Thursday, February 24, 2011

Farms and Fights

The people and the history surrounding the Russian Revolution are fascinating.  A czar and his family in power for more than three centuries.  A public fed up with their pitiful, poor lives while the royals live in luxury.  A massive overthrow of the government which, as perhaps its most ghastly event, includes the kidnapping and assassination of the czar, the czarina and their five children. 

Well, four children for sure.  As legend has it, the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas Romanov may have escaped.  Anastasia's remains were never identified and women claiming to be her surfaced many times through the years.  Documentaries and animated films have been made about her and her family, including the conspiracy theories and escape ideas.  While the world may never know for certain if she lived a peaceful life, of sorts, after the death of her family, it is a piece of history that is fascinating.

Orwell's Animal Farm directly parallels the people and events of that period in time. And though his focus is on Russia, one can argue (and my students did!) that the political structure set up in the book mimics other countries as well, even the USA.  The link below connects to slideshows previous students did about these parallels. 

Russion Revolution Slideshows

In class, students will view a number of these documents, analyze them for structure and content, and then write about their new knowledge. Then they will also post a comment about this or previous posts.  Should be an insightful day, provided all of the elements come together seamlessly - computers power on and connect quickly, kids know their passwords, links on this page work, sites don't crash, slideshows play flawlessly, students bring paper and pens to class, copy machine doesn't run out of toner or get jammed, no surprise fire drills, my tolerance holds out on a Friday...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And so it continues...

Well, the structures are more definite and the animals are glued on.  But these perfectionist students of mine insist on "one more day" to finish their farms.  But they are looking good.  Again, pictures will be posted soon! 

Since this is a direct comparison by Orwell of the Russian Revolution, we'll be looking at those parallels in class later this week.  Kids will view a number of student created slideshows about the historical event and analyze them for effectiveness and content. Should be interesting.  In addition, we're going to do some critical reading of two political speeches - one by Patrick Henry and one by Old Major. 

Students, consider:
  1. How was your farm building experience?  Did you learn anything about trial and error?  Teamwork?  Construction and artistic representation?
  2. Is this a worthwhile project?  Should I keep it in the study of this book?
  3. What would you improve about the things we did as we read and analyzed the book?  Any suggestions for me that would be worthwhile for future students?
  4. What do you anticipate about reading the next book by Orwell, 1984?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Old MacOrwell Had a Farm

It's that time again. Replica farms are taking shape as we've finished Animal Farm. Kids are gluing animals, fences, shrubbery, barns, and rocks as they put together their displays.  I've never seens so many craft sticks in one place!  And it's interesting to observe the varied approaches to this project.  Some groups insist on creating every structure from scratch.  Others use prefabricated plastic toys and have raided the local dollar stores for plastic everything.  Still other students argue about the animals and farm implements not being to scale.  Whatever they decide, it is a unique experience in team work, construction, and trial and error. 

Stay tuned for pictures.  In the meantime, we're also planning to attend a local stage production of The Secret Life of Bees.  I just finished this book and it was amazing.  I cannot wait to read it to the kids and then see the show. 

Students, for your comments, consider:
  1. How's your farm building experience going?
  2. What are your lingering thoughts about the novel?
  3. Did you learn anything insightful?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Napoleon vs Snowball

Animal Farm is prospering.  Despite some setbacks with animals trying to use human implements, they are harvesting, planning, meeting, and living quite well. Looking at some of the student comments, seems like they are enjoying this novel for the most part, despite the personification of the farm animals.  It is rather creepy to imagine pigs sleeping in beds and horses discussing farm politics. 

Nonetheless, we're about halfway through the book already and should be building replicas of the farms as early as next week.  Dollar stores, beware!  We usually clean them out of craft sticks and plastic animals.

  • Do Napoleon and Snowball resemble current or historical political leaders?
  • Are the pigs effective leaders?
  • Are you satisfied with the reactions of the other animals to recent events?
  • Can you draw any parallels between leadership styles and tactics in the novel and your life or our world at large?