PESHTIGO—Peshtigo High School sophomores recently finished a unit on the novella, “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell in Melissa Fields’ English class.
Fields has been teaching for nine years and “loves to help students find connections between seemingly irrelevant literature and real life.”
“Being taught methods to read challenging literature and nonfiction is lifelong-lasting,” she said. “My aim is that all my students succeed.”
The novella is allegorical, meaning that all of the plot’s content and characters represent something historical in real life. All of the content and characters represent people and situations from Russia’s Revolution of 1917.
The project was differentiated to accommodate different student tastes, abilities and preferred methods of expression.
“All students had the opportunity to shine and showcase their understanding of the novella,” Fields explained, adding that students could show comprehension by one of three main choices: Artistic, academic or technologically.
Students choosing artistic expression could have created dioramas, caricature illustrations, detailed reimagined scenes, or musical interpretations of the novel’s theme. Academic expression could include journal entries, newspaper coverage, as well as character analysis essays and chapter summaries.
Technological expression could vary from virtual dioramas like Minecraft to computer generated comic strips or virtual presentations of historically relevant information on the Russian Revolution.
Peshtigo sophomore Hannah Piechota said, “I love the books that we get to read in class. I chose to make a diorama.” She made much of it out of cardboard, but included a windmill made of corkboard.
Piechota used dowels for support and painted it and stated that it took more work than one might think.
“The barn was the hardest to put together,” she said. “After measuring the front and back, it still didn’t line up.”
Piechota liked learning about the impact of communism on people by the animal characters in the book and said she was “happy to be able to work on a project as if it was a normal year.”
Even though this is not a normal year, teachers are doing their best to make school as normal as possible. Reading should be fun and exciting, they believe.
“There is nothing more satisfying than teaching students to like or even love reading,” Fields said, emphasizing that pronouncing words correctly is just part of it. “Reading success is measured more by understanding and making connections.”