Are You Smarter Than a 7th Grader?

Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself...

Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself…

I preface this post with the notion that I have told my students in the past that one day they may have to correct any errors during my instruction if they see and/or hear something wrong. Today was that day… We’ve just completed the reading of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I couldn’t be more proud of these 7th Grade students. If you’ve ever read The Time Machine, you know that it is by no means an easy task especially for 7th Graders. They had a few complaints, but they pushed through the book. Some liked it, some were on the fence, and a few were upset at the ambiguous ending [spoiler alert]. That being said, I had to adjust my approach during in class reading and take a more active role because of the high level of vocabulary. I made sure they were actively reading by encouraging all students to take notes for comprehension in the following format – Question, Predict, Setting, Connect, Summarize & Reflect – see [here]. I also made sure to make them copies of the difficult words they were going to see in each chapter – see [here]. I also used popcorn reading strategy to keep them on task as well as help with comprehension issues.

As we ended the book, there appeared to be some confusion about who exactly was the narrator and why it wasn’t simply first person from the Time Traveler’s point of view. I held on to the real answer because I wanted the kids to work it out for themselves and partially because I couldn’t answer the question on the spot w/o confusing them more. This was also the first time that I’ve taught the book.To say the least, I was a bit rusty as to how to explain to the students that the story was being narrated from an omniscient third-person point of view. Frankly, I had forgotten or was unaware that this was the case because for the first 87 pages, it appears to be in first person point of view with the Time Traveler being the narrator. As one of my students pointed out, paraphrasing of course, “Mr., go back and look and see the quotation marks on every paragraph from pages 1-87.” I would like to say I purposely forgot that it was written in the previously mentioned point of view, but I simply forgot. I always tell my students that I am not the smartest person, and to not be afraid to challenge me if I get something wrong. However, when they do so, it should be in a respectful manner. I told the students that I would do some research, and that I would have an answer for them by tomorrow.

I digress, to the great debate that should be titled, “are you smarter than a 7th Grader?” I had another student stay after 5th period because they claimed to know all about the book because they read ahead, and indeed they were well informed about the book. I asked them who they thought the narrator was and thus begun our debate. The student proposed that the story was being told in third person as well as first person. I asked for examples, we opened the book, and the student started citing examples. I began citing my own examples. Through conversing, it dawned on me that this story was being told by an omniscient [all knowing] third-person narrator’s point of view. For those not knowing what the before mentioned is, it’s when “an ‘all‐knowing’ kind of narrator very commonly found in works of fiction written as third‐person narratives. The omniscient narrator has a full knowledge of the story’s events and of the motives and unspoken thoughts of the various characters. He or she will also be capable of describing events happening simultaneously in different places—a capacity not normally available to the limited point of view of first‐person narratives.”

Still confused, join the club. I’ve never taught a book with this high a level of vocabulary at this grade level. I always like to push my kids to go above and beyond their capabilities, but this time it looks like the students pushed their teacher to do some thinking of his own. They have prepared me for the next time I select this book for in class reading. Perhaps, I’m giving away my novice teaching abilities by writing this blog post, but I love when I am forced to jog my memory – thought I’d share. I always take the approach of trying to get better each and everyday while teaching, and today I realized I came up a little short because the students could have had a better perspective of the book if my memory would have served me better and letting them in on the point of view from the beginning. All in all, they enjoyed the book regardless of my blunder. Next up, The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

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3 comments on “Are You Smarter Than a 7th Grader?

  1. I’ve read that book as an adult, and you are not the only one who would have trouble explaining it. I can’t imagine many 7th graders grasping that story too well good for you for trying to expand their horizons.

  2. Pingback: Are You Smarter Than a NFL Football Player? (Wonderlic Test) | Language Arts Blog

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