The Essential Question of this lesson is: What causes a person or a group of people to feel superior or inferior to others?
Objective: To explore how literature addresses this question through the extended metaphor in an allegory. To begin, students will read "The Sneetches," and watch a video of the story to answer the question, "Literally, what causes what in the story?" Students working in groups will fill out a graphic organizer to chart and answer this question, or will create a story board, illustrating significant scenes in the story with a skeletal script that tells what causes what. Students will be asked to include the agents, actions, significant objects, and the setting. At this level, students will be concerned with the literal events of cause and effect in the story. At this level, literally, the stars are nothing but green stars on the bellies of a select group of Sneetches.
Groups will share their findings as to what causes what to be sure that they agree on the plot, and cause and effect. In this activity, they will observe what seems to make the star-bellied Sneetches superior to the Sneetches without. A discussion of some sort will ensue, having to do with scarcity of the stars and possibly the fact that they are stars, or at least in the shape of stars, objects that connote quality and/or superiority.
Students will be assigned to seek out all the ways that stars are used in our culture today and, in each case, why? Of course we have stars on our flag, and there is a star on energy- efficient appliances.
After they share their cause and effect graphic organizers and their storyboards, they will be able to make observations as to how the Sneetches change in the course of the story and why they change. Making these observations, backed up with evidence from the story is an excellent exercise for Language Arts CAPT preparation, addressing the question that often shows up on the test: How does a character in the story change, and what causes the change?
Once students have clarity as to what literally causes what in the story, also, by the way, not leaving out Sylvester McMonkey McBean's motives and effect, they will be ready to tackle the graphic organizer to unlock the symbolic meaning (and in some cases ramifications) of the Sneetches's stars. Across the top of a landscape graphic organizer divided into columns, continuing to work in their groups, they will enter categories, such as: (1) Sneetches with stars, (2) Sneetches without stars, (3) Means of exclusion (such as marshmallow roasts and games, and (4) Feelings of non-star-bellied Sneetches. Because NHA students study the Holocaust extensively, there is no doubt that they will be able to fill in the columns as victims and perpetrators in the Holocaust fit the headings. As I observed in my narrative section of this unit, ironically, the Jews were made to wear stars to single them out from the rest of the population. Groups will brainstorm and record on the graphic organizer all possible symbolic meanings, from how they experience this in their own lives, both as having stars on their bellies and without, and their observations as to how this manifests itself in our culture, sub-cultures, and in the world.
Once students have immersed themselves in the cause and effect of star-wearers and non star-wearers at the symbolic level, they will engage in a formal discussion about how the simple star on the bellies of a few Seuss characters has the potential to explode as a symbol, and all that this entails.
Assessment: Once students have: completed the cause and effect graphic organizer and/or story board, and filled out the column graphic organizer where they explore the sweeping possibilities of a simple symbol in an allegorical story, and discussed the extended meanings of this star-on phenomenon, they will write a Reflection in which they clarify their understanding of allegory as it manifests itself in the extended metaphor in The Sneetches. In a sense, they will take the literal star and run with it as an abstract, extended metaphor.
Also as part of the assessment, because students will have been exposed to other allegories, I will encourage them to write and share their own allegories now, or as part of their culminating project for this unit.