Either they love it, which I do, or they really don’t like it. Most of the ones that don’t like it always site feeling upset about Boxer as a reason. What I love is the great things to talk about and the feelings it does stir. If a book creates that strong of a reaction and you remember it probably 30 years after reading it (in my case), it was a good book!
We are doing Animal Farm with the Total Language Plus focus guide in our co-op. The guide is focused on learning to write great essays along with studying the book. We are focusing on how the Animals in the book allowed themselves to be deceived and what were the warning signs. We’ve talked about fear, propaganda, control, productivity, complacency, leadership, and much more.
If you’re not familiar with Animal Farm it’s really a book with two levels. On the surface it’s a story about Animals who take over a human farm and run it. When I read it with my children several years ago my daughters were probably 7 and 9 and that’s how they viewed the book. But actually George Orwell wrote it as parallel to the Soviet Union and Communism most notably portraying Napoleon and Stalin as the Pigs in the story. It’s been called a “fairy story” or an allegory.
We started our class with some background information and the focus guide does guide you in that direction but quite honestly though we are drawing historical comparisons we are focused much more on how people(or animals in this case) can be lead astray. For instance this week we discussed the verse, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 Our discussion really took in all section of the verse as we related how this verse combats or could combat the animals slide into “Animalism” and non-thinking.
The board was full of ideas and as usual we ran out of time discussing all the different angles this could take. It’s an awesome book for discussion with your high school students!
On a different note, I’m often asked how to evaluate the students writing. With each focus guide or study guide that has a writing focus there is an instruction page that says something like. “With each paragraph focus on _____________” , “Make sure you have _______________” and so on. What I do is base my grading criteria on those instructions. For Animal Farm I created this grid that I fill in and give comments and points. It is exactly what the instructions in the guide said for the student to do. Feel free to take a look and use it or modify for your needs. At home with just your own student you may not want something as official looking but it will give you an idea of what you could do.