Dark Days Ahead

I began today’s class by asking my students to participate in an active learning strategy, prior to reading Chapter 4 of Fellowship.  Active learning is an educational term that refers to instruction that places the responsibility of learning on the learner.  Many of the reading strategies my students employ on a regular basis fall into this category and today I asked them to specifically focus on predicting.  Whether they are aware of it or not, most readers constantly predict before, during, and after reading.  It is an ongoing internal dialogue that occurs within the mind of the reader as they are processing the sequence of events in the text.  The constant impulse to know what’s going to happen next when reading a book, hearing a story, or watching a movie is prime evidence that your brain is actively predicting.

When my students walked into the classroom, I had written Dark Days Ahead on the board.  I told them I had written this to get them thinking about some dark events that may transpire in the rest of the book.  Ori interjected, “oooh, I love evil”, as I gave them instructions to make a list of predictions about the text in their steno pads.  Once the students compiled their pre-reading predictions, they were told to keep their pads and pencils handy, in case any further predictions came to them as we were reading or when class was finished.

Their predictions ranged from odd-ball to spot-on:

Bifur-“I think evil is going to eat their heads, so they’ll all die….or not?”

Oin-“All 3 hobbits (referring to Frodo, Sam, and Pippin) will die.  Gollum will return and mid-evil days will come” (I was a bit surprised at Oin‘s phonetic spelling of medieval as mid-evil.  I’m not sure if that was an intentional play on words, as we’ve only briefly discussed the influence of medieval literature on Tolkien’s fiction.)

Ori-“I think Gollum is going to kill Frodo and take the ring.  Then Gandalf is going to kill Gollum.”

Fili-“Bilbo is going to die in the story and Gollum is going to come back and kill Frodo and take the ring.”

Bofur-“Everyone dies.  The eye of Sauron is going to make everyone turn evil.”

Thorin-“I think Sauron’s spirit is going to die later.  I think Gollum will kill Frodo.”

Balin-“Evil stuff are going to happen like there’s going to be crimes and killing people.  There’s probably going to be more songs.  ‘Hail Frodo’ reminded me of ‘all hail, Plankton’ from Spongebob Squarepants.” (As the students shared their responses, some others connected “hail Frodo” to “all hail, Macbeth”, which they studied last fall.)

Gloin-“Gollum is going to appear and Frodo is going to lose the ring.  Gollum is going to have the ring again.”

As he was furiously scribbling away in his steno pad, Bofur asked me, “what’s that precious-guy’s name, again?”  “Gollum!!”, everyone shouted in annoyance.  The students are entertaining themselves trying to properly pronounce the Elvish words they find in the text.  I explained to them that there are dictionaries available for Tolkien’s languages where they can learn the pronunciations and meanings.  When I asked them if they thought learning Elvish would be fun, Ori said, “No, that wouldn’t be fun….it would be a lot of fun!”  There were also some more artistic impressions rendered today.  Both Ori and Oin drew pictures of the black riders (shown below).

Ori's Black Rider

Ori’s Black Rider

Oin's impressions of the Nazgul

Oin’s impressions of the Nazgul

Predicting is both an ongoing and rewarding process. Confirming and revising their predictions is something my students can look forward to as they continue to progress through the book. It is very gratifying to observe them experiencing the joy of Tolkien for the first time and we hope it is just as rewarding for all of you to share in our adventures. May they serve to remind you of the many enjoyable reading experiences you once found in Middle-Earth.

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