Seventh-graders imagine how famous authors of the past would correspond via technology of today

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROT — Students in Amy Fagan-Cannon’s seventh-grade language arts classes at SeDoMoCha Middle School had the opportunity to not only read the works of famous authors from the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th centuries but to then research the lives of the writers in order to create Facebook replica profiles posing as the authors themselves.

    “We did a project ‘Famous Authors of the Past,’” Fagan-Cannon said as the students’ finished products were on display in the hallway. She explained that the students read a work of their chosen author — examining the big picture themes in each text as some of the selections were a bit difficult for the middle schoolers to completely grasp all the subtleties — and after finishing with their selections they began researching the lives of the authors.

    The research needed to be as detailed as possible with the students looking to gather both facts about the lives of the authors and opinions about the writer’s written work. Through the research process, including note taking and recording sources of information, the students became able to create a two-page biographical representation of the author’s life. The seventh-graders were able to put their minds to work by using this information to create a Facebook profile as if they were the author themself.

    “One of the goals was to expose them to the classics and make them accessible,” Fagan-Cannon said as the students read novels and poems and then did their research and made their final projects over four to five weeks.. “There were over 60 authors to choose from and they self selected whoever they wanted to do.”

    Fagan-Cannon said many of her students use Facebook and they enjoyed replicating the social media platform for the project, imagining conversations their authors would have with other historical figures of the time and using the facts and opinions they had collected. “They all have complex lives and they are all interesting,” the teacher said about another aspect of the project she hoped her students would come away with.

    She said some examples included the correspondences between sisters Charlotte and Emily Bronte and those of Ernest Hemingway with his contemporaries (or who could be his Facebook “friends”).

    “I learned authors went to Paris and were the Lost Generation,” seventh-grander Jenna Clukey said about the influence of the early decades of the 20th century on her author Hemingway and the other writers of this era. She and her classmates then used what they learned to create the Facebook profiles, including who the authors would be friends with.

    Avery Nelson said she read “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and the novel contained different points of view, which she understood further after conducting the research portion of her project.

    “Steinbeck writes how they speak because he lived right next to them on the farm,” Reggie Johnston said about John Steinbeck and the characters in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” which Fagan-Cannon said he read in its entirety. Johnston said the book explored class struggles during the Great Depression as many of those living during this era struggled to make a living.

    “My author was Charles Dickens and I learned he survived a train crash,” Virginia Macomber said.

    “We worked the best we could, some of them were not middle school books,” Fagan-Cannon said, as some of the students read poems from an anthology tailored to their age group which included meanings of of the works. “We got through it together with the goal understanding, trying to get the big picture and meaning. This was an interesting project, they liked it a lot.”

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