Curriculum Corner with Miss Leithart
The Joys of Literature
Oh the pleasure of reading! In the words of C.S. Lewis from his Experiment in Criticism, “Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors…My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others.” Reading transports us to another time, another place, and allows us to enter the minds and lives of others, fictional or historic. Though literature brightens our perspective and excites our imagination, igniting scholastic passion in students looks differently than cracking the book open and reading cover to cover. Literature in fourth grade introduces students to the narrative before their eyes and uncovers literary elements so that they might learn to cherish written words.
The fourth graders have most recently read Pinocchio by Italian author, Carlo Collodi. To introduce the novel’s context, students first read about the author’s life and background and discussed how his experience might have affected the story. Students learned that “Collodi” is the name of the Tuscan village in which his mother lived. Moreover, he served in the Tuscan army and was familiar with the landscape of Tuscan villages where Pinocchio occurs. Students brought this landscape to life by copying and sketching a painting of a Tuscan countryside. This activity promoted noticing fine details of art and reproducing them, which allowed students to store an image of Tuscany in their imaginations to draw upon during the readings. Once students understand the author’s background and inspiration, they are ready to dive into his created world.
After immersing themselves in a novel, students read aloud to practice voicing and intonation. They often answer comprehension questions verbally to prepare them for future discussion based classes. Additionally, together we explore maps of settings to understand where the events occur. Such lessons integrate many subjects that are otherwise separate, such as geography or theatre, into a cohesive literary tapestry.
By the end of fourth grade, students will better grasp the plot of a novel, not to a level of disenchantment, but to see how a beautiful outcome might have grown from intense conflict. Therefore, literature gives us the ability to examine our own lives and inspires us to grow in truth, goodness, and beauty.
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