In defining the word "truth" you will satisfy numerous objectives. First, students will be forced to look at the origins of words. Have them assess their prior knowledge by asking them to define the word truth as accurately as possible. Then ask students to invent a way to present their idea of truth to the class. This could be involved, i.e. posters, lesson plans, overheads, examples, or basic, i.e. exchanging their writings with a partner, read a quick write on truth to the class, etc. After these presentations, support their assumptions and prior knowledge with new information. Bring the students to the computer lab or assign for homework, a Google search using the following search criteria, "define: truth". What appears is a litany of responses, some stating "verifiable truth", "what is perceived to be fact"; others stating that truth is indefinable and does not exist at all. Have students write at least five definitions of the word truth from five different sources.
Then make students aware of the vague nature of truth. Were their definitions wrong? Most likely not, but how could there exist twenty different definitions of the word truth, especially when the word truth often connotates one, absolute answer. Even though this philosophy might be too challenging for some students, by looking intensely and specifically at one word, students will be forced, unknowingly into close reading. Think of the possible discussion that could surround a character, a section of text, a novel, or a genre. If the resources are available show them a section of the library containing literary analysis; or, have them look up through Google, "literary analysis Hamlet" and record the number of hits they receive. This will not only encourage students to participate, but also show them the validity of their opinions. If one subject composes thousands of pages by thousands of authors with thousands of opinions, can one opinion be absolutely correct? In the analysis of textual material, students should be made aware that,
as long as the student's response can be supported
, others might disagree, but they cannot say that the student is wrong.
As the students read or continue to read In Cold Blood and The Things They Carried, ask them to begin thinking about the idea of "truth" in these novels. Hopefully, you have disseminated the information presented earlier -- introducing and defining New Journalism, the theme of the unit, Truth, and Capote's and O'Brien's implicit recognition of their knowing contribution to the celebration of truth in their writing. Given that students are mischievously sensitive to the idea of truth and possibly quite gifted at "bending it", use this prior experience advantageously.