The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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Guiding questions for student reading:
1. How does Lily mature in this novel?
2. Why is it important for Lily to find out about her mother? Why is it difficult for her to remember or find out about the past?
3. What roles do bees – both literally and symbolically – play in the novel?
4. In what ways does Lily yearn for and welcome community? In what way does she see herself separate from others?
Students should also note the major characters, their traits, their relationships, and their differing views on life.
Why summer reading?
Students, please use these questions as a guide for your annotation of the 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.
The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of fourteen-year-old Lily Owens, a motherless girl raised by a cold and often cruel father. Set in 1964 in South Carolina, amidst the Civil Rights Movement, this novel juxtaposes Lily’s personal growth with a growing national understanding of the role of race in America. This intertwining of Lily’s life and the racial tensions that surround her manifests itself when Rosaleen, Lily’s black "stand-in mother," boldly confronts three racists in town and lands in jail. Lily decides she must free Rosaleen, hatches a plan of escape for her, and then flees with Rosaleen. They find their way to the home of the Boatwright sisters—three female beekeepers whose home may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of Lily’s mother’s life. Lily and Rosaleen find refuge in this world of bees, honey, and divine female power, but the fear of getting caught creates a constant feeling of suspense which eventually reaches a climactic confrontation.
Students who choose this novel will be rewarded with a story about independence and establishing identity in the face of both internal and external conflicts. The reader will reflect on the definition of the American family, rethinking its boundaries to include an atypical family within which Lily ultimately finds her home. Infused with metaphor and imagery, The Secret Life of Bees will inspire readers and offer them insight into how "family" can affect our personal sense of identity.
What is the purpose of the summer reading assignment?
There are four purposes for summer reading at the Junior College Prep Level. They are as follows:
1. To provide students the kind of positive reading experience that encourages young people to become life-long readers.
2. To use the texts to introduce students to the course’s thematic idea: the American experience.
3. To establish course expectations for reading: students will engage in active reading, identify elements of fiction, and draw conclusions and make interpretations.
4. To establish course expectations for writing: students will establish and sustain a clear focus/purpose, meet purpose by a logical expression of ideas, and use appropriate and thorough support to develop a thesis.
What do we expect students to learn from the summer reading?
• Students will be able to recall and apply plot and character details from their reading to facilitate a thorough understanding of the text.
• Students will analyze character development and relationships between characters within their chosen text.
• Students will identify and analyze the thematic ideas presented in their chosen text.
• Students will develop an introductory understanding of the core course concepts: the American experience and American themes and values.
• Students will practice and develop group discussion skills.
• Students will practice and develop writing skills, including developing a thesis, organizing thoughts through logical expression, and elaborating on ideas through appropriate textual support.
What can you expect in your English class at the beginning of the school year?
Students will engage in group discussions and activities designed to explore the novel and achieve the established learning targets.
How will what you've learned be assessed?
Before instruction, on the second day of school, students will be assessed on their reading completion and comprehension. The goal of this assessment is two part: to affirm each student’s reading of the text and to give the teacher some baseline data on the student’s understanding of plot and key ideas. During instruction, students will demonstrate their emerging understanding through participating in a variety of instructional techniques, which may include small group work, whole class discussions, panel presentations and individual activities. Post instruction: Students will demonstrate their understanding through written expression.
What feedback will you receive from your teacher?
Students will receive immediate feedback on their emerging ideas through class discussion and/or other activities. Students will receive feedback on their written assessment in the form of teacher comments.