(1) I previously mentioned my problem using slave narratives; it distances some students, plus it can exacerbate the problem of non-standard English being used in the English classroom. I have three answers for this: 1) sometimes it is the best choice 2) slave narratives must be used sparingly to be effective and to that end I will 3) survey Hurston’s novel so that the dialect is second to the placethe front porch.
(2) This list is used as a final assessment tool. At the end of the unit, students will check off the objectives they met as a student and as a class. For a test grade, I ask students to respond to each of the ten objectives (10 points each) using their notebook: I met this objective because_________. #11 is 10 points extra credit. Teachers can determine their own Focus Correction Areas (FCA’s).
(3) Earlier I’d reviewed the journal writing process: 1) journals
leave the classroom. 2) they must write until the timer beeps; their pen can’t leave the paper. writing time depends on how much class time remains, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. 3) any response may be shared in class. They are allowed two private responses during the entire unit, which I will recognize by the large “X” placed at the top of the page. 4) they are to write the response number and the date on the top line. This allows me to later pull specific responses for a quiz grade or for essay topics. The larger point is that NO IN-CLASS WRITING IS WASTED. Journal writing does not mean diary writing; it counts.
(4) My system for selecting models is this: I tell students that I take the first four (or whatever number I am looking for) that meet the requirements I’ve given. In fact, as the unit progresses I make sure that as many students as possible are represented, but always stick to the “these were the first four I found, although many of you did fine work…” or words to that effect.
(5) Edward T. Hall’s The Silent Language: Chapter 10 “Space Speaks,” covers the territoriality of humans as social creatures. Children learn to recognize and define space culturally; for example, American children require almost seven years before mastering the basic concepts of place.” This chapter is fascinating reading and you may want to introduce some of the material, as time permits.
(6) This is a perfect place to link our ancestor’s fears with our current cultural fears as expressed in Sci-Fi and horror movies. Americans value individuality and intensely fear mechanizationsuch as evil robots in I-Robot with Will Smithplus all the Star War movies that equate mechanization with de-humanization. Robots, androids, and people who are “hooked up” to machines touch on our cultural collective fears.
(7) These deductions will be part of looking at how we judge people and form stereotypes. Was one porch “manly,” another “feminine”? What inferences did we make according to the condition of the porch about the type of person who lived there?
(8) One of the best books to gather quotes and sources to individualize this unit, plus fascinating photographs taken from across the country, is Out on the Porch: an Evocation in Words and Pictures.
(9) Our anthem America, the Beautiful can be used here as an example of the fierce connection American’s had for their land: spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesty, endless plains.
(10) I enlarge the poems before copying them, filling up the page with their print, and I make at least twice as many copies as there are students. This enables them to do an exercise (explained in the paragraph) when we are through reading.
(11) A teachable moment may occur here: How does one’s definition of home shape the decisions one makes in life? Look at how this couple defines home and the decision they eventually arrive at. Is the decision irrelevant or “canceled” when the hired man dies? Or does the decision matter on its own merits? There are many questions that can be posed and discussed around these points.
(12) Frost’s poem can be experienced in a variety of ways; it depends on the individual class as to whether they have the interest or you have the time to present them. The poem has been performed as a play by many colleges and theater groups, among them Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia, and a review of the play can be read online at www.the stalliononline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/12/02/41af7Oa221441. Also, Andrew Violette has an audio CD produced in 2004 titled “The Death of the Hired Man.” A clip of the opera can be heard online through Amazon.com. Finally, Frost can be heard reading his work online at Modern American Poetry through HarperAudio at http://town.hall.org/Archives/radio/IMS/HarperAudio/012294_harp_ ITH.html. He is not a good reader of his work; plus, today’s younger audiences expect an element of performance which is not present in Frost’s personae or tone.
(13) The films that identify the front porch as a significant part of the setting that I have located are in Michael Dolan’s The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place. In an insert of color and black/white illustrations and photography, Dolan identifies : Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston), The Color Purple and Beloved (Maya Angelou), It’s a Wonderful Life, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Young Mr. Lincoln, High Noon, Elvis’s Love Me Tender, and My Darling Clementine ( insert between 186-187). All these clips, if not actually viewed, speak to American identity as captured on film and the power of the porch to cement that identity.