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A “Brief, Urgent Message”: Theme in Slaughterhouse-Five
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Four 50-minute sessions, plus additional out-of-class time for student work|
In Slaughterhouse-Five, author Kurt Vonnegut describes Tralfamadorian literature as "brief, urgent message[s]—describing a situation, a scene"; when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep" (111-112). Students use this literary perspective to analyze passages from Slaughterhouse-Five and then apply that perspective by creating a compilation album, CD cover, and liner notes that demonstrate their interpretation, understanding, and evaluation of the themes and ideas in the novel.
Slaughterhouse-Five CD Project: Use this one-sheet set of directions to have students create personal connections to the novel by identifying and writing about a collection of songs they believe help represent the themes in the book.
Believing that "popular culture has an important place in the English classroom-as an object worthy of study and as a means for students to access and study literature successfully," Jerome Evans discusses an assignment in which students use popular music to access the literary concept of theme (32). "By showing the connection between a selected theme and specific lines in the song lyrics," he argues, "they engage in critical thinking about literature in much the same way they will when using quoted passages to support their assertions" about a novel, play, or poem (33). This assignment similarly engages students in the act of accessing and critiquing literature through popular music.