The omnipresent smartboard is in full use here, with a literary passage displayed, and the teacher says to the class “if we had this given to us on an IB exam, how would we proceed with a ‘close read?’”  One student volunteers there is an inner conflict in the passage, and the teacher says good, but explain and defend.  Another student volunteers there is an opportunity for “a philosophical reading here.”   A third is interested in in the role of burning and fire imagery here, and what that might suggest for understanding the novel.   Students here are doing the work– and our teacher keeps putting it to them, asking questions, pursuing followup, allowing for extended quiet moments  for student thinking.  She won’t step in to do it for them.    ”Why would Steinbeck design it this way?” she asks.  ”What is he emphasizing?   How does burning have anything to do with change?”    Question, question, question; I love it.   Students really working the fire– it destroys, it is urgent, it is instinctual.    Listen to her: “Let’s anchor our ideas in the actual words.  Remember, a close read uncovers in specific passages ideas about the entire work.”   I like how this is tied to IB expectations and the exam; maybe you could call it teaching to the test but I think the IB test is so high quality I don’t mind teaching to it.  Nice praise and enthusiasm: “Beautiful, Excellent!”   One student says that a phoenix rises from the ashes, and the teacher says we know about that from Harry Potter, don’t we, and there is a round of laughter– always connect, always connect learning to previous knowledge, even if it is from “popular culture,” and this teacher hits that mark here.  She just now makes another reference to Bugs Bunny, nice.  ”Nice, great, love it!”

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