So, after hearing Pop Culture Happy Hour’s show on “Required Reading,” I was struck by something that Margaret Willison and Glen Weldon mentioned. To paraphrase, they said: “Literature shouldn’t be in under glass as at a museum. It should be something students have a conversation with.”
What a reminder and revelation! I’m currently teaching The Count of Monte Cristo. I’m planning on eventually turning it into a mock trial, per this amazing lesson plan, but if you’ve read the book, you know: it starts out slow. There’s a lot to get through. It’s going alright, but that podcast specifically made me take pause and really consider what I could do as a quick, fun lesson to reinvest them a little.
I did a lesson with Tom Sawyer where I had my students make fake instagram accounts on Google Drawing as part of understanding characterization. I decided to do the same for TCoMC after Dantes’s 14 year prison stint. It also happened to be a Tuesday. This led to…
TCOMC #TransformationTuesday Assignment
Their assignment: Fill out a fake Instagram post for any of the characters we’ve met so far in the book. How have they changed since Dantes went to prison?
Overall, I thought this assignment went well, especially as a good informal and formative assessment. This project help me realize that, with the amount of twists and turns in the book, I definitely needed to give some of my students more scaffolding (eg a character map) to remember what’s happened so far to characters.
It also helped me get a better understanding of how my students are perceiving characters, as well as gave me the opportunity to talk through some important character points they may have missed (eg Mercedes overcomes of low expectations about her ability to become educated from Dantes himself).
That said, this was another great chance for my students to show their creativity. ALL the ones they did are available here, some favorites below:
What I’d Change or Add: Due to time, I didn’t follow up beyond this assignment. I wish I had given stricter guidelines as well. Also, next time I’ll give a writing portion to ensure that they were actually focusing on characters and not just doing a fun insta post that was tangential to the book (I did this with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and found it to be useful).
Also, to increase the conversation aspect, I think that you could make this an AWESOME long term project and assign characters to members of a small groups. Then, have them talk to each other via the fake instagram accounts! A lot of students used comments to show connections with other characters, which I didn’t even ask them to do. I think there’s something interesting there.
Alright, more to come soon, I’m sure. Hope this was helpful!