“PL recap: fabo style”

I know I mentioned it awhile ago, but here it is “PL recap: fabo style” (AKA: Paradise Lost Recap: Facebook Style). More on the name to come, but for now the recap…

I had my seniors reading PL for a few reasons: 1) I’m not a big “classical” lit person (gasp! <then again, you all know rhetoric/comp. is my thing>), but LOVE PL and think Milton is a genius for this work, 2) I wanted to make my students think, and 3) I thought it would be fun/a great challenge to teach as well. By no means do I think it went perfectly, but I thought it went well and accomplished my reasons for teaching it too. Here’s an outline of what I did/what I found:

  • I went with a Dover edition of the text because it was cheap and easily accessible. Definite benefits. However,  I definitely think it’s worth the extra bucks (in my opinion) to have students reading my version. Footnotes are a plus and would help students greatly.
  • PL went well with two units (fate/free will and choices/decisions); thus, a continuation over our holiday break of the text. I don’t like breaking up a text that way, but it worked.
  • I had students do quite a bit of image work. Basically, picking quotes that really stood out and building an image to represent Milton’s words. They seemed to enjoy this and developed very detailed, thoughtful images that helped them work through the text.
  • Students also did “reading response” (RR) journals on google docs with partners. I assigned partners to make sure people were working with others they normally wouldn’t. The first go with the journals was a bit rocky. They weren’t getting the point. Next time through students said, “Oh, this is just like a discussion,” and began to push their own thinking as well as their partners. (There was even some friendly banter between students which was great!)
  • PL made kids think…a LOT. It made some uncomfortable. And I told them, GOOD! I wanted them outside of their comfort zones…and being outside of their comfort zones (and seeing the text through different lenses) didn’t mean they ignored/forgot/changed their personal beliefs, but having an open mind is something that is imperative not just in my classroom, but in the real world too! And despite some frustrations as we worked through this heavy text, many students would leave class after discussions saying, “Man, this book makes me think so much! We were talking about it the other day and…” I told them that’s what great writers do…make us think.

There’s a ton more I could add here, but these were some of my major thoughts after teaching it. But you may be wondering how “PL recap: fabo style” came about. So today as we were recapping Milton’s work, and I had the kids divide up into their RR pairs. They then were to work through the PL Facebook section of this book and go back through their notes to recap the overall plot/themes.

Maybe I didn’t set it up clearly enough, maybe I didn’t “sell” the reading well enough, but if you have seen this book then you know it’s pretty darn funny! And. They. Didn’t. Get. The. Humor. *sigh* At first, at least! By the end of class, they at least  laughed a little and cracked a few smiles…”Fiend Friend, ah, I see!” and “OHHH! This is PL recap: fabo style!” We are going to touch base tomorrow, but I think Schmelling’s book will definitely help once we break it back down as a class because she really does a great/creative job of recapping PL (plus, reading it makes me laugh and a “nerd” to some of my students…guess it’s an English teacher “thing,” huh? :-))


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