We snuck into an empty music storage room where there was a piano so JG could play us the piece he had composed for the ending to All Quiet on the Western Front. He had gone halfway through it before I remembered to record it on my iphone, but I posted the minute and 40 seconds I captured below.
HG made a gas mask filled with kleenex (which was invented in part as a filter in early World War I gas masks) on which she had written key words from the book. It looked incredibly real when she put it on. MR made a book of drawings ostensibly created by Paul, the main character in the book. There are paintings and letters written to or by various characters. RS made a poem for each chapter of the book. There is a helmet and a diorama. JM made a video based on propaganda posters and composed the soundtrack himself. GH and SF made a large painting together of an enormous eye and an original poem about identity and humanity spiraling in its iris.
What is remarkable about All Quiet is its power to grab and hold the attention of 8th graders in the last few months before graduation. My most reserved students came alive in class discussions, becoming quite passionate and knowledgeable about the effects of the experience of war. My weakest writers put together cogent, heartfelt, and committed essays about the ideas in the book.
And yes, their creative projects, which they presented today in class, were engaging and thoughtful. It was clear they had put great effort and energy into their creations. And I didn’t have to twist their arms to do it.