Followup & Resources: Trifles by Susan Glaspell

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The following notes and resources are from a previously-held, exclusive Professional Learning Community session. All names and recordings have been removed for privacy reasons. To view the PLC's full length works guide, click here.
Thank you for attending last night's meeting! If you couldn't make it or would like to review the session, you can view the slide deck here.

Continuing discussion on Passing

  • Students confused by the opening--->Could do a close reading for Q2 of the exam; paragraphs about Clare
  • Living your truth
Why you might choose to teach Trifles
  • Some found Trifles through CommonLit
  • Based on a true story (engages students from the get go!)
  • Feminist perspective; Trifles is considered a contributor to the start of feminist fiction
Connections in Literature
  • "A New England Nun" by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
    • . There is a canary in the short story that is symbolic. There are also symbolic instances of birds in The Awakening by Kate Chopin.
  • "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • "A Jury of Her Peers" by Susan Glaspell, short story adapted from Trifles
Alternative ways to teach Trifles
  • Utilize the stage directions
    • For example, the way the women look at each other is telling. A stark contrast to Shakespeare’s stage directions.
    • Classroom suggestion: If you're reading the play aloud with your class, have one designated student read the stage directions.
    • Stage directions give further insight to the characters and their personalities
    • Further topics (like misogyny) are revealed through the stage directions.
    • Consider how important stage directions are in Trifles
  • Reverse genders: Females read male parts, males read female parts.
  • Hexagonal thinking (Susan Hedgcock)
Writing a Thesis
  • Set up a Likert scale on Google classroom on "how well does this thesis work?" By using a scale, discussion of why a thesis works/doesn't work is set up.
  • "One challenge with line of reasoning is that students want to focus on the devices…which has always been a problem. But with line of reasoning…we have finally found a way to force them to focus on MEANING."
  • To ‘contribute to the work as a whole’ is how the students can get to the ‘big’ answer (universal) and perhaps even begin to attack sophistication.
Sophistication & Critical Lenses
  • Be upfront with students that bringing in other pieces or focusing too much on a critical lens can distract from the focus on your essay. It's not about showing off the knowledge of "Oh I know how to view through a psychological lens" but using that lens to prove a point
    • Make sure that sophistication is built up, not the focus. Students need to learn how to write a thesis before they can tackle the sophistication point.
  • "As a rookie AP teacher I was taught that a 9 "sings." The new rubric gets us away from that mystical criterion and concretizes it by offering specific paths of thinking --alternative interpretation, context, etc. without requiring an uber-sophisticated style in what is essentially a draft."
  • Classroom suggestion: Break students into groups and assign them different critical lenses. You can also try this in conjunction with Jane Eyre and The Awakening
  • Classroom suggestion:  Give students an essay that got a 1-4-0 and then discuss how you can ‘layer’ in sophistication.
  • Teacher/colleague collaboration: Have earlier grade teachers introduce critical lenses to Honors classes so many of them have experience when they get to AP Lit (for example, in 10th grade). This way, you review the lenses but don't have to start from scratch.
Comments from the meeting: 
Something I have taken back from the reading is to encourage students to develop a voice that is sincere and thoughtful.  It really is something that is foreign to them.  They have rarely had the opportunity to be taken seriously and are expected to give the 'right' answer.  I've found this really opens the door for those students capable of receiving that sophistication point.

...That's precisely what I was talking about today! Stop searching for the right answer...what does that even mean? Granted, there are some very wrong answers...but there isn't a single right answer.
My students are reading choice poetry collections right now and one of the options is "Deaf Republic." My students wrote a letter to their poets and the letter to Kaminsky was so powerful because of the connections the student is bringing in with what is going on in the world right now.