Texting a Response to Lord of the Flies
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Students engage in a review of Lord of the Flies by looking at various ways the boys used communication while stranded on the island. Using an online graphic map, they chart the ways that communication was—or could have been—used in several key sections of the book, focusing imaginatively on when modern communication (such as text messaging) could have been successful. Once students have focused on when and how more high-tech contact could have been successful, they create a summary of the book from one character's perspective by creating five text messages to an imagined audience off the island composed by that character.
- Text Messaging Assignment: Use this handout to help students explore both communication and character development in Lord of the Flies by creating text messages to describe different novel events in a specific character's voice.
From Theory to Practice
In the NCTE Council Chronicle article "The Shift to 21st-Century Literacies," Sara Kajder notes that as information technologies continue to evolve, teachers "'have opened up what counts as valued communication' in the classroom" (4). One way that teachers can acknowledge the continued rapid shift to more technology-driven communication is to allow students to use communication forms that they already value to achieve literacy goals traditionally associated with the English language arts classroom, such as relating to characters and responding to text.
William Kist points to the specific transition from "a page-based to a screen-based society," contending that "'[i]t's a different way of encountering communication or thought or human expression'" (5). Inviting students to respond to literature in the format of a series of text messages achieves two goals: It shows that teachers value forms of communication in which students already engage, and it allows teachers to discuss with students ways in which new means of communication are similar to and different from more traditional ways expressing meaning.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
Materials and Technology
- Overhead transparency sheets (one for each student) and markers
- Overhead projector
- Copies of Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Because of the nature of this lesson as a culminating review, students need to have completed reading the novel Lord of the Flies prior to this assignment. Alternatively, elements of this lesson could be woven into the reading of the novel, with students stopping to create text responses as the appropriate events occur.
- Make copies of necessary handouts.
- Bookmark the Graphic Map on student computers and familiarize yourself with the tool. If necessary, download the Flash plug-in from the Technical Support page.
- Arrange for students to have access to computers during Session One.
- determine the different types of communication used in Lord of the Flies and chart times throughout the book when communication was used, or could have been used, by the boys.
- explore the relationship between purpose, audience, and appropriate language use while examining common internet abbreviations and shortcuts.
- create text messages that one character could have sent in response to events throughout the book.
- reflect and revise their text messages after sharing with classmates.
- After reading Lord of the Flies, have students look back at Chapter One. Ralph and Piggy are on the beach, and Ralph has gone for a swim. Ralph shares information about his father being a commander in the Navy and indicates that he will come to rescue them when he is on leave.
- Have the students brainstorm what type of communication Ralph might have with his father regarding what has happened. What would Ralph tell his father, how might he have communicated with him during the time in which the novel is set (telegraph, letter in a bottle, carrier pigeon) or, imaginatavely, via modern technology (phone, e-mail, text message)?
- Broaden the discussion by asking students to think of other times throughout the book that some type of communication (either verbal or nonverbal) was either used by the boys or could have been used to convey information across a distance. Good examples include using the conch to gather the boys for meetings and using fire to attempt to draw attention to the boys on the island.
- If there are times that the boys did not communicate because of a lack of a means to do so, have students think about how modern forms of communication (cell phones, e-mail, text messaging) could have helped the boys.
- Direct students to the Graphic Map to chart moments of communication, both actual and potential, in the book. If you wish, share the Sample Completed Graphic Map to provide students with guidance. Have students choose the option that allows them to rank events from -3 to +3 and assign each event a relative ranking in terms of how negative or positive the experience or event is.
- Students should be reminded that they will not be able to save their work in the Graphic Map, and they should plan first to allow themselves time to complete the activity and print prior to the end of the session.
- Begin the session by having students briefly share their Graphic Map printouts. As they present, have them explain during which of the events they chose to represent would it have been useful for the boys to use texting as the primary way to communicate.
- Facilitate a brief discussion about the nature of writing in text messages by asking students to explain how texting differs from other forms of communication.
- Students will likely mention the reliance on abbreviations as a feature of texting. At an appropriate time in the discussion, distribute the Internet Abbreviations and Shortcuts handout to each student or show the chart on an overhead projector (see the Expanded Internet Abbreviations and Shortcuts for a key to the abbreviations).
- As you discuss the abbreviations and their meanings, allow the class to add to the list. Remind student to share only abbreviations that are appropriate for your classroom community.
- Then have the students write a sample text message to a parent or guardian about how they will be working late on a project at school and need to be picked up at 6:00 p.m. instead of their normal time, or instead of riding home on the bus. Have the students keep their message around 100 characters (including letters, spaces, and punctuation).
- Present other scenarios to the class and help the students identify both the audience and the purpose for writing. The students should then work to choose the proper language for each scenario. As you talk about the possibilities, remind students that a good message is balanced: Too many abbreviations can be inappropriate or confusing, particularly if the intended recipient does not send text messages frequently. Students should recognize their goal as matching the message to the reader to make sure that meaning is clear.
- Some of the scenarios might include the following:
- texting your coach that you will be late for practice and why
- texting a friend to catch up on his or her life
- texting a thank you to a grandparent for a gift
- texting a classmate to ask about an assignment you forgot to write down in class
- texting your coach that you will be late for practice and why
- Return the focus more directly to Lord of the Flies by distributing and discussing the Text Messaging Assignment sheet. Indicate how students should use the graphic organizer to make clear connections between the character, his audience, and his purpose and situation. Demonstrate by using the sample completed graphic map to select a moment and then imagining what a well-composed text message would be in that situation.
- Briefly return to the Internet Abbreviations and Shortcuts handout and ask students to think if there are other appropriate abbreviations they would like to add, given the specific nature of this assignment.
- Provide an opportunity for students to ask any questions and start working on their Text Messaging Assignment. They should complete this task before the next session.
- Have students get out their completed Text Messaging Assignment sheets.
- Ask for several student volunteers to write out their text messages on an overhead/transparency sheet. They should not indicate the imagined author or audience for the message, as their classmates will be challenged to determine that during the presentation.
- Those students should share their messages on the overhead and allow the class to try to determine which character is texting, who his audience might be, and what specific purpose and situation he is trying to convey. Examples to share wtih the students (or to use for modeling) are listed below. You may choose to omit the character, audience, and purpose to see if the students can make these determinations.
(Scenario) Ralph blows into a conch shell to summon all the boys on the island the beach (and the first of the group meetings).(Readers of the book will get the "dumb shell" line cause the conch is a major bit of symbolism/importance in the book.)
(Text) Ralph to Everybody: Time for the meeting. Forget that dumb shell.
(Scenario) Simon goes up to the mountain to find The Beast that is scaring everyone and leading to the dissolution of social order on the island. When he returns to tell everyone that there is no beast, it is just a dead body, he is confused for The Beast and is killed before he can tell anyone that the beast isn't real. This would have been easily cleared up with one picture-text. (With this message and picture, everyone would see there is nothing to fear and Simon doesn't get killed.)
(Text) Simon to Everybody: The Beast is just a body! It's not a monster at all, LOL! Check it out. <picture attached>
- After several students have presented and the class has had a chance to try to determine the context for each message, allow the remainder of the time for students to share their text messages within a small group. They should follow the same process as above for any text messages that were not shared in the large group.
- Have students focus on how they might improve the effectiveness of their messages by answering the Reflection Questions and having them revise one or more messages to submit in a future session.
- Have students choose two characters in the book. Compose a series of text messages between the characters about what is occurring in the book as a review.
- Have students create a dictionary of texting abbreviations that would be unique to the events in the book.
- Have students take one key section of their choice from the book and craft letters, e-mails, and text messages to several people describing the same message, furthering the focus on audience and purpose from Session Two.
- Have the students use new communication technology, such as Facebook or Twitter, to compose messages. For example, students could use Facebook's "Check In" feature and compose a message such as the following:
Ralph has checked in Piggy, Jack, Simon, Eric, and Sam @ The Beach
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Provide students feedback during their work on the Graphic Map, ensuring that they are choosing moments in the book that would have been appropriate times for the boys to be using some form of communication.
- Have students make any revisions to their text messages based on the feedback they received in the small groups and the Reflection Questions they answered after the sharing of their assignment.