Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie
Guiding questions for student reading:
Class discussion will focus on some of the following questions:
1. What is the difference between education and re-education?
2. How is the boys’ burning of the books similar to or different from Mao’s censorship?
3. Why do we need to see the story through the narrator?
4. Why do we see the same scene through three different viewpoints?
Students, please use these questions as a guide for your annotation of the summer reading.
Why summer reading?
Your teachers encourage the practice of annotation in all your assigned reading at Stevenson, as a way to prepare for classroom activities and assessments and to reinforce the habit of active reading.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is set during China’s Cultural Revolution. Two of the main characters are sent to a mountain village to be re-educated. Ironically, this is where they are exposed to Western literature for the first time. They meet the Little Chinese Seamstress, a local, and share with her the magic of the literature. This selection is thematically relevant to the course because the novel asks the reader to examine the power of literature. The impact of literature is not just cerebral; it affects both the body and soul of the characters and helps them formulate their entire sense of self. Students who choose this book will confront multiple perspectives and coming of age themes. The narrative structure and other literary techniques the author employs are relevant to the analytical skills we are building. Its content is appropriate for high school seniors, especially those who are electing to take a college-level course.
What do we expect students to learn from the summer reading?
1. Recognize and analyze structural elements in literature and how those elements work to create meaning.
2. Recognize and analyze language devices in literature and relate them to meaning.
3. Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the evocative element in literature by showing how an author creates mood and atmosphere.
What can you expect in your English class at the beginning of the school year?
Teachers will use a variety of strategies and methods to reach the instructional goals. In the two to three weeks unit, students may participate in small group work, whole class discussions, panel presentations, and individual activities.
How will what you've learned be assessed?
Prior to instruction, students will be held accountable for their reading through a quiz. Recalling specific details is an essential part of the final essay question on the AP exam, so it will be expected of our students as well. During instruction, students will demonstrate emerging understanding through class discussion, small group work, and individual written assignments. Post-instruction, students will respond to an in-class essay prompt.
What feedback will you receive from your teacher?
Students will receive feedback in the form of teacher comments during discussions and other formative activities, on their writing, and through the use of a rubric used to assess writing.