It was the students’ idea. We were talking about a scene in Fahrenheit 451 where the protagonist, Montag, is working to memorize the Bible on his way to see an old professor whom he thinks will help him understand what is inside books. On the train, advertisements for toothpaste blare “Denham’s Dentifrice” as he tries to read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount— “Lilies of the field. They toil not.” The interweaving of the ad and the Sermon on the Mount totally confused my 8th graders and they had no idea what was going on. After discussing the spiritual connotations of the sermon with the commercial intentions of Denham’s Dentifrice, they had a clearer picture of Bradbury’s skill as a writer. That was when BG said, “Let’s do a flash mob,” and before we knew it they were already practicing for the next day’s lunch in the cafeteria.
They were going to say:
“Lilies of the field.”
“They toil not.”
about 4 or five times then “Lilies,” “Denham’s” back and forth several times as they milled about the cafeteria, increasing in pitch until one student would call out “Shut up, shut up” (a la Montag) and they would all sit down.
I’m not sure the flash mob was a success for the non-participating students in the cafeteria. Some students lost heart and tried to hide under the lunch table. The milling was pretty limited as they seemed scared to venture off on their own, away from the safety of the table they had established. I teased them that they needed a class in flash mob protocol.
But, ultimately, the whole notion that Bradbury’s words had some resonance for them and that Montag’s experience on the train was very connected to their understanding of “flash mob” made it all come alive and relevant to their own experiences in the world. And, of course, there was plenty of laughter. It was a good way to end the year, a day before the Apocalypse.