So, let’s meet the students at the beginning. A simple lesson of analysis, to meet all students can be addressed through simplicity in content and strategies. Typically speaking diction and figurative language are easier for beginning students to identify so let’s start there.
“Next morning when the first light came into the sky and the sparrows stirred in the trees, when the cows rattle their chains and the rooster crowed and the early automobiles went whispering along the road, Wilbur awoke and looked for Charlotte.”
-From Charlotte’s Web. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright 1952 by E.B. White; renewed 1980 by E.B. White.
Figurative Language/Word Choice/Mood/Tone
The sentence is rich in strategies but simplistic in content. Listen to the peacefulness mood created in the word choice and alliteration with “sky,” “sparrows” and “Stirred.” The letter “s” is a specific author choice because of its sound “sssssss”. It is not abrupt like a “c” or “t”-it can drag on with the reader’s annunciation adding to the gentleness of awaking. That letter is all throughout that text. Also, the personification of “whispering” automobiles furthers that peaceful and serene mood.
Now compare that to Richard Wright’s Native Son:
“It seemed to Bigger that no sooner had he closed his eyes than he was wide awake again, suddenly and violently, as though someone had grabbed his shoulders and had shaken him. He lay on his back, in bed, hearing and seeing nothing. Then, like an electric switch being clicked on, he was aware that the room was filled with pale daylight.”
-From Native Son by Richard Wright. Copyright 1940. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005.
The abruptness of “electric switch being clicked on.” uses the same techniques of word choice and alliteration to create an opposite effect. These two sentences in contrast serve to highlight effect. The techniques are somewhat simplistic but the author’s effect is quite sophisticated. Students consistently can accomplish what I call “sight-seeing” for example “hey look there’s alliteration,” but they are unable to fully develop their thinking around the effect of that alliteration. Using these two texts together can help develop that skill.
By: Tyler Ham (AP English Language and Composition teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, national consultant, and exam Reader from Spokane, WA)