Friday, January 31, 2014

We're Done Reading the Book, but Our Learning is Just Beginning

Since Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury has been a part of the Accelerated English curriculum for six years now, I have always wanted the students to do a project with the allusions in that book. The time has come for my dream lesson plan to be scheduled into an actual unit.  

For a quick summary, Guy Montag, the main character in Fahrenheit 451 is a firefighter in Bradbury's dystopian novel set in a future time of war. Firefighting has evolved to burning homes with books and even the owners if they refuse to leave their books behind.Throughout the course of the novel, many literary allusions are casually tossed around like frisbees just out of reach of the students' perception.  So after we finished reading the entire novel, it was time to teach them how to catch those allusions.  

First, students were individually assigned a set number of pages from the book(to avoid repetitious subjects), and they had to individually post allusions found on under the discussion section so all students can access this information. 

From the students findings, I created this task to kick off the next phase of the project:

Directions:  Choose a pair listed below.  Research them. Find out pertinent information (who, what, where, when, why as best you can.  In your own words, post your information as a comment beneath the subject on the discussion.  The goal is for others to read the discussion and find out important information about your subjects. Be thorough yet concise.

____________1.  Edna St. Vincent Millay, Charles Darwin
____________2.  Walt Whitman, Alexander Pope,
____________3.  William Faulkner, Arthur Schopenhauer
____________4.  Bible (Old and New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
____________5.  Hercules, Albert Einstein
____________6.  Antaeus, Aristophanes
____________7.  Luigi Pirandello, Thomas Jefferson
____________8.  George Bernard Shaw, Albert Schweitzer
____________9.  William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln
____________10. John Milton, Gautama Buddha
____________11.  Sophocles, Mahatma Gandhi
____________12.  Aeschylus, Confuscius
____________13. Eugene O’Neill, Thomas Love Peacock
____________14.  Jonathan Swift, The Constitution
____________15.  Marcus Aurelius, Ecclesiastes
____________16.  Dante Alighieri, Little Black Sambo
____________17.  Benjamin Franklin, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
____________18.  Nicholas Ridley, Gulliver’s Travels
____________19.  Plato, Plato’s Republic
____________20.  Henry David Thoreau, Hamlet
____________21.  Thomas Paine, Cambridge

In class, I drew names out of a box and one-by-one students chose their topics (I had everyone write down who had which topic to help them all keep track).  Now students are in the midst of finding out who these people and references are.  In the next step, each student will select reading material by one of the authors or titles mentioned.  After that is completed, we will begin synthesizing all that we have gathered from the novel, the individual reading pieces, and tie it to our experiences as humans in the year 2014. Part of this process will include exploring questions like are these books worth saving?  Is knowledge of them dangerous?  Why is the society in Fahrenheit 451 so fearful to let people think for themselves, to feel their emotions?  Why is the goal to cram people full of distractions that keep them from thinking about someone other than themselves?  Is our current society like this? What does our society fear people will do? Is knowledge dangerous?

Ignorance of the allusions weakens the whole experience of reading the book. We finished reading Fahrenheit 451, but the learning is far from over.