his otherness, his vulnerability, his acute need for a family and for friends, and also the richness of his interior life. Working in groups and constructing the poster got us all closer to the character and made us speculate about his role. We felt quite satisfied with the results of our twenty minute contest with pens, pencils, markers and erasers, and gladly shared our finished visual symbol character poster with our other Dill group. Having us listen to a reading of the excerpt was, I think, a very useful technique. The narrator was successful in creating a certain atmosphere that may be difficult to perceive at a first glance. The stress she placed on certain words when describing Dill, the change in accent when Dill speaks with Jem and Scout, Dill's faltering voice when questioned about his father, all made the text come alive, drawing the reader into the story. I think the role play was not my forte, but it was a useful exercise in that it made me try to see the world through his eyes, and ultimately understand him better. Thank you for a really great workshop! Sincerely, Oana Melnic

Dear Jonathan,

When I read Mayella initially, my first thoughts were that she was extremely poor, defensive, and had a sense of despair. She also had a chip on her shoulder, yet as I read the excerpts I felt that this “chip” was warranted. Her family life was full of hardship. She had an alcoholic father, who probably beat her and raped her, a man that has robbed her of basic parental gifts (love, compassion, protection, guidance, etc.). She had no friends and I thought a part of her viewed Tom as a friend. She liked that someone in the world actually cared for her and subsequently took care of her, even if it was her who asked him to complete various odd jobs around her home. The slop jars holding the “brilliant red geraniums” appeared to be a symbol of hope, amongst all the garbage there was something of value. In my initial character analysis, I wrote that these were a symbol of the vulnerability in the character. After all they were the only thing of beauty in a yard full of random collectibles. These were a small positive gleam of hope and the one thing that she could truly call all her own.

The beginning activity was terrifying for me. A timed reading and writing assignment: was I back in high school taking standardized tests? Did I step into a time machine? Would I be in the blue birds or red robins? Being a product of an At Risk study done in the 1980s, I have developed serious test anxiety, which had lain dormant for the last 2 years until today.

After going through your workshop, Mayella became more alive. She was not just some poor defensive girl: she had strength and courage. While she might not have protected Tom, she continued to live in an environment that was rotting her internally and hurting her physically. It was interesting to hear my group’s perception of her because while we had all read the same material, our personal schemes affected our view of the material. The text-to-self drawings are a strategy I plan on using during the school year.

All the activities, TKAM movie, active group work with the graphic organizer, listening to the book on tape; I realized once again that I truly am a visual and auditory learner. Actually, I think all three learning styles (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) are important in my learning; hence I try to incorporate them into my lessons. The series of activities (movie, poster, role play) all served their purpose of “getting to know” the character, which assisted me in my post-analysis writing. Using a variety of mediums to engage us “the students” reminded me that I need to stay on my toes when it comes to engaging my students. After experiencing these workshops, I realize this has been the missing link in my professional development. Super Saturdays here I come! Breanne Romano

Dear Jonathan,

I have read To Kill A Mockingbird approximately 30 times. Of course we focus on Mayella and Tom, but I've never focused that much on Dill. After really discussing who this little boy is, what struck me was how much Dill is the conscience of the town, how much perspective he lends to the text, and how he is the only impartial observer in the book. I also never thought about why Dill might not be touched so much by the institutionalized racism that touches all the other Maycombians. (Even Scout, who should know better, is numb to the bad treatment of Tom by Mr. Gilmer). It came out in the role playing when I was playing Dill that one of the reasons for this is that he is so immersed in the fantasy world that he escapes to, that reality doesn't affect him like it does others.

The role playing was something that I've never really done myself, but our role playing really worked. In fact, I was actually getting uncomfortable when the person who was playing Tom was grilling Mayella and I was getting defensive when Tom was asking me what I was so upset about because I had a way better life than he or Mayella did. I guess the most important thing that I took away from that is that I need to keep an open mind about different ways that I can learn. I always look for ways to diversify for my students, but when it comes to my own learning, I tend to only stick to what I think works. I'm definitely a believer in role playing now. Dawn Nelson


I think you need to know some background about me. I am embarrassed to admit it, and I am not sure if I should really tell you this information, I never read To Kill a Mockingbird. What a tragedy. I have seen the movie several times, does that count? And while I am being honest, I also think that in high school I may have been one of the aliterate students. I read the required text, but I never read more than I needed. It was not until my adult life that I realized that I loved to read. Okay, don't spread the news, I am not proud to admit it.

Though the eyes of a new reader to the book: when you began today I was completely turned off to just reading and then responding. I could do it, yet the response was labored and dry. I felt like after we saw the video clip that I was especially tuned into my character. This idea was brilliant to me. Show a bit of the movie, who would have thought. WOW! After this I really understood the character. I learned from this experience and from the collaboration of others. When we did the posters and talked about what picture we would do in the middle, the character became clearer. I reluctantly did the role play. I explained to my group that usually when role play comes it is my cue to use the bathroom. Well I will admit it, the role playing was very powerful. I dreaded the whole 5 minutes I was in the hot seat. After all the activities my second draft was 100% better than the first. I could relate to my character in a far deeper way than I could in the beginning.

I was especially impressed by the way you front loaded the book. I have always just began with a picture walk or maybe just a quick tell of what the story was about. The way that you front loaded the book was also a way to get the students excited about the book and understand the characters. I bet this strategy leads the students to want to know what happens next. It made me want to read the book. It also helps those students that have a hard time making mental images as they read. I can't wait to use these ideas in my readers workshop. I was also thinking that these same strategies can be used for my read alouds, such as James and the Giant Peach. I really think that the 2nd graders would enjoy making the posters and maybe role playing, we will see how brave I get. I also may tweak the ideas and use them for book groups and complex group instruction. Thank you for the ideas. Amy Ayalla


First, I have to admit that I have not read the examples at the back of the packet. I find that often, I am an imitator, rather than an original thinker, and I would like to present you with a genuine me.

Mayella as a character has always angered me. I have always accepted that she is he unfortunate victim of an unfair dealing of life's cards. It has always seemed to me that, despite her situation, she is supposed to be the hope for her siblings. Her ability to read and write, her ability to cope, should be the way to save her family from itself. As the oldest, she should have felt the responsibility to her siblings that I feel: nothing is asking too much. Mayella seemed to me to lack what I consider a natural "mother bear" instinct toward the Ewell brood. For this, I have always privately condemned her.

After your seminar today, I am able to see Mayella in a new light. During the gallery walk, I quietly held my peace. No one likes someone who dislikes Mayella. I wasn't until the role play that I felt blind-sided by compassion. In answering questions from a very thoughtful Tom (played by Melanie) I became Mayella. I was quiet. I didn't want to answer the questions, though I knew the answers. The answers said that I was going along with my father because it was the only way to protect my siblings. Like the slop pots that hold the geraniums, I had to be degraded and dirty to allow my siblings the chance to flourish.

I will not bother typing my final draft here, but in rereading the opening for Mayella, I came upon a whole new approach to my essay. Harper Lee includes so many words that evoke a prisoner, finally presenting Mayella as the prisoner with the last words of the passage -- her care of the geraniums and her siblings. I was stunned that I have missed it for so many years, including the 2 that I taught the book!

As an individual who functions through emotion first, and rationale second, this experience with Mayella has fundamentally changed the way I will approach literature with my students. In the course of our race towards the CST, we often forget that what matters the most is the connection between readers and characters. To have empathy. To share their joys and sorrows in such a way that, while reading like Luther, alone and silent, we laugh out loud and reach for our Kleenex to stop the tears. Exercises like the ones presented today gave me new ways to connect my students to literature in the same ways that I do! Thank you for your passion, your wisdom, and your inspiration. Authentically yours, Brandy Appling-Jensen

Dear Jonathan,

I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation on To Kill a Mockingbird, even though it was the second time around. Although I had listened to and participated in this well-planned and executed workshop in your methods class, I found new insights and usable techniques in your presentation. It does grow on one. Now that I'm out of middle school and heading towards high school, I might actually get to teach TKAM (but of course the learning from your workshop can apply to introducing any literature we might assign to --what was it?-- aliterate student populations.

As evidence of my learning today, I've typed up below and am sending you my analysis (redux) of "my" character from TKAM, Tom Robinson. Despite Nancy and Laura's frequent admonishments to "save all your drafts," I did not save that first pathetic "timed" attempt from the beginning of the workshop. At any rate, reading this new and improved version should reveal much of what I learned from the workshop, and also what I hope to do to "re-mediate" students needing more effective verbal/visual introductions to required (and desirable) texts.

"Tom's Character" (post-workshop Enlightenment Version)

Tom the dignified African-American. Tom the tireless worker. Tom the dedicated husband and family man. Tom the object of a confused, oppressed white girl's desire. Tom the accused rapist. Tom the victim of prejudice and injustice. Tom the symbol of the potential-and pitfalls- of the American dream.

At this point in our exploration of the novel TKAM, Tom is all of these things, and more. We saw over ten different representations of this deceptively simple man drawn on our group posters. We also discovered that Tom the character does not exist in isolation, and chameleon-like, he changes as viewed and experienced by other people, as revealed in our role play exercise. For on thing, he represents the injustice and irrationality that makes Dill feel sick. He is also both a magnet for poor, lonely Mayella and the cause of her subsequent deceit and self-abasement. These layers upon layers of all the characters, and especially Tom, were made painfully clear in the video segment of the trial scene from the novel. The audio tape we listened revealed even more about Tom: he had run afoul of the law once before, but was punished more severely than a co-lawbreaker simply because he couldn't pay his way out of trouble. Tom is a such a paradox: both his own best friend and worst enemy. His overall goodness and honesty, his naivete about the world in which he lives, have landed him in this court of law, falsely accused, and apparently doomed.

If not for the color of his skin, and his circumstances living in a repressive small Southern town, or if he had ignored his good heart and walked on by Mayella's house that day (and the many before it), he might be a teacher sitting among us today. Tom Robinson could also be the CEO of a multi-natonal corporation. He might even be running for president of the United States. Instead, in this novel, he is trapped in a witness chair in a hostile courtroom, sweating as he tries to tell his side of the story, and listening to everyone except Atticus turn all his words against him. His fate appears sealed, and it is not a good one. He is an outsider that not even any of the town's other outsiders are capable of saving. But without all of these other insider and outsider presences in the courtroom, and their individual stories and interactions, Tom would not be a real character we can empathize with or learn from. That is what we learned from this lesson, and what will keep us reading, because we know what is going on, and we care what happens to people like Tom. Thanks again, Barbara Saxton

Jonathan -

Okay, it's 6:20 AM and I'm just beginning to write this. I'm sorry. As you remember, I've seen this presentation before, but I still had a good time walking through the steps. Since I saw it the first time in Methods, I've used the overhead/audio reading when I could borrow the audio from Sharon Leach. I find that the students, especially my slower readers, react to pre-recorded audio well because it takes the burden of making meaning of the complex sentences and all of the phrasing. Cissy Spacek'S already done the chunking for them, so there's nothing left for them to do but listen and create a visual in their heads. I'm surprised every year by how many kids can't or don't get visual images in their minds as they read, and I know that this strategy is one that allows them to do so more readily.

Although I normally feel like a hot shot whenever someone uses TKAM for their presentation (I've read it so many times, I've read so many teacher articles about it, I've seen so many lesson plans about it), I still learn things about the characters each time. I think I did have Mayella last time, and I did this time, too, but that doesn't mean I didn't deepen my understanding of her. I knew all of the things that we talked about Mayella during the presentation, but I don't remember the sheer hopelessness of things without saying it out loud.

I'm not going to share my writing with you either pre or post because, frankly, it's terrible. It's been a long time since I've written a response to lit, and that's something I've taken away from all of these presentations. Although I often write an opening paragraph or follow along with the students privately, I guess I need to carve out time to complete my own homework. Another way to build empathy. Debbie Navratil


I enjoyed your workshop today (or now yesterday as I've stayed up all night indulging my perfectionist tendencies in the finalization of my workshop presentation and am just now getting to sending you this e-mail). I particularly like the term "aliterate" - it describes those uninterested students perfectly. I could definitely see how the interactive activities you presented could help engage those students. I was certainly engaged during the activities. I thought the opening exercise was a great illustration of how our students probably feel most of the time during timed writing or in-class essays. I know I felt I had some ideas by the end of the time but was just truly beginning to develop them when you said "time's up". However, I might have had an advantage since I've read and taught To Kill a Mockingbird and so knew the context of the passages. From just those passages, I concluded that Tom is not formally educated but observant and intelligent and that he is patient, kind, and modest. I particularly focused on the dialogue and Scout's phrase "soft black velvet" in my analysis.

Watching the courtroom scene and then having to create a visual representation of Tom just relying on that courtroom scene made me realize that the actor who played Tom Robinson was able to communicate Tom's character and emotions more clearly than Scout's naive narration in the text (at least in my opinion) and so the movie could truly help students come to a deep understanding of Tom's character before they picked up the book. Tom's tears and controlled, polite speech seemed particularly effective. However, I can also see that this activity could be problematic if an actor's or director's interpretation is not supported by the actual text. I suppose you could warn students about the difference and then they would be primed to look for it when reading - which could produce a different sort of motivation.

I found that then creating the visual representation for Tom was a more powerful activity than I realized. Just having to come up with and then justify a symbol made me aware of inferences I hadn't realized I'd made about Tom and helped me articulate those inferences. I chose a golden retriever as my symbol because I believe Tom is loyal, kind, eager to help others, and do the right thing, and positive and understanding in the face of misfortune (like a golden retriever). Also, like a golden retriever, Tom is viewed by others as less than human or less than other humans despite his admirable characteristics. I realized after I created the symbol that it could really become a powerful reminder of Tom's characteristics. Now, every time I think of Tom Robinson, that golden retriever picture pops up in my mind. I can see how this activity would give students something to hold onto as they read the text (at least if their brain works like mine and latches on to visuals).

I found the role-playing more uncomfortable but also helpful in forcing me to articulate my inferences about the character. In my second attempt to write about Tom Robinson, I found I had much more to say and that much of my analysis now referred to the actor's actions in the movie rather than the text I initially read. I expanded my analysis and came up with the statement "he has been literally and figuratively crippled by a racist society yet remains compassionate and kind". I found my second analysis focusing more on Tom's kindness and compassion rather than less emotional aspects such as level of education - indicating that I felt more connected to and invested in the character now. I can see how a student who felt similarly emotionally invested would now want to read the book to follow "their" character. Through this exercise I rediscovered the power visuals, and especially visual symbols, hold for me (something I knew about myself but had somewhat forgotten). I also realized that despite having read the book before, I could still become more attached to a character - a sign of great literature.

I particularly thought the reminder about the saved vs. the damned was helpful. In teaching honors English, I tend to fall into the trap of teaching my students how to be part of the saved (since after all, that's how they're probably going to be treated in college, right?) rather than consistently expanding their understanding through more kinesthetic or visual exercises such as the ones you modeled. I will definitely try to include more such visual activities in my lessons in the future as I experienced first hand how effective they are. Thank you for a great presentation. Hopefully, I can live up to the example. Best, Brook Wallace

Hi Jonathan,

So I am embarrassed to say that I forgot to respond to your presentation last week and that I am equally mortified to be turning my response in late. Perhaps I can make it up to you by sharing how much I really enjoyed your lesson. First off, I have to tell you that I love how you explain the history of so many of the terms and strategies that we have in education, I am continuously learning from you these juicy tidbits of information and hope that I can remember them. The cumulative graphic organizer was great and I love the incorporation of the video. The role playing was very valuable to me as a student and as a teacher. It really made me think through who the character was and helped me prep myself for the character sketch that followed. I know that I will use the cumulative graphic organizer and I will be using the role playing more often as well. Thank you for setting such a high standard for us (I might not have said this if I'd written this on Thursday night before I gave my own presentation! ) Your presentation was so well informed and well rounded and I thoroughly enjoyed my learning experience. Thanks again. Sarah Thistlethwaite

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ncte 08 presentation

Here's the material I promised to post from my Nov 21 presentation at NCTE in San Antonio:

Rethinking 'Old School' Practices: Fostering a Love of Books in an Age of Technology
Friday, Nov 21, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
NCTE 98th Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX
"From Martin Luther to Walt Disney: engaging aliterate secondary level students with what they read"

A presentation by Jonathan H. Lovell

Professor of English & Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project
San Jose State University
San Jose, California


3:05 - 3:05 participants read vignette focusing on Dill Harris from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and write the opening sentences of a character analysis essay
3:05 - 3:15 J Lovell reads essay on Martin Luther and Walt Disney as teachers of reading
3:15 - 3:20 J Lovell provides demonstration of "cumulative graphic organizer" [his own invention!] as a pre-reading strategy, focusing on courtroom scene from film version of To Kill a Mockingbird (henceforth TKAM)
3:20 – 3:25 participants view visual symbol posters of Dill Harris character on the overhead, then discuss with a partner what they now understand about their character
3:25 – 3:30 J Lovell discusses use of role play activity, with Dill, Mayella & Tom in mixed character groups, with one character in the "hot seat" and the other two asking questions of that character
3:30 - 3:35 participants listen to vignette of Dill from audio version of TKAM, while large print version of this vignette is displayed on the overhead projector screen
3:35 - 3:40 participants discuss what they learned about Dill Harris by experiencing this sequence of activities

Dill Harris

Dill was from Meridian, Mississippi, was spending the summer with his aunt, Miss Rachel, and would be pending every summer in Maycomb from now on. His family was from Maycomb County originally, his mother worked for a photographer in Meridian, had entered his picture in a Beautiful Child contest and won five dollars. She gave the money to Dill, who went to the picture show twenty times on it.

"Don't have any picture shows here, except Jesus ones in the courthouse sometimes," said Jem. "Ever seen anything good?"

Dill had seen Dracula, a revelation that moved Jem to eye him with the beginning of respect. "Tell it to us," he said.

Dill was a curiosity. He wore blue linen shorts that buttoned to his shirt, his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duck-fluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him. As he told us the old tale his blue eyes would lighten and darken; his laugh was sudden and happy; he habitually pulled at a cowlick in the center of his forehead.

When Dill reduced Dracula to dust, and Jem said the show sounded better than the book, I asked Dill where his father was: "You ain't said anything about him."

"I haven't got one."

"Is he dead?"

"No . . . "

"Then if he's not dead you got one, haven't you?"

Dill blushed and Jem told me to hush, a sure sign that Dill had been studied and found acceptable.

Martin Luther and Walt Disney as Teachers of Reading

Because part of my job at San Jose State is to serve as a university supervisor of beginning teachers of English, I've spent a great deal of time over the past 22 years observing students in classrooms at the middle and high school levels reading and responding to what they read. Often, as I observe these classrooms, it seems to me that teachers are behaving as if the Lutheran revolution is the only game in town. You know the general story: Luther directly challenged the whole notion of the purpose of reading and who should be allowed to learn to read. Prior to the Lutheran revolution, readers of texts were largely monks and priests, while the rest of the population acted primarily as listeners to the Biblical narratives told by this priestly class. These readings were frequently supplemented by visual versions of these same tales, often depicted as frescoes on nearby church walls.

Luther changed all that. "You must be a reader yourself if you are ever to understand your true relationship to God," he proclaimed. Even more somberly for today's students, he suggested that if you could not understand what you read, you were meant to be damned. Damned eternally. Oh my.

As a student growing up in the late 50's, I was a child of Sputnik. Surprisingly, the sudden and quite unanticipated launching of this orbital satellite had the effect on American education of driving us back to the basics of the Lutheran revolution. Shortly after the Soviets launched sputnik in the fall of 1957, American students' reading comprehension began to be tested both systematically and frequently. Depending on one's comprehension level, one was placed in either higher or lower level classes: "saved" or "damned."

For me, the logical culmination of this system came in my senior year of college. I was taking a class in the modern British novel by a Professor I greatly admired. All of us "saved" students in English were sitting in the first two rows of the small lecture hall, laughing at the professor's jokes and nudging each other as we pointed to passages we'd underlined in our texts and comments we'd written in the margins. I chanced to turn around one day to look at the back of the room. There, on the far side of the back row, hunched down in his chair, was one of my classmates -- a good friend and a fellow member of my residential hall. He was looking rather desperate, peering over the top of his book, clearly hoping the professor would not notice him. I knew this particular classmate was extremely bright. In fact, he later went on to Oxford University and then Harvard Law School. What sort of system could lead to his conviction that he was not among the saved, at least as far as reading of works of modern British literature was concerned?

But that was the consequence, I later came to realize, of identifying those with different academic aptitudes early in an educational system, then nurturing these talented individuals at the expense of those not "meant" to be saved. The cluster of the saved, of course, got smaller and smaller as one rose up through the educational ranks. Eventually, in English studies, it became a matter of fewer and fewer people talking more and more loudly to one another.

In my third year of graduate school in English, as I was observing this process of increasing selectivity taking place, and wondering when I would be the next to be pushed off the plank, I was asked to take over the leadership of an undergraduate seminar made up of English majors who had a different take on the purpose and value of the study of English. These were students who were planning to enter post-BA credential programs in the state of Connecticut. Since I'd taught 10th and 12th grade at a private school in Delaware prior to beginning my graduate studies, I was asked to become the seminar leader for this group of undergraduates. And as it turned out, the questions they were asking fascinated me: how should the field of English be re-defined when it became the one field of study required of all students in each year of their public schooling? As significantly, how should this field of study be understood when one's students are there by law rather than choice?

And here's where Walt Disney came in. What if we decided to look at how kids understood "texts" when they were good at it? Wouldn't this give us a different perspective? What purpose was served, after all, by observing kids suffering through the ever-more-selective reading programs whose primary effect was to increase the disparity between "good readers" and "poor readers" in each successive year? Since I was leading this seminar as an adjunct to a Children's Literature course for which I was serving as a TA, it seemed sensible to define reading as a matter of making sense of texts that were both visual and verbal. Isn't that what any good elementary teacher taught day in day out: stories in which the illustrations gave the reader as much information as the words?

In pursuing this line of inquiry, we learned that prior to Disney's creation of the first 90 minute full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, it was widely assumed that "talking animated cartoons" could only sustain the attention of the average child for about ten minutes. Sound familiar? Disney and his animators challenged this conventional thinking, asking themselves what might make children want to sustain their attention for longer periods of time. Telling a good story was obviously a key ingredient (hence the choice of Snow White), but so was the appeal to our universal delight in sound, song, movement and a bit of irreverence (hence the Seven Dwarfs). By drawing on these attributes of what made kids variously talented and smart, might the supposed "shortness" of kids' attention spans be significantly stretched? As we all know today, Disney and his animators proved the skeptics wrong. Kids could pay attention to what they were viewing for a good deal longer than 10 minutes. It was all a matter of knowing in advance what might interest and engage their attention, then incorporating these elements systematically and consistently into this uniquely modern version of visual and verbal "story telling." Were it not for the launching of Sputnik, perhaps this Disney "vision" of kids as diversely talented readers and viewers might even have prevailed in American education. Sadly, however, this vision of the later 1930's gradually faded as school once again became more academic, rigorous, and relentlessly selective. And so it is today.

In today's presentation, however, I'll return you briefly to the world of Disney and introduce you to an approach to reading comprehension that draws on the many ways both kids and adults are uniquely talented. After starting with the most traditional of exercises -- reading a short passage from Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird describing Dill Harris and writing about that passage -- we'll approach at this same text through a variety of different media, using a technique that John Elkins and Allan Luke have called "re/mediating adolescent literacies." I'll only be able to give the briefest of overviews of the sequence of exercises I've developed over the years to help students and teachers rethink "old school" practices in reading and responding to traditional texts. If you would like to gain a fuller understanding of the practices I will be introducing you to over the next several minutes, however, as well as to read the responses of a group of K-college Writing Project teachers who experienced this sequence of execises this summer, I invite you to visit my blog by googling "jonathan's edutalk" and reading what I've posted on my entries of 11-20-08.

Materials and Methods Used in this Workshop

Graphic organizers used to prepare students for reading or viewing a verbal or visual text

Graphic organizers are one of the most effective ways to introduce students to a verbal or visual text that they are about to read. Good books for helping teachers do this at the secondary level are Jim Burke’s Tools for Thought: Helping All Students Read, Write, Speak, and Think (Heinemann, 2002) and Fran Claggett and Joan Brown’s Drawing Your Own Conclusions: Graphic Strategies for Reading, Writing, and Thinking (Heinemann, 1997). For elementary level teachers, I’d recommend Elaine McEwan’s Teach Them ALL to Read: Catching the Kids Who Fall Through the Cracks (SAGE, 2002), Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis’s Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding (Stenhouse, 2000), and Mosaic of Thought: Teaching Comprehension in a Reader's Workshop by Susan Zimmermann (Heinemann, 1997).

I use a 'cumulative graphic organizer' as a pre-reading strategy in this workshop, anticipating that participants will be able to make better sense of the courtroom segment in general, and Dill's role in this segment in particular, if they are ‘pre-introduced’ to this part of the TKAM narrative through the use of a graphic organizer. Student-generated graphic organizers are also terrific ways for kids of all ages to represent what they have already read or seen, and to exhibit this knowledge to their classmates. I also like the idea of using overhead transparencies to portray strong central images, or metaphors that characterize segments of a narrative, and then "embellishing" these central images with successive "layers" of meaning.

Video versions of narrative texts

I’m always on the lookout for good video versions of novels and plays, either for classroom use or for use in workshops for teachers. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, however, that I do not know how to dub selections from a DVD version of a novel onto a new DVD. I therefore just select a segment of the film I’m focusing on for my workshop, or use the "select scene" on the DVD player, to move from one segment to the next.

What I think is important about the use of visual narratives in general is to regard the video version of the work you are reading as equal in importance to the print version. In other words, regard both versions as two interestingly different renditions, two "re/mediations," to use the clever term that Professor Donna Alvermann borrows from the research of John Elkins and Allan Luke,1 of the same "deep story." Don’t treat the video version as a way to make the experience of reading the story or play more palatable, but rather as a chance to discover the compellingly different ways that great stories can be told. I also think that it’s a good idea to realize that for our students digital media provide their primary way of understanding and responding to stories, while most teachers tend to regard print narratives as the "higher" form of story telling.

Visual Symbol Posters based on characters in a story

Visual symbol posters are especially effective as a way to lead students "into" the characters of a story they are about to read, but they can also be used as either a "through" or "beyond" exercise, capturing what readers or groups of readers are learning about their characters.

What’s exciting about these visual symbol posters is how much they teach the students, as they are creating these posters and talking together, about the characters they are describing, and how stunning they can be when posted on the classroom wall for all to see. Gallery walks are especially effective as a means of exhibiting these artworks to the class as a whole.

Role Playing of Characters

Having small groups of three participants role play different characters, as with the characters of Dill Harris & Mayella Ewell & Tom Robinson, has the advantage of lowering the apprehension that participants might feel if asked to sit in a "hot seat" before the class as a whole, role playing a single character. Similar in power and effectiveness to the use of guided imagery, role playing also has a similar danger: it can become so engrossing that students forget these are fictional characters they are representing. It is therefore a good strategy, when asking your students to engage in role-playing, to set clear guidelines for your students as both role-players and question askers. It’s also important to debrief them carefully and sensitively afterwards. That being said, I know of no more powerful means of helping aliterate readers (those students who can read but chose not to) to become engaged in what they read than the "paired" exercises of creating visual symbol posters and then role playing their character.

Audio Versions of Novels

There are several excellent recorded book companies now making recorded books for both children and young adults, and I've been pleased to observe that several adopted textbook series include recorded versions of their narrative texts as well. If you do not want to spend the money to purchase a recorded version of a book, however, you can often find these versions in your local public library, often in the section for the hearing impaired.

Dubbing selections from your recorded book for use in your classroom

Prepare to take some time if you wish to follow my practice in the final segment of my workshop, but to be rewarded with a tape that you can use for many years to come. I start by listening to the recorded version of a novel or play while I’m driving, making a mental note of which selections I think will work well for “into,” “through,” and “beyond” exercises. For my Mockingbird selections, I was thinking about providing middle adolescent readers with a “window” into the three characters I’d chosen to focus on prior to their reading of this novel.

After selecting and making a mental note of my selections from the audio version of a novel or play, I then begin the process of locating and recording them in the order in which I intend to play them in the classroom. Once I’ve located each segment, I dub this selection to a fresh audiotape, so that the resulting new tape is one that I can play in a classroom. The bad news is that this process takes time: the good news is that once one has made one of these tapes, one can use it over and over again.

1 Alvermann, Donna, "Seeing Themselves as Capable and Engaged Readers: Adolescents and Re/Mediated Instruction," Learning Point Associates, Naperville, IL 2003

Saturday, February 02, 2008

pre-reading R&J for ELLs

Note: Using this as an "into" for the play will be especially helpful for ELLs in becoming more comfortable with the language of this play. Prepare for this oral/choral reading by having the whole class recite the "all" passages together, preferably twice, then having pairs of students, preferably mixed ability, practice their individual #1 through #18 "parts" before the oral/choral reading.


Teacher: The minute this play begins, you know that there are two families in a town in northern Italy named

all: Fair Verona!

They hate each other, and this hatred is old and bitter. Folks are yelling

all: Down with the Capulets!

while other folks are yelling

all: Down with the Montagues!

There is a brawl so violent that the Prince of the town has to come out and lay down the law.

all: If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives will pay the forfeit of the peace!

Then we see Romeo wandering around and learn that he has been staying out all night and sleeping all day because he is

all: In Love!

with a lady named "Rosaline," who does not love him back. And we meet "the boys" -- Romeo's friends Benvolio and Mercutio -- who are headed for a party at

all: The Capulets!

It's a masked ball, so they can sneak in wearing costumes and no one at the ball will know that they are from the hated

all: Montagues!

Benvolio is excited because going to this ball will give Romeo a chance to get over his infatuation with the proud and aloof Lady Rosaline.


When the boys arrive in disguise, Lord Capulet does not recognize them as his enemies

all: the Montagues!

and so welcomes them.


It is at this party that Romeo first sees young Juliet. He does not realize that she is the daughter of his hated host. He is blown away by her beauty!


They dance. They kiss. Juliet says:


Only at the end of the party do they learn that the other is one of the "enemy."

But they don't feel like enemies. After the party, Romeo escapes from his buddies, climbs the wall into the Capulet family orchard, and delivers his famous lines:


Juliet comes out on the balcony. Without knowing that Romeo is right below her, she says:

all: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name
And I'll no longer be a Capulet!

They talk passionately of love, but then Juliet hears her mother calling. Romeo says:


Juliet is no fool. She replies:

all: If that thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow.

You would think that marriage between these two would be unthinkable because of the feud between their families.

all: But Love is Love!

They enlist the help of Juliet's nurse and Friar Lawrence, a local member of the clergy who hopes their union will bring an end to the feud. In secret, Friar Lawrence marries them. But the families, knowing nothing of this marriage, continue their feud. In the town square, Tybalt

all: A Capulet!

and a hot-headed cousin of Juliet's, comes looking for a fight with

all: A Montague!

Romeo's equally hot-headed friend Mercutio takes him on, saying:


Tybalt yells back:


They fight. Mercutio dies and Tybalt flees. But look:

all: Here comes the furious Tybalt back again!

Romeo will not let his friend Mercutio die in vain. Even though Tybalt is Juliet's cousin, Romeo kills him, and regrets it almost immediately. In despair over his action, he laments:


The Prince
all: Of Fair Verona!

banishes Romeo to the nearby town on Mantua, but before Romeo leaves, he spends a night with Juliet. As he leaves, he says:


But moments after Romeo leaves, Juliet's mother enters to inform her daughter that Lord Capulet has arranged for Juliet to marry an older man named Count Paris, a local nobleman. She expects her daughter will be very happy with this news, telling her that:

all: Early next Thursday morn,
The gallant, young and noble gentleman
The County Paris, at Saint Peter's Church
Shall happ'ly make thee there a joyful bride!

But even though Juliet has been an obedient daughter in the past, she says:


Her father does not like his daughter's tone of voice one bit. He says:


Juliet is desperate. With the help of Friar Lawrence, she comes up with a plan to take a special drink that will make her appear to be dead. That way her parents will put her body in the family tomb, and after that Friar Lawrence will fetch her and take her to Romeo in Mantua.

As Juliet drinks the special potion, she says:


It works. Juliet's nurse and her mother Lady Capulet find her in the morning.


And they put her body in the family tomb, just as Juliet and Friar Lawrence had planned.

Unfortunately, one small detail has been left out. Romeo has not heard of the plan! All he hears is that Juliet is dead.

Many people head for Juliet's tomb. Romeo, who stops to buy some poison, is going there to join Juliet in death. Friar Lawrence is going there to get Juliet and take her to Romeo. Count Paris is going there to mourn for his almost-wife.

Paris gets there first. Romeo finds him there and kills him. Count Paris says:

#16: O, I AM SLAIN!

Then Romeo sees Juliet's body and takes the poison he has brought with him, saying:


Friar Lawrence arrives just too late, finding Romeo dead and Juliet just waking up. As usual, he has great advice for Juliet:

all: Come, come away.
Thy husband in thy bosom there lies dead
And Paris too. Come, I'll dispose of thee
Among a sisterhood of holy nuns!

This does not sound like any sort of a plan to Juliet. Friar Lawrence then flees from the tomb and Juliet decides to join Romeo in death. Since there is not enough left of Romeo's poison to kill her, she stabs herself, saying:


Romeo and Juliet are found in the tomb by their feuding parents, who finally realize that their quarrels have gone too far. They vow to make peace, concluding sadly that:

all: Never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and Romeo

Monday, January 21, 2008

what is a cumulative graphic organizer?

In my response to John's comment in my last post, where he asked what I was referring to as the "cumulative graphic organizer" I used to help set students up for their viewing of the courtroom sequence of TKAM, I provided the following explanation:

I start with a visual of courtroom as seen from the judge's perspective, showing the desk for the lawyer for the accused on the right, the desk for the lawyer for the state (or the plaintiff) on the left, and the balcony above (transparency #1)

I overlay this with simple stick figures by the desks and up in the balcony: the lawyer for the accused (AF) by the right side desk, the lawyer for the state (Mr G) by the left side desk , and, up in the balcony, Scout and Jem Finch and Dill Harris. I color code these stick figures: half red and half black for Atticus, half green and half black for Mr G, all green for Scout and Jem, and half green and half red for Dill (transparency #2).

I next overlay simple stick figures for Tom Robinson (red and black) behind the desk to the right, and Mayella Ewell and Bob Ewell (red and black) by the desk to the left (transparency #3).

I finally overlay a transparency showing a throng of stick figures in green on the ground floor and a smaller throng of stick figures in red up in the balcony.

I then have a final overlay that explains that the color coding refers to the following:

green = Maycomb's "insider" population, largely white

red = Maycomb's "outsider" population, largely black (but notice the exceptions)

black= the accused,his accusers, and their lawyers

What this cumulative graphic organizer helps to do is set students up to view the courtroom scene from the film, not only situating the main characters in relation to the "geography" of the courtroom but also anticipating something of the roles they will play in relation to one another.

I hope this is helpful to others who might have had a similar question to John's.