"Conflicts with nature are so hard to win, because of the ties to civilization that keep us from becoming too strong. According to 'The Call of the Wild,' only the strong survive," read Persell Middle School seventh-grader Brooke Almquist to the class.
Almquist's essay displayed just one piece of Grace Johnson's English Language Arts unit on Jack London's "The Call of the Wild." Johnson partially chose "The Call of the Wild" because it is the National Endowment for the Arts' "The Big Read." Also, students will be taking a field trip to see a performance of "The Call of the Wild" at the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
"Although this year marks the 100th anniversary of 'The Call of the Wild,' it is a classic piece of literature that appeals to all ages due to its action-packed adventures," said Johnson. "The students truly couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. London's writing evokes analysis and evaluation, which helps to engage students in learning. The book is a challenging text, but it is a great work on which to model literary analysis, and it promotes valuable discussions. When students read and learn to appreciate great literature, they become fully invested in their responsive writing. It is a joy to see the enthusiasm that is generated by this novel."
Persell Middle School seventh-graders Delaney Carlson and Payton Hernandez read “The Call of the Wild” with their classmates during Grace Johnson’s ELA class.
"The Call of the Wild" takes place in the extreme conditions of the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold Rush, where strong sled dogs were in demand. After Buck, a domesticated dog, is snatched from a ranch in California, he is sold into the brutal life as a sled dog. The novel details Buck's struggle to adjust and survive the cruel treatment he receive from humans, other dogs and nature.
Students wrote essays based on several essential questions including, "In the final analysis, which is more powerful: man or nature?" Students cited evidence from the text to support their opinions. The class held numerous group discussions talking about why conflicts with nature are so difficult to win and what the pros and cons are of working with, or against, nature. They also focused on literary devices such as anthropomorphism (or personification of animals to human) and themes such as survival of the fittest. In addition, Johnson led discussions on the Klondike Gold Rush, which is the time period the novel is set in, to give context to students.
The students really enjoyed the 100-year-old novel.
"Some of the vocabulary used in the book was especially challenging due to when it was written," said seventh-grader Ethan Glatz. "Even the pronunciation of names was different than we are used to, but that helps us to understand what was popular in literature at that time period. Plus, we will have to read complicated books later in life, and this helps prepare us."