A double posting for this epic week. I will divide it by the classes. In the first class in week 7, we had a long discussion about A Good Man Is Hard To Find. They loved it and they got into a heated discussion about who was to blame for the murder of the family. Some said the Grandmother, others the killer. They went back and forth for a while and I tried to explain the concept of Moral Luck to them which got them even crazier, but they really seemed to enjoy it. I told them they should all become philosophy majors if they really liked that sort of thing. After that, I gave them a quick lecture on Freytag's Pyramid and we used the structure to dissect A Good Man to answer some questions about whose story it was, multiple climaxes, etc. After that, we did a writing exercise. We had them each write 2 different first sentences of a story. Then we collected them and handed them out so they had each others. Then we told them the assignment for the next week was to write a new paragraph using one of the first sentences. They were really excited about the assignment. We also gave them the Hemingway story The Killers to read for the next week.
In Week 8 we started out by having them read their paragraphs. A lot of them went in completely different directions than what the sentence said. Most of them turned out fairly nonsensical but there was one awesome one. The girl's sentence was something like "Nina was getting her nails done for the second time that week." So for the second sentence of the story she wrote "Sophie put down the manuscript. She wasn't sure how much longer she could read stories like this, about such vain characters." It was really funny and creative how she wrote around a sentence she hated while still incorporating it. After that we talked about The Killers. They all hated it and we spent more time explaining what happend than talking about how it still conformed to Freytag's Pyramid, which was my original intent. I have never seen Hemingway lambasted so harshly. He gets no love from the 8th grade set. After that we talked about forms of Direct and Indirect Characterization. Then we had them do a writing excercise where they came up with a character and had to write down the name, age, place of birth and five characteristics. They really liked this excercise and came up with some outlandish things. It's funny to note how adulthood is characterized by seething desperation both by 8th graders and Seniors in College. Some things never change I suppose. We gave them the first real writing assignment this week. We told them to bring in a page long story about whatever they want, as long or short as they want as long as it does not go over a page. They all seemed pretty excited about that.
For the second class, we gave up on giving them reading. They never do it, they put up no pretenses about doing it, so we abandoned it. In Week 7 we tried to give them a lecture on Freytag's Pyramid, but they really were not having it. They said they knew it already and then could not explain it, then stopped paying attention all together. Eventually we had to yell at them and say that we were sick of the interruptions. It was the first time we got angry at them so it settled them down. After that, we tried to come up with a writing excercise to keep them busy. We played the game where we circled pieces of paper and everybody wrote a sentence to continue the story. They all ended in violent murders. It was a bust but they were really really enjoying it. As we left the thought that we were really just babysitting instead of teaching crept into mind and made me marvel yet again how teachers, especially English teachers, can do it.
Week 8 in the second class was non-existent. Apparently the kids had recieved quarter report cards the week before. We were met in the door by a mutiny of children. They all said they were failing their classes and it was because of their Mondays with us. Tom said that was ridiculous and they should sit down, but they kept protesting. After listening to them for a while I said, "Look, nobody is making you be here," and literally before I could finish my sentence they all grabbed their stuff and ran out. It was really dejecting. They had no desire to continue with us. There were two kids left, and we told them that if they wanted, we would do the last few weeks of class with them. Both of them wanted to continue so we gave them the same page assignment. It was the two that participated the most so perhaps it is for the best, but it was still disheartening to know we cannot even entertain 8th graders. They spent the rest of the time working on their stories. I hope they are good because they are going to be the focus of the workshop next week.