Friday, May 31, 2013

"All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury

A long time ago, during my college days, I read a good deal of Ray Bradbury. Most notably I read Fahrenheit 451. Not because I was pursuing some sort of connection to the Sci-Fi genre of literature that I frequently stumbled upon, but because I was studying the films of Francois Truffaut.Yes, it was during my Truffaut phase where I wanted to know more about his films that weren't The 400 Blows. Why did he go more Hollywood? What compelled him to work in a more mainstream way? Why abandon the style that Jean-Luc Godard and others carried on with their films? And so I watched Truffaut's futuristic take on the already futuristic Ray Bradbury.

So as I was trying to find a meaningful lesson to combine literacy and Science (sort of) to fill an extra hour that I had to teach outside of the Amazing Race (an end-of-year whole grade level competition ala the TV show), I stumbled upon a list of "Great Short Stories for Middle School." I thought it might be interesting to use some Sci-Fi short stories and encourage the students to think about Sci-Fi and how it relates to our world. As I looked through the list, I came upon "All Summer in a Day" by Bradbury. I quick found a .pdf and read it. Wow! What an amazing story! And the ending. . . oh the ending and it's teachable possibilities!

So I taught it! I  used it in my Science class the Friday before the last week of school. I gave the students some questions to fill out that accessed concepts we had learned in previous classes throughout the year, such as a question about discrimination, creating similes and metaphors, and comparing and contrasting Earth and Venus. I performed a dramatic reading of the short story for the students, as they followed along or sat-back and listened. When I was done, one of my students raised their hand and asked, "So is this how you planned to torture us?" Confused, I asked "what do you mean?" "Why didn't you give us the whole story?" "OH! Well, I'm sorry to say, hun, but that's it. There is no more to the story. It ends here. I am not withholding information or pages or anything. No torture meant, except to inspire you." Whispers and frantic talk started to break out in groups. Another student spoke out, "But what happened to her?!?!"

Seeing the excitement on the faces of my kids prompted me to add an additional activity. They could either draw a picture to show me what they think happened after the door was opened or they could write me an ending AFTER they finished the worksheet. An assignment come down from heaven. With the exception of the six students who have decided to already check-out and make classroom life miserable, my other 18 students talked in their groups, reread the story, and offered up some pretty interesting ideas. One said she went on a Carrie-type rampage. Another said that the kids were so embarrassed they ate Margot to destroy the evidence (this particular student enjoys Battle Royale and The Hunger Games). Some students just drew pictures of what they pictured in their mind while listening or rereading the story. I've included pictures below.

What an amazing moment for myself, for my students, and for my journey. I love giving my kids classic literature to read and this was a great suggestion for my middle schoolers who were able to understand the concepts and it totally engaged them. Thanks Bradbury, you brilliant writer, you.

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