There is something about starting a new unit that I absolutely love. It is one of the best things about being a teacher. I mean you get to do something over again and fix things until you get it right! Not only that, but every time you teach it, it is brand new.
My week will begin by doing exactly that, starting a new unit. My juniors are beginning a unit about chaos and human nature that centers around reading The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I love this book, well actually, in all honesty, I love everything I teach! Anyway, one of the one of the problems I found when teaching this book is that it is a classic and therefore students tend to shy away from it. Sometimes they simply hear the title and cringe! Fortunately, a few years ago, I stumbled upon something that changed my way of teaching this unit.
As I mentioned before, a basic theme of the unit is chaos and human nature. I like to have the students look at how people react to chaos. What happens to the boys on the island? Does someone emerge as a leader? Not only that, we look at character and whether or not people are predisposed to behave a certain way. It allows for a lot of deep discussion about Ralph, Jack, Simon, and Piggy in terms of who thy really are and what they become. While students usually get the beginning of the novel and the whole plane crash scenario, kids today are largely visual (thanks to all of that TV!). They need to see something to really grasp what it means. And that is when I show episodes and clips from the TV show LOST.
After a brief conversation about chaos, I begin the unit by showing the pilot episode. Ironically, it begins the same way that Lord of the Flies does: someone is lying in the forest on a deserted island after just surviving a plane crash. The episode then progresses to Jack, the main character, discovering the chaos that happens right after the crash. For a few minutes, the camera pans to the different actions of the survivors. Some are injured and in pain, some just scream, while some stare into space. A leader has to emerge to begin to bring everyone together. Within a few minutes, the kids are hooked. In fact, they tend to keep asking if we can watch more episodes after because they are so into it.
LOST shares many comparisons with Lord of the Flies. Two leaders emerge, one good, one bad (Jack = Ralph, Locke = Jack). Both Locke/Jack kill a boar proving to everyone on their respective islands that they are needed. The island houses a “beast” which is unexplained. Sayid and Jack can also be compared because they both seem to have been born evil. There is a great clip from LOST which shows Sayid breaking the neck of a chicken when his brother can’t. A great discussion usually ensues regarding whether or not people are born bad/evil. Does that explain the behavior of the boys in Lord of the Flies? How does it explain human nature?
The bottom line, of course, is to not completely drop LOST once we start reading the book. We keep a side by side list of the characters, setting, and plot from both and constantly compare. The kids stay interested when they have something relevant to compare it to. It is not longer just a boring classic, but a book that comes alive and one they actually enjoy reading.
For more information about LOST and Lord of the Flies check out these resources:
Lord of the Flies on Sparknotes
A Wiki for all things LOST