Sonya's Case Outline
January 19, 2000
My high school tracks its English classes, although that tracking system is a little more lax during the freshman/sophomore years when students are allowed to decide if they want to be in an Advanced class or
not. My B period class is a general section of World Traditions, a literature class where we read Animal Farm, Macbeth, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Cyrano de Bergerac. There are
thirteen students in the class, three of whom are female. The class consists of seven Caucasian students, three Asian students, two African-American students and one Latina student. The class also has six
special needs students, so in addition to Jessica and me, there is also Julie Haggerty, a special needs aide who helps with the assignments. The class has become very close since the beginning of the semester
even though there are a wide range of skills among the students. Two of my students are second language learners, three of them are "new" readers which means they have very low-level reading needs, and the
other eight are fairly strong readers. For most of the semester, Jessica has been the primary teacher. Since I planned the unit on Cyrano, we agreed that I would be the primary teacher, something the students
had not yet experienced.
Teaching Cyrano has been a challenge from the beginning just because my students have such diverse needs. I hit the lowest point about three days into the unit during the first
act. Because my high school is on a modified block system, I see my students at different times during the day. On Wednesdays, I see them right before lunch and then don't see them again until Friday.
During the first Wednesday back from break, I felt that I had an ok lesson, even though I knew I hadn't planned it out entirely thoroughly. I had not taken into account the extra energy that accompanies a
pre-lunch class and realized halfway through my lesson that it was not planned out well enough. I was also entirely on my own that day, since Jessica had a meeting at the District Office and Julie only stays for ten
minutes on Wednesdays. My lack of planning, combined with the generally held sense that Jessica not I, is the "real" teacher, resulted in a general sense of chaos that was very hard to focus and move toward
productivity. I left the class feeling quite frustrated, unhappy and unsuccessful, which was doubled by the fact that I am sure most of my students were as frustrated as I was with the day's lesson.
The following Wednesday, I decided that I needed to really think through the lesson and design appropriate activities for the extra energy I was anticipating. The previous day, we had closely examined the
speech where Cyrano explains why he refuses to be beholden to a patron (which has been affectionately dubbed the "No Thanks" speech by the English department). I had given my students a very unstructured homework
assignment, something along the lines of coming up with three of their own "No Thanks" statements. I decided that the "No Thanks" speech was worth spending more time on and was a good opportunity for my
students to make direct personal connections with the text, so my opening activity involved revisiting the speech and providing my students with a better structure for their statements. I also wanted to read
through the section where Cyrano and Christian make a pact to woo Roxane together, and then discuss what the motivations were behind both men's actions. I felt that this was an appropriate amount of material
to cover for the day, especially since my students often get distracted by transitions and I didn't want to switch gears too many times. This lesson was also being videotaped, something that had the potential
to get them off-topic and even more unfocused than usual.
In order to create this sense of being focused, I started off the lesson by placing yellow stickies with students' names on the floor. The day before, we had assigned each student a section of the "No Thanks"
speech and had them explain what Cyrano was talking about. I arranged the students in a circle using the order of their speech lines as a guide. The "No Thanks" speech has 3 different parts: what Cyrano
won't do, what he will do, and why. I had each student read through his or her line, and then we looked at the circle as a whole and discussed its structure. With these aspects covered, I then told my students to
come up with three statements of their own: something they won't do at any cost, something they will do no matter what, and an explanation of why for both.
After ten to fifteen minutes of quiet reflection and writing, I had a few students share their statements. We made connections between their statements and Cyrano's, finding common themes of independence,
self-respect and not wanting to sell out. With these connections made, we briefly discussed why Cyrano would give Roxane his word that he'd protect Christian. From there, we moved on to the scene where the two
men meet for the first time and where the pact between them forms.