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Understanding Context

In just about any classroom, establishing context for why something matters is just as important as learning a skill itself.  In my English class, this understanding of context couldn’t be more important. How is a student supposed to understand the full atmosphere of fear surrounding 1984 without understanding the politics of George Orwell’s time? How can a student truly appreciate Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner without immersing himself some in Afghan culture and history? How do we understand why graphic novels have taken off as a more accepted literary form without making some of our own to learn that they’re not just child’s play?

 

In our humanities classes, we strive to help students see the full weight of what they are reading by placing themselves more in the context of what they’re studying. For example, my freshmen are beginning to read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. In order to help them better understand how truly difficult life on a deserted island would be for unprepared students like those in the novel, my students are making desert island survival plans based solely on what they carry in their backpacks, and they’re engaging in real-world conversations about the value of laws as a means to maintain order. Their struggles with these experiences help them see the full weight of the story and connect with it more authentically.  

 

Corrie Sarol
Upper School English Teacher