Chronicle of a Death Foretold Unit

I thought about beginning the IB Language A (eleventh grade IB English) course with Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In light of recent readings. In a deliberately ambiguous disclosure, I have read theories and methodologies postulated by Nationally Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) who contend it is more important to teach thinking skills and use literature and writing as vehicles and not the end goal in itself. In last week’s #edchat on Twitter, user and user made the insightful claim that an outcome of the flipped model is teachers are obsolete in the delivery of content and the gatekeepers of knowledge, but more importantly are the guides to students in developing the strategies to make meaning of that content–to evaluate and synthesize it.

I wrote in a previous post about important criteria to consider when choosing an author or text for advanced study. Typically, selecting an obscure author precludes Sparknotes and cross-collaborative collusion amongst students on the Internet. Admittedly–a sad state of affairs when I encourage other teachers to avoid exemplary texts for that reason.

However, I argue that Chronicle is cheat-proof.

It is a multifaceted narrative demanding much of the reader. There is a good post from ASCD that elaborates further on the importance of incorporating increasingly complex texts into an ELA course. The ASCD article challenges me to think about teaching the skills of decoding texts and not to filter study only through the lens of the IB proscribed tasks in the Literature in Translation component of the course.

Savvy readers develop schema to engage with texts like Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

–Mentally mapping characters, locations, and time sequence. Marquez interweaves these into an elaborately nuanced narrative, challenging the reader to construct these elements into a logical schema.

–In the intricacies of the narrative are patterns of diction that create larger motifs, such as Marquez’s views of the roles of sex and religion. Readers benefit from a highlighter and annotations in order to uncover these involutions.

This class of literary text meets the needs of gifted/talented students who are proficient in decoding and meaning-making in the space of more traditional narratives. I contend that each text that embodies these qualities presents its own unique demands on the reader. Helping readers uncover the metacognitive strategies necessary to deeply connect with these texts is the ripe teaching space I want to inhabit. Other texts to consider:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
As I lay Dying by William Faulkner

Toni Morrison

Once school is underway, I will share examples of student work demonstrating how they work through the processes described above. Please share texts you have taught that you feel meet these criteria.

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