Rosie’s mother in “Seventeen Syllables” has a profound effect upon Rosie’s father as she explores her new-found identity as a writer of haiku. The more independent she grows in her new identity, the more he reacts, and subsequently, he precipitates a dramatic reaction from Rosie’s mother. Examining the interaction between these characters is an effective CAPT practice activity.
A pair of the questions typically asked on the Language Arts CAPT (Connecticut Academic Performance Test) following the reading of the story is: “How do the characters affect one another?” and “How do you know?” This story offers an excellent opportunity for students:
to observe the effect these two characters have upon each other,
to practice recording, on a Graphic Organizer, their observations from the story,
to practice gathering evidence, on a Graphic Organizer, from the story to support their observations.
to use the information on the Graphic Organizer to write a paragraph discussing how Rosie’s mother’s actions, as Ume Hanazono the haiku writer, affected Rosie’s father. The discussion will include observations and evidence from the story for support.
The Graphic Organizer that is included on the following page is a very effective tool for helping students organize and use material.
Prior to reading the story, introduce the pair of questions as the task students will be working on either individually or in small groups. The students at the Cross Annex like to read stories out loud. Therefore, once the task has been introduced, have the students read the story aloud, listening and watching for how and why Rosie’s mother, as Ume Hanazono the haiku writer, has an effect on her father, how he reacts, and ultimately, how her mother is affected by his reaction. Encourage students to hi-light sentences and dialogue that seem significant. Explain that hi-lighting and jotting notes regarding the task will make it unnecessary to reread the entire story.
Once students have finished reading the story, ask them to fill in the columns of the Graphic Organizer, following. If students plan to show how Rosie’s mother, the emerging haiku writer, affected Rosie’s father, students must observe what they are like, initially, so they can make a comparison as to how they change, as the story progresses.
After the class has had time to complete this task, ask students to write a paragraph sharing their observations on how Rosie’s mother, the emerging haiku writer, affected her father, using evidence from their Graphic Organizers to support their observations.
Once they have written their paragraphs, students will share and compare their findings, which can lead to a discussion about how the two characters affected each other and whether Rosie’s father was right to react so violently when her mother received the haiku award, or whether Rosie’s mother was right to pursue writing haiku in the first place. There is also the question, “Is Rosie’s mother right to make Rosie promise her that she would never marry? And, given Rosie’s romantic interest with the young man, is she likely to keep the promise?
Graphic Organizer # 1 - A Character Study of “Seventeen Syllables”
Write down your observations, and evidence that supports these observations, indicating how the actions of Rosie’s mother as Ume Hanazono the haiku writer affect Rosie’s father, from the beginning to the end of the story.
Tell in your own words what Rosie’s mother, Ume Hanazono the haiku writer, does that causes Rosie’s father to react? (action)
Tell in your own words how Rosie’s father reacts to the actions of Rosie’s mother, Ume Hanazono the haiku writer (reaction)
Record evidence from the story to support your observations. Copy these quotes directly from the story. Include page #’s (evidence)