Today I am thinking about how to create a meaningful writing challenge for my students within the borders of an essentially artificial exercise–the semester exam. For one of the sections of the exam I plan on including a slightly unusual task for a fairly traditional goal–to ask students to demonstrate their understanding of A Raisin in the Sun by analyzing specific textual evidence and key themes. The unusual task will be to extend a creative assignment they completed during the semester into the essay question. There are two options I considered regarding how to define the task for students.
Here is the plan:
- Each student has already completed an assignment where he or she wrote either the next scene after the ending of the play (Act Four, Scene One) or a scene directly preceding the beginning of the play (the immediate antecedent action of the play). Their task here was to imagine that they found Lorraine Hansberry’s lost scene for the play. Their goal was to write the scene that best fits with the play they read. In order to do this well, students have to know the play well, understand the voice and motivation of each character, and have a good understanding of the key themes and ideas of the text.
- For the exam I thought about two options to push this original assignment another step– Option One: hand them their own scene back and ask them to defend the decisions underpinning the new scene they wrote. In order to better direct their responses, I would identify the decisions I would like them to defend with evidence from the play. Option Two: hand them a copy of one of their classmate’s scenes and ask them to defend or challenge the choices the other student made with evidence from the actual play Hansberry wrote. I would identify the specific decisions I would like them to either challenge or defend.