Today in AP English we started our unit wrap-up on "Alienation as a Form of Self-Protection," a unit centered on J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye."  I planned a symbol analysis activity for them.  We started by listing symbols from the story.  I had four in particular in mind, but we ended up creating a list of 12 (+1 for a group of students who were absent on the first workday).  With six group, two symbols assigned to each group worked out perfectly.  Their assignment was to create a poster of sorts, one for each symbol, and their posters had to include the following:

* visuals: of the symbol AND both literal and abstract representations of what the symbol represents
* text: themes, insights given into Holden through analyzing the symbol
* novel passages: quotes from the book that inform our understanding of the symbol's meaning

This was a new activity for me, and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  They worked for the entire 50 minutes, and while their posters are still in the early stages, I'm pleased with what I've seen - or more accurately, heard - so far.  The conversations while students discussed their ideas and how to execute them on paper showed me they had a thorough understanding of the plot, that they'd noticed and been analyzing the symbolism throughout the novel, and that they had great insight into Holden's character.  I do acknolwedge that the class with which I piloted this activity was a best-case scenario: I've had these students for years; they're used to having open-ended discussions about literature, and they're practiced in propelling their own conversations without much direction from me; and I've already done a lot of arts integration and transliteration activities with them, so they're comfortable thinking textually and visually.  I think what worked so well with the activity was that it was even more open-ended than lit circles.  They didn't have focus questions; it was more general: they just had a focus idea, a symbol, and there's a lot of room for interpretation with that.  I'm posting pictures of their progress thus far, and once they've completed their posters and presentations, I'll post their completed work.

Symbols (I realize some of these are more metaphoric, but I'm going with it anyways):
* Allie, Holden's deceased younger brother
* Allie's baseball mitt
* Holden's hat
* "The catcher in the rye" song
* The prostitute
* Phoebe, Holden's younger sister
* The carousel
* The duck pond
* Holden's morbid fantasies/imaginings of being shot and having his guts spilling out everywhere
* NYC
* The movie theatre
* The museum
* Jane

Student Progress:
UPDATE 3/5:

Students' completed symbol posters and accompanying captions:

 


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    About Me

    A lover of literature and the arts and an advocate for global awareness and active citizenship, I spend my days with high school English and Social Studies students exploring why it all matters and how they can have a voice in the world.  This is my space to document and reflect on my practice, note happenings in education, and share my appreciation for the arts.

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