Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Archive for the tag “John Knowles”

Book Review on “A Separate Peace”

In John Knowles’ most famous novel, Gene Forrester returns to his boyhood school, the Devon School, and recalls events that occurred there 15 years ago. In the summer of 1942, he forms a competitive friendship with his roommate, Phineas (Finny), the school’s best athlete. Competition eventually lends itself to jealousy and envy, which in turn leads the two young boys down a dangerous path from which they cannot come back. Knowles explores the evil that resides within the troubled world of adolescence, all the awhile presenting a truly moving narrative about love, friendship, and war—both external and internal.

A Separate Peace is not only an interesting and engaging read, but is perfect to explore in a high school classroom. Knowles’ writes with an easy-going style, yet does not disappoint readers in providing a unique, insightful, and powerfully poignant story. Gene and Phineas are characters who anyone can relate to and learn from. The high school setting is an obviously relevant location for a high school student’s reading. The themes of friendship, betrayal, jealousy, adolescent angst, war (both internal and external), and the quest to find our individual identities all offer so much to the typical high school student. Warren Miller, in his critical essay on the novel, declares, “Mr. Knowles has something to say about youth and war that few contemporary novelists have attempted to say and none has said better. He deals with youth’s special friendships with great delicacy and understanding; what is more, he writes with wit and style” (Miller, 6). Not only is the novel an excellent starter novel for high school students, but it also offers so much in terms of real-life application. Therefore, designing a lesson around Knowles’ novel could be both a wonderful opportunity for close reading practice and an opportunity for students to see fiction’s insatiable power to communicate the truths of our lives better than any other medium.


A Second Possible Lesson for 9th Grade Language Arts

Lesson #2 (“Friendly” Competition?)

The link above possesses a lesson (presented on the SPU Template Parts 1-5). The lesson is entitled “Friendly Competition?” and focuses on close reading strategies, analytical thinking, and real-life applications. Although there are many critical reading objectives employed in this lesson, the two most essential goals are…

1. The student understands and uses different sills and strategies to read (WA State Reading EALR #1)

2. The student understands the meaning of what is read (WA State Reading EALR #2)


The most important, and easily most engaging, portion of this lesson is its real-life applicability. Through a series of close-reading opportunities– independent, public, and interpretative–students will unpack three different passages from John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, in order to better explore the issue of adolescent competition and jealousy. This issue plagues our youth culture, and the opportunity to explore one author’s expression of said topic could be incredibly fruitful. Students will be able to passionately discuss their reading, their reactions, and their general opinions on a very real, tough issue.

The lesson would be a part of a greater unit, focusing on reading the entirety of John Knowles’ novel. Because this particular lesson utilizes passages from chapters 3 and 4, the lesson would need to be at least midway through a [possible] 3 week unit. Presumably, a teacher would need to briefly teach the ‘novel’ as a distinct genre, contextual information regarding John Knowles and American social life during World War II, introduce the inspiration behind A Separate Peace, and also already have explore chapters 1-3 before beginning this lesson. The rest of the unit after this particular lesson would focus on finishing up the novel and completing a summative writing assessment.

Finally, the following link below possess a supplemental to0l for a teacher hoping ot teach this lesson:

PP Presentation (Friendly Competition Lesson)

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