Tuesday, April 19, 2022

MHS Literature Teachers Make Reading a Ball

McMinnville High School's English Language Arts teachers came up with a novel way to make a study of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice a ball for ninth grade students this year. Literally. 

The team thought a unit study that included an 1800’s style ball would be a wonderful way for students to gain a better understanding of the complex characters in the book. It would in effect provide a way for students to experience the world depicted in Austin's story.

The district bought 175 copies of the book but lacked funding for the dance. However, the resourceful teachers found a way to make it happen, with a little help from the nonprofit McMinnville Education Foundation.

The ball provided a way for students to experience the world in Austin's story.

To prepare for the event, teachers asked students to choose a character to focus on as they began reading the book, explaining the class would be having a ball and they would attend it playing the role of that character. 

Students would need to become familiar with how their character interacted with others, what tones and mannerisms they used, things they often said or might have said, as well as their actions and beliefs, the teachers said. 

...if students connected with a character, even struggling readers might enjoy finishing the rest of the book.

Instructors taught time-period dances to add to the fun. There was a buzz among students as they dreamed of ways they could contribute to the activity. Some students went thrifting for 18th century attire. Others dove deep into the text so they could be as authentic as possible.

The themed ball took place during class time when students were halfway through the book. This was by design. The team wanted students to know their characters well before they got to the significant character changes that take place later in the book. They knew if a student connected with a character, that even those who aren't big readers would likely enjoy reading the rest of the book. 

Thanks to the re-usability of the props, future students will have a ball learning about literature as well.

At the ball, teachers circulated among the "guests" asking prepared questions and assessing students' learning by evaluating their responses. The highest marks went to those who best showed they understood their character by their answers and their interactions with others.

A mini grant of $780 from McMinnville Education Foundation was used to buy reusable items for the ball including top hats, teacups, wigs, canes, fans, candelabra, an ivory tablecloth, ballroom tapestry, battery-operated candles, laminated invitations and more. 

Thanks to the re-usability of the props, future ninth grade students will get to have a ball while learning about literature as well. 

To learn more about MEF visit our website mac40kids.org