Of all the novels I have taught, I don’t think any of them have impacted me or my students more than Slaughterhouse-Five. Seems like every year I find some new gem buried in Vonnegut’s text. When I hear from former students, they always mention it as the book that stayed with them the most. I think the reason it resonates with so many readers is because Vonnegut forces his readers to examine they way they look at life. Some students connect with his atheist views, while others have told me that the book strengthened their own ideas of faith. The ironic thing is, being a public school teacher, I avoid issues of faith in my instruction. Instead I try to focus on other themes. One being morality and ethics. The novel does a great job of showing my students how hard mankind works to harm each other. The other themes deal with fate, free will, and the passage of time.
I have attached two projects I use while instructing this novel. The first project, DEFINING DRESDEN, is a small research project I allow my students to pair up and complete. I feel it is important to have some solid background information on what happened in Dresden in order for my students to relate to Vonnegut’s experience.
The next project helps my students explore free will and the Tralfamadorian’s view of time.
“I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
In order to help my students understand these themes, I require them to keep a photo blog for three weeks. My students already use gmail to turn in assignments, so I have them create their own blog using Blogger. (yes, my school blocks blogger, so this is a homework project, although some students can access Blogger with their phones. My school does not block teachers from viewing Blogger, so I can grade the blogs at school.) Once the blogs are finished, I plan on using another site to gather the photos and create a slideshow complete with a soundtrack using a song that connects to the themes.
Finally, my students have been sharing their blogs in Google+. I created a circle of all my students using Google+ (this was not mandatory) and it has been very helpful in sharing everyone’s posts in our classroom. I project the circle in class and so far the things that students have been sharing have been insightful and rewarding!