With only six chapters remaining in Return of the King, the taste of victory is tangible for my students. They are so proud of their accomplishments and have been reading and viewing up a storm to make sure we finish Lord of the Rings by the end of school this week. While their devotion to Tolkien since last December has been relentless, some of my dwarves have found themselves a little distracted by the lure of summer vacation. Gandalf has really had to rally the troops this week and remind them how close we are to the finish line and that our Teaching Tolkien readers are all rooting for them.
We continue to have our daily movie and lunch dates and some students have really made an effort to make our sessions resemble a real movie theater experience. Bofur went to the trouble of microwaving some popcorn at home and bringing it in to share with the rest of the class.
The students have already begun recording their concluding thoughts about what they’ve learned from Tolkien in the form of their “speeches”. In terms of responsiveness, cancelling the picnic has taken the pressure off of them and allowed them to speak more comfortably to a camera than they would in front of a live audience. When we were in the initial planning stages of our event, many of them expressed discomfort at sharing their thoughts in front of friends and families and a fear of ridicule from their loved ones. While I assured them that their families would love to hear about their enthusiasm for the project, they are greatly relieved to only have to share their reflections with our very special readers.
Rather than post the speeches all at once, I have decided to share them with you throughout the week. To start with, you will first hear from Nori, Bofur, and Ori. These three students represent a real cross-section of English proficiency levels and enthusiasm for the project. Nori is very new to English and expresses how this book has motivated her to read it again, once she is more fluent in English, to have an even deeper understanding of the text. Bofur, who rarely shows motivation for anything academic, clearly has learned a lot from this experience. It brought a smile to my face to see his usual contrary disposition replaced with enthusiasm. Ori, who has no inhibitions, added some extra bonus features to his video by doing some impromptu impressions for you. While they all made some very complimentary remarks about their teacher, too, I swear I didn’t put them up to it. No kickbacks for the kids!
We look forward to sharing more videos with you throughout the week. My students even recorded a special one just for you to applaud your efforts to support them by taking the time to answer their neverending questions.
They loved your responses last week and continue to ponder all things related to Tolkien. An argument ensued today regarding the appearance of Gollum’s brain. Some students wondered whether his obsession with his “precious” has warped his brain into the shape of a ring. Oin, who argued that Gollum is not very smart, felt that his brain would only be the size of a walnut. Ori countered that if his brain had been changed into a ring, he estimated it would be the size of a donut. Whatever they will take away from Tolkien, it is obvious that they care about his creations and have allowed themselves to be totally immersed in his world. The greatest lesson I wanted them to learn from this experience is that being passionate about reading is the key to success in school and in life. I hope my students will turn their enthusiasm for Tolkien into an eternal love of learning and remember that lesson for the rest of their lives.