Wednesday, February 25, 2009

She Unnames Them

"She Unnames Them" is a fascinating short story from Ursula K. Le Guin. I read it last year for my American Literature class and thought it would be interesting to see how middle and high school students would react to such an interesting and open ended story, and today was my chance. We had just finished up the short story "A Jury of Her Peers", and I wanted to do a shorter story that was not like anything that my students had read before. I knew that the students would struggle a bit with the story because of the complexity of the text coupled with the Biblical and poetic references but I had confidence that they could work their way through the text and get something from it.

I taught the lesson to three different classes and got three totally different responses. My 1st block (7th graders) were very much into the story and seemed to enjoy it even though it was not an easy read. When I told them that they just did college level work they applauded themselves and I think it boosted some self esteem even if they would never admit it to anyone, especially to their teacher. I even had a student ask if the story was making fun of the Bible and had to assure them that it was not, it was merely asking a question about what would happen if...

My 8th graders (2nd block) were not so open to the story, but they did get through it for the most part and some of them seemed to enjoy the story as well. Interestingly enough, they laughed at the word ass (donkey) while the previous class didn't blink, although one student asked if they could write the word in an answer. I said yes they could.

Then there was my last class of 7th graders. They had no intention of doing any school work and I finally told them to read the story and answer the questions themselves. For the near term, they get the little kid treatment until they prove they can handle a class discussion and are willing to do some actual work. If I felt any better I'd be calling parents right now but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I feel like crap and have a paper to write...

Oh, and my math class really impressed me with their chapter test. Nobody failed and 7 of my 16 students had an A. Very good news for all involved.

One last thing, we start "A Letter From A Birmingham Jail" tomorrow. I'll keep all 12.1 of you informed of how it goes. We start with the clergy statement that prompted the letter and go from there.