My unit will strengthen students’ skills in answering the Language Arts questions in the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. Not only will this reduce my students’ anxiety at facing the test, but these Language Arts CAPT questions provide an excellent guide in exploring stories. My unit will specifically address the CAPT question, “How does the main character change from the beginning of the story to the end? And what do you think causes this change?” Obviously, to answer these questions, students need the skills to discern and discuss (both orally and in writing) who the character is at the beginning of the story, and what informs and drives his or her thoughts, emotions, and actions. Students need the skills to discern and discuss how and why the character changes as the story progresses. These changes may be the result of culture, personal ethics, one’s fears, or one’s capacity for empathy, one’s race, or sense of justice. It is also intriguing to consider how experiences present the fictitious characters, and
us in our real lives,
with the opportunity to expand their and
thinking; that doesn’t mean that they or
will. This line of thought is drawn out by another of the Language Arts CAPT questions that asks students to make connections with experiences of fictional characters in a story and with the students’ own life experiences.
My students invariably look at characters and meaning only on the surface of a story because they have not practiced connecting stories and their lessons with a bigger picture: with themselves, with people in their lives, and with life lessons. This was demonstrated to me when my students read the story “Hide and Seek” from
The World’s Shortest
(55 words or less). A little boy is full of hubris about never being caught by his playmates in the game. He decides that he will really show them this time how invincible he is, and in his zeal to “really show them,” shuts himself (we learn in the
) in an abandoned refrigerator. Prior to this last line, he thinks, “How dumb can they get? They should have looked here first!” (Moss, 121), leaving the reader to wonder just who the
one is in this story and whether he has been so successful that they never will find him, until it is too late. Most of my students, at first, said that the lesson in the story is, “Don’t hide in an abandoned refrigerator.” Because some of my students understand the concept of metaphor, I pushed them to consider how the author might be using the abandoned refrigerator as a trap for the boy caught up in his own cleverness. Several students picked up on this. I then asked them to think how overconfidence has caused people they know or
to become careless and has exposed their vulnerabilities or put them in harm’s way, like the boy in the abandoned refrigerator.