In Language Arts, we're considering the question of why the humanities are important in our lives.

 

This block in language arts class the 7th/8th graders are considering the question of why the humanities are important in our lives. To do this, they’re bringing to bear all of the skills they’ve learned this year in order to create and perform their own theatrical scenes, adapted from Ray Bradbury’s “The Fireman” (the precursor to Farenheit 451)—a story about a dystopian future in which books and reading are illegal and people spend all their time absorbed by their technological devices.

Students began the block by reflecting on the importance and purpose of their own humanities course at Proof—this very language arts class. Flipping through their binder of work from the year, they each picked a selection of texts, written assignments, projects, and activities and wrote down what important skills they had learned or questions they had broached with each one. After discussing their own ideas about why the humanities (and this class in particular) matter in their lives, they learned what some other people have said on this topic by reading a few non-fiction essays by contemporary scholars. By reading both fictional and non-fictional attempts to understand the humanities, much as we did in block three when we discussed race and gender, students again had the opportunity to consider the difference between the ways literature approaches a complicated socio-political question and the ways analytic writing engages with the same question.

With this larger question of the place of the humanities looming in their minds, they dove into Bradbury’s short story, “The Fireman,” in response to which students are now working in small groups on their final project of the year: a stage adaptation of a section from Bradbury’s story to be performed at the end-of-year Symposium. Each group has created a script, set pieces, props, costumes, and special effects, and even planned a way to get audience members actively involved in thinking about the issues raised by their scenes.

This project requires them to synthesize all of the skills they’ve developed this year: their close-reading skills have helped them to interpret their assigned section of the story and consider its structure, its most important elements, and its place in the story as a whole; they’ve used what they’ve learned about literary form and adaptation to actualize this transformation of a narrative text into a play; they've applied the same creativity and artistry they used for their self-narrative map projects to make beautiful set pieces; our study of perspective has helped them to get into character as they act; and of course throughout the project, they’ve brought to bear all their practice at having productive, respectful discussions and working together as a team. Students have kept track of their ideas and reflected on their group’s work each week in an ongoing “Production Journal,” their final entry of which will be a literary analysis of their group's scene—a close reading of the new text that they've created. They are very excited to present their work at the Symposium!

--Sydney Cochran