Warm-up activities apart from literature will serve to
1. introduce the activity of discussion and
2. introduce the topic.
This first activity requires individual and anonymous response on the part of students. That is, students will be asked to complete some value response statements in writing;, though I won’t read their statements since they will be too personal, I believe students will welcome this opportunity to express their opinions.
1. I usually do/do not agree with my parents on important matters because . . .
2. I could/could not get along fine if I left home now because . . .
3. I do/do not respect my parents because . . .
4. I will/will not raise my children differently than my parents raised me because . . .
The above exercise is meant to introduce the topic of relationships between parents and children to students on a personal level and implicitly underscores the value of their thoughts and feelings. Though students’ individual problems will not be discussed openly in class, the exercise acknowledges possible familial conflicts among students and the value of students’ own thinking through these issues.
This second warm-up exercise serves to promote the activity of discussion. It provides students with a vignette which depicts a teen-ager in a value conflict with his/her parents. The conflict raised in this vignette must be controversial; controversy enables a student to identify his position and encourages him to give reasons for this position. Thus the teacher should set the stage for disagreement. (Example: disagreement about inter-faith or inter-racial dating.) This exercise encourages students to: articulate the conflicting values, discuss consequences to the teenager’s action or inaction, express opinions as to what the teen-ager’s response should be.
It calls upon students to respond to a hypothetical situation intellectually as well as emotionally. In this way students articulate beliefs and reasons for beliefs.
Introduction to Literature
With the introduction of literature the personal becomes connected to or set with the universal. There is a need to form questions which still affect students personally, yet also raise universal or philosophical issues. These are questions to ponder over which elicit few definitive answers but which tell us much about ourselves in our answers. “On Children” from Kahlil Gibran’s
seems a good place to start because this work easily lends itself to both personal and philosophical thought.
Gibran speaks for the sanctity of the individuality of children: “You may house their bodies, but not their souls.” ”On Children” is also a religious work which defines man as an unknowing instrument of God’s plan: “The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and Hebends you with His might . . . ” In essence, this work is a warning to all parents who might wish to unduly influence or hold their children. At its core is a belief in the evolutionary nature of mankind.
Students should be encouraged to go through the poem line by line and articulate its meaning in their own words, for such articulation will draw out their own thoughts and feelings. It will also be necessary to discuss Gibran’s use of personification such as, “They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself,” and the use of symbolism, “The Archer sees his mark..,” in order to get at Gibran’s philosophy or view of life; the personification of life and God is a curious and oft-used way of calling upon man’s faith in what is essentially unknowable.
Discussion questions will follow a basic understanding of Gibran’s work, and will not broach the subject of the existence of God for obvious reasons. Rather, questions will probe the the relationship between parent and child, the evolutionary nature of man, and the structure of the family.
1. Exactly what does the following line mean? Can parents raise their children without giving them their thoughts? “You may give them your love but not your thoughts.”
2. Is it important for parents to instill values in their children? If so, when should such education cease? Can parents really seek to be like their children? “You may seek to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”
3. What does the following statement mean? Is the past a burden? Is it necessary to understand the past? “For life goes not forward nor tarries with yesterday.”
Related Questions/Structure of the Family:
1. Should one view one’s family as important above all? Why? Why not?
2. Why does society depend upon the structure of the family? Do all societies function around the structure of family or a similar structure?
3. Does the family structure work well? What are the positive and negative consequences of family structure?
Though the questions above may seem to go “all around the barn and back” or drift far afield from the work at hand, they perform two useful functions for students. First, they illustrate the purpose of literature; that is, literary works should promote thought and questioning. Second, the questions encourage students to think abstractly and/or question that which is often simply accepted.
During the course of discussion students will be encouraged to articulate reasons for their beliefs; they should call upon their own education and life experiences to support their opinions. Doing so will enable them to realize the value of these experiences. “Can you give me an example?” will probably be an oft-repeated (teacher) question.
It also occurs to me that a creative writing assignment should follow a discussion of this nature. Such an assignment will encourage students to create images for their own feelings and/or react to the issues raised in discussion. This written articulation of ideas may help them sort out their thoughts at leisure.