Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is YOUR Letter?


In honor of our study of The Scarlet Letter, tomorrow my students will decorate their letters. Today I asked them to think of their own flaw, weakness, or something that has caused them secret guilt. In the novel, Hester had to publicly bear her punishment for her weakness but Dimmesdale didn't and the guilt ate away at him. I had them write down a description of their flaw, weakness, or the cause of their guilt on a piece of paper but NOT turn it in. We used the honor system. Is it possible that some of them wrote a paragraph about nothing but their love of spider monkeys or their hatred for English? Yes. However, I bet most of them did what they were supposed to do. I watched them work from afar and helped them come up with concise words and letters when they needed help. Trust issues? Distrustful. Another word for sneaky (afraid that the S would be misinterpreted)? Deceitful or dissembling. If they didn't ask for me I stayed out of their way. They took their papers with them and I will never ask to see their paragraphs again. Tomorrow they will use my glitter, ribbon, buttons, patterned paper, scalloped shapes, vivid card-stock, and other embellishments to create their own letters. Like Hester's their letters with be expected to be artistic and ornate (as much as their ability allows) and wearable. There are some differences too: Hester created her letter in jail, theirs is done in my classroom (albeit some may see a connection between jail and school). I will give them bonus for wearing it during the day. The creation of the letter is important. The wearing of the letter is equally important. People will stare. People will wonder. People will assume. It'll be good for my kiddos to experience this and think about how Hester felt to be punished for life for her passion and how living with your mistakes is not a new concept. Of course I have my letter too. It's taken from the seven deadly sins (which we briefly discussed). I always have them guess my letter and today I laughed out-loud when one of them guessed lust. I have a full-time job, three children and a new puppy; what's lust? The next guess was correct: greed. Just like my offspring, I do have issues with sometimes wanting more than I need when I am already blessed. I will wear my letter too and, depending on the moment, may or may not tell people what it means. Hester accepted her sin and wore it not necessarily with honor but without denial. I hope that my students will learn something about themselves and others through this lesson.

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