Most of the time when I’m absent I can plan ahead and design an activity that goes right along with what we’re doing in class. However, there are those times where I’m out and don’t have time to come up with anything or it’s just a weird time to be out. For instance I missed the day before Winter Break this year with a stomach virus. We weren’t ready to start anything new yet, and I couldn’t really give them anything to do that was too rigorous.
So when I need a lesson plan quick this is what I do and I thought I’d share because it’s perfect for high school students. It’s engaging and fun and the kids love to talk about it.
I have a class set of the story “Ordeal By Cheque” that’s ready to go – I just let the sub know where they can find it. The story is an old Vanity Fair story that is told entirely through checks. You can find a pdf of it here. You have to read carefully – and make inferences – to figure out what’s going on in the story. You’ll find out in the first three checks that a baby is born, but if you look closer you can tell by the amount of the checks that the family is wealthy and that the baby is named after his father (the signature has the suffix of “Sr.” on the third check.)
The 45 checks tell the story of the father and the son and supports a lot of different interpretations. Who are all the different women that receive large checks. Who are all the women that receive large amounts of money? Why so many expensive flowers? Who is Tony Spagoni? There are lots of possibilities here, and my students have always had a good time figuring the storyline out. I have them use a blank sheet of paper, number 1-45, and tell what each check was for. We can talk about it the next day.
This year I didn’t have to use it, so for the first time in ten years I was able to do it with the class. They found a lot of things that I had never noticed before, and found some plausible interpretations that I had never encountered. (There are a number of interpretations out there online if you search for the title.)
If you are so inclined once you return, you can finish up the activity with a discussion about whether the check format actually works or not. Do the multiple interpretations expose the limitations of the format, or are they a strength? Let your students decide.