New teacher uses Motif Fair in hopes of increasing participation

December 1, 2009 — by Karthik Annaamalai

English teachers know it’s tough to get all their students to read the literature they are assigned. In attempt to combat this lack of reading, new teacher Suzanne Herzman recently had her English 11 honors students participate in a Motif Fair, an event in which students created visual and interactive aids to help their peers understand the novel better as well as an event that encouraged more students to read the novel.
“I started doing [the Motif Fair] with a different text at a different school,” said Herzman. “The first time I taught it, it was terrible. The students that actually read the book hated it and I couldn’t understand why.”
At about the same time, Herzman attended a teachers’ conference called National Council for Teachers of English, in which she learned about the Motif Fair and how to “bring different kind of learners into literature.”

In the conference, Herzman saw that the Motif Fair could be a great way for students to “analyze evidence.”

“I got this idea at the conference and the next year I tried it,” said Herzman. “The book became a school tradition and now the students [at my old school] still do it. So it’s great. I think more kids are reading the book and I was pleased with the results.”

In attempt to bring the similar success here, Herzman had her students participate in the Motif Fair, which took place from Nov. 10-14 with displays set up in the library. Groups were evaluated by anonymous judges on content as well as creativity.

“This is the kind of stuff I would have been terrible at,” said Herzman. “But I don’t ever want to be the teacher that only teaches the student I was.”

The winners of the Motif Fair were juniors Jay Lee, Nick Renda, Chris Lui, Rohan Marathe and Emma Macnaughton. Their motif was the significance of the letter “A” in “The Scarlet Letter.” The group talked about how the “A” was an important aspect of the novel because the “A” represented the fact that the main character, Hester Prynne, had committed adultery. The novel revolves around Hester and the hardships she goes through.

“The Motif Fair was something different,” said Lee. “I have never done an artsy project like this ever in English. Also, it helped me look at the words on the page and analyze.”

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