English classes explore novel through motif fair

January 6, 2011 — by Lillian Chen and Denise Lin

One group created a large 3-D display constructed with PVC pipes covered in black trash bags. Another group broke mirrors and other shiny objects into pieces. A third group spray painted an entire refrigerator box black.

All were students in English teacher Suzanne Herzman’s English 11 Honors class who took part in the motif fair, in which they created presentations focused on motifs in the novel “The Scarlet Letter” written by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The novel takes place in Puritan Boston and focuses on scorned adulteress Hester Prynne and her journey of repentance.

Herzman came up with the idea of the motif fair at a National Council for Teachers of English Conference.

“Schools are always doing science fairs, so I thought it would be fun to do something similar with literature,” Herzman said.

The project aims to strengthen the students’ thesis construction, teamwork and close-reading skills.

“Students need to work together to build their ideas,” Herzman said.

For Herzman, one of the best parts about the motif fair is the opportunity express their ideas visually.

“But my favorite part is when the classes visit the fair after everything is installed. I love hearing [students say] ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,’” Herzman said.

Motif fair participants were judged based on a 40 point rubric. The judges, who were staff members, remained anonymous during the fair and students were not allowed to include their own names on their displays.

Junior Talia Sisco’s group emerged as the winners of the fair with a eye-catching display decorated with shards of a broken mirror and other reflective objects. They focused on the usage of reflective surface in the novel, which represented self-reflection.

“[We] really wanted to make the entire thing reflective and stand out,” Sisco said.

The motif fair turned out to be an interesting experience for Sisco.

“It helped me learn more about [“The Scarlet Letter”]. I like to do hands-on types of art projects for English,” Sisco said.

Sisco was enlightened by all the motifs presented at the fair, and was able to better understand the symbolism of “The Scarlet Letter.”

Junior Michael Chen’s group came in as a close second after the judging.

The runner-up group focused on the usage of sunshine in the novel.

“Sunshine basically [guides] you throughout the novel to show you how Hester changed from an adulteress to a much more humanitarian and kind person,” Chen said.

The display consisted of a PVC pipe construction, a double trifold and 3-D pictures for an eye-popping effect.

Chen appreciated both the end product and the fair itself.

“[I] think the display turned out well; [it was a] solid job,” Chen said.

The fair enhanced Chen’s knowledge of “The Scarlet Letter.”

“The fair helped us with out understanding of [the book] and writing analysis,” Chen said.
Although all of Herzman’s students toiled longs hours to achieve their final displays, they were rewarded with an interesting and informative fair.

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