Title/Focus: Meta-fiction and Metaphysics.
Audience: This lesson would be intended for an advanced grade 11 or a grade 12 classroom. Two of the source texts have been extrapolated from a larger short-story unit that is underway in a flex 11 classroom at Reynolds.
When planning this hypothetical lesson, I am being particularly mindful of the two, previously documented, sample personalities.
MATERIALS: Two short stories: Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings” and Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths.
INTENTS:What do you plan to accomplish?
Immediate goals: at the end of this lesson, the students should:
-understand the concepts of meta-fiction and metaphysics.
-have been introduced to atypical short story structures.
-Improve their critical analysis abilities.
-Have been introduced to philosophical conceptions of life.
-Recognize the limitless possibilities for a story’s narrative, characterization, structure etc.
-Apply this knowledge to their own writing, as they will eventually be asked to write their own short stories. In short, they should feel inspired to take risks in their own writing; they should experiment with different techniques, and aim to avoid clichés.
Why is this important learning?
-It is important to be able to think outside of the box: those who have this skill are able to set themselves apart from the masses.
-It is important to recognize what makes writing interesting: meta-fictions are particularly useful in drawing a reader’s attention to this.
-Regardless of whether you are writing a cover letter, a thank you card, or a PHD dissertation, strong writing skills are invaluable in life. We learn from experience. Therefore, in being exposed to a variety of different writing techniques (including these selected readings), students should become more proficient in their own linguistic abilities.
Now Consider Strategies that Promote Student Learning:
-Recall that Student One preferred working in groups.
-Recall that Student Two preferred efficacious tasks.
-Recall that group work/collaborative thinking is a component of promoting self efficacy. Therefore, by implementing efficacy-promoting learning strategies, I will also be satisfying the desire to work in groups.
To promote feelings of self-efficacy, I should include the following in my lesson:
-Choice (of texts). These texts will cover similar themes, but will be of different styles and difficulty levels. However, I will not present them as “easier” or “harder” but rather simply as different options for the students to choose from.
~15-20 minutes at home, as this is meant to be merely one paragraph in length.
1) Introduce the concept of “meta”.
2) Introduce the concept of meta-fiction.
3) Introduce the concept of metaphysics.
1) Have the students select one of two short stories (Happy Endings or The Garden of Forking Paths) to read. The students should then break into groups of ~7 based on their selection. In a typical classroom, this should create approximately four groups of students.
2) Provide a set of questions to the groups. See heading two in the next column for a complete list of the questions (A-E).
3)Watch presentations, and thank students for their efforts and insights.
4) I will then speak briefly on both stories, and provide the students with some ideas that were not covered during the group work. I might also build upon things that were discussed during the group work.
-Homework Assignment: Have each student reflect upon his/her group’s presentation, and write a reflective paragraph (to
be submitted to me the following day). This paragraph should include a brief assessment of the group’s work, as well as something that they learned during the activity (this can be an idea from the story, a writing technique etc).
Demonstrating Active involvement and Engagement:
Following my introduction, have the students think, pair, and share (one idea per pair) an example of something that is meta.
2) Following my introduction, have the students think, pair, and share any texts (books, movies, plays, comics etc) that include elements of meta-fiction.
3) Following my introduction, have the students think, pair and share (one idea per group) of an example of metaphysics. This can be an original idea, or something that they have encountered in another text/medium.
Content in Presentation:
1) The students should take turns reading these stories aloud in their groups. They will be encouraged to regularly pause and discuss what they have done.
2) Each group will then be asked to brainstorm and respond to these questions. They will present their responses to the class in a quick and informal fashion.
This will include:
a) A brief summary of the story (~1 minute in length).
b) Something that they found interesting in the story.
c) Something that they either didn’t like, or found confusing in the story.
d) A question that arose upon reading the story.
e) something that they might consider when writing their own short stories.
Student awareness of their learning:
-Reflecting on the recent lesson should consolidate any learning that took place during it.
The responses that they provide during the think, pair, and share portion will reflect whether or not they have understood the concepts’ definitions. If there is a lack of understanding, then I will try to define these concepts in another way.
What they are learning?:
-Oral reading skills.
-Critical thinking/reading comprehension (during the pause and discuss portion).
-Public speaking skills.
-Writing techniques to apply to their own short stories.
-How to paraphrase/present an idea in their own words.
-A better understanding of the lesson’s key concepts.
Evaluation of Learning:
-Student learning should be intrinsic to these responses.
(Bonus points to any student who recognizes that these responses are an example of meta-learning!)
-Even if the group presentations went awry, if the student, in this reflective assignment, is able to address what went wrong, then I will consider learning to have taken place.
NOTES: Although I have presented this as a single-lesson unit, in practice it would be better suited for a multi-lesson unit. This would prevent students from rushing through the material, and becoming inhibited by the time constraints.