I’m teaching the poem “Count That Day Lost“ by George Elliot to some of my high-school students at the moment. The English literature curriculum I’m following dictates teaching the “Higher Order Thinking Skill” (HOTS) known as “comparing and contrasting” when teaching this poem. Since the weaker students needed the concept “hammered home”, I prepared two versions of an exercise comparing the following two pictures. For the more advanced students I included a review of the previously taught thinking skill of inference.
One thing that surprised me was that the following question turned out to be the hardest one:
“Name one surprising thing about the man in this picture? (hint – how old do you think the man is? What is in his hand?)”
It’s not that the students didn’t notice what was surprising about the man in the photo. In fact they immediately commented on how strange it was to see an elderly man with a cane walking with a big hikers backpack, before reading the questions. But many of them had trouble answering the question properly. I think the hints actually threw them off. A common answer was:
“The surprising thing is that the man is old” (“old” was mostly defined by the students as being between 40 -50 years old!). I had to emphasize that seeing someone who is not young is not surprising, it is only surprising when we compare it to what we expect. To do that we must include another detail – he is old but has a heavy hikers backpack. They were quite surprised by that! They thought it was obvious, no need to state it. One can see that in the picture, right?
It was an interesting discussion.
Here is the more difficult worksheet:
Here is the easier version: