Hours 1, 2, 3 and 5 were only nominally attended today, as many kids were on a ROTC field trip. With so many of the regular attendees missing, I decided to spend 1 more day preparing them for Orwell. We discussed, fable, allegory and satire. I began with these and then went into specific examples as we know thin. They did well with fable (they did learn something), once they figured out satire they did pretty well (I tried to get them to think of TV shows and they found Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, Married with Children), but allegory was impossible. I've been thinking about it and I still have no good way of conferring that idea. Next time, just skip it. Anyway, as we discussed In Living Color, a show they were all familiar with, we found out that if you didn't know who its victims were you, wouldn't find the show funny. Thus, they realized that only by understanding the background of the novel could they catch its bite.
But today, rather than going at it from the historical perspective, we discussed Communism in a more general way. This was much more successful, because we made it more immediate, starting from their jobs and how much they are paid vs. how much the owners make (good little capitalists that they are though, they said "Well, he earned it" about the boss making all the money so we had to try and give the slave or 1910 coal miner perspective, and that worked a little better). They had some idea about what is going on, and more idea about how much they don't want to read this book. I gave them no opportunity for thought. This is not a democracy, this is tyranny.
Hour 6 spent 1/2 day on Hughes and 1/2 day writing a poem in the style of Hughes. They would much rather have me tell them than figure it out themselves (it apparently gets no better as they age) but they were willing to at least give an effort. Some of the poems were excellent, some were good, and some were pitiful. I expected more of the latter and far fewer of the former. So much high school poetry is insincere and phony full of thesaurus words strung together with some artificial sentiment. These were real. And they worked. Tomorrow we will peer edit and see what happens.