I just ran across this great article. What an amazing teacher. What a wonderful way to help combat the feelings of isolation before they turn into something destructive. I specifically agree with the belief that the source of outward violence is inward loneliness. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook (only a few miles away from where I live), and after countless acts of violence among children and adolescents, I truly belief that the root cause is loneliness.
This teacher has created a way to be in the “know” about her students. Not just their grades or reading levels, but their inner feelings and the clicks that they may not even be conscious of. And she did all this without having to ask them. I can see this working so well in an elementary classroom.
But how would this work in a middle or high school class? How do we, as secondary teachers, pinpoint the inner loneliness in our teenage students? How do we work within our classrooms to combat those feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and feelings of being lost to a group of humans who by definition are all dealing with those feelings to some extent? How do we as teachers stop the violence before it even begins?
I love stories. Just love them. I also love Kurt Vonnegut. So what better way to teach kids how to analyze a story than with Vonnegut’s dry sense of humor and his laid-back brilliance.
We all know about the pyramid structure of a story. You know, the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and, my favorite word, the denouement. It has a name; Freytag’s Pyramid. It’s good for analyzing plot structure and it’s easy to understand. However, not every story fits into this neat little pyramid. When you take into account individual characters the pyramid starts to crumble.
Vonnegut has given us another way to analyze the shape of a story. The use of both of these techniques blend perfectly into a classroom. Students get it. The story comes to life and we begin to see how the structure of a story, the pyramid, is different for different characters. Now we can analyze the structure in collaboration with the characters and point of view.
I ran across a blog by writer and teacher David Lomax. So, I can’t take the credit for connecting these dots. But it works. It’s cool.
Take a look at the video where Vonnegut describes his way of thinking about a story. It’s only a few minutes and well worth it. There’s a reason he’s an icon.