Thursday, May 29, 2008

The scenes you remember

Today I'm doing my favorite assignment ever. We just finished reading Elie Wiesel's Night, so I have the kids get into groups and make an art project. Each group has a paper bag with art supplies in it. Using only the supplies in the bag, they must create a three-dimensional representation of a pivotal scene of their choice from the novel.

So for two days I sit and watch my kids cut and paste, and I learn. Right now the group with the laziest, most frequently absent boys who have the worst collective grades in the class are working their asses off to create this really clever project where little people are going to pop out of a paper and march around in the snow. They're really pissed because I only gave them one pencil.

You have never seen such adorable concentration camps in your life, I swear.

One of my kids is very excited because he saw "Jewish churches" recently and was surprised to learn they were still around. The kids really should leave South Central more often.

Anyway, one interesting thing I learn through this and other assignments is what in a story stands out in a kid's mind. Violence, intense natural images, extreme circumstances, the unexpected.

In Night it tends to be the long march the prisoners take through the snow, or the hanging of the child, or the moment when a man's son murders him on the train for a crust of bread, or the moment when the Nazis throw babies in the air and use them for target practice.

In All Quiet on the Western Front they remember the horses screaming in the middle of the night while they trip over their own intestines after an attack. They also remember how the soldiers walk naked in their boots to meet the French women they plan to have sex with.

In Great Expectations they remember the cake covered in cobwebs.

So it makes me think about what scene in my own scripts would stick out in their minds. In Not Dead Yet, I'm pretty sure it's the moment when a kid gets his arm chopped off or the tidal wave.

If my kids had to make a project out of your movie, what scenes would they remember? What would be the most important moment when the point of the story summed up in an image or two?

1 comment:

  1. I love that you teach "Night" and "All Quiet on the Western Front".

    Two of the best war novels ever. They don't glamorize. They teach.


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