I teach English in two settings. The English 12 students I teach I see in two periods daily. Some of the English 10 students I teach I see in four periods daily; however, others I teach, I see through online collaborative tools or in specially planned face-to-face instructional settings or meetings.
Oxford City Schools (OCS) implemented a new virtual school program in the 2016-2017 school year. The fully virtual e-Learning format is fun, rewarding, and
challenging for both me and my students. The students recently finished reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I adapted students’ reading of the novel to fit standards addressed in the first semester of the course curriculum. One of the most exciting adaptations was an assignment for the students (which included four participants at the time) to collaboratively write a new chapter for the novel. Among some of the skills assessed during this activity were point of view, narrative devices, plot elements, pacing, imagery, characterization, and dialogue.
Students were given ample time and resources to participate in this writing assignment. They had time to read parts of the text (some had already read through half the book by the time they participated in this) and consider how they’d creatively respond to unknown or open-ended parts of the story. We discussed in a group Blackboard Collaborate session what parts of the book could be easily reshaped, adapted, or properly concluded. The consensus was awesome.
The students and I kept coming back to the end of Chapter 2. A small boy featured in the chapter seems to disappear in the chapter and, to the other main characters, is assumed to have tragically died in a fire. But, the text doesn’t directly state the boy died. We discussed what could have happened to him and how the book would change if this boy found reprieve and vitality away from the wandering, misguided, depraved boys whose rejection of him leaves readers with heavy hearts.
Not only did my students want the boy to survive, they wanted the boy to represent that there is good left in humanity, even though Golding clearly sought to implicate every person, no matter how apparently moral, as capable of doing evil. We took group notes and wrote the chapter using Google Docs.
Below is the chapter the students and I collaboratively wrote. It is intended to be read between Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.
Mr. Somers (aka S’mores)
Face to Face with the Snake Thing
Authors: Emily, Macie, Joseph, Tay, and Mr. Somers
Away from the bomb blasts and inferno of tree trunks, creepers, and scorched lifeless forms of the mountainside forest, the wandering littlun with the birthmark began to forget the neglect and shame he had felt while with the other boys. With each step, he grew increasingly anxious about the next. He didn’t know the boys’ silence; their indifference had been enough. But now, his concern was the blackness that enveloped him — a blackness that almost wasn’t black. Like that moment a theater goes black after a scary picture show: immediate relief; an interconnected dissipation of fear and an ignorant embracing of hope. Like that second in the dark just after tripping on some fallen lampstand only to regain reassuring footing moments later. The birthmark-faced boy sensed something was near. It breathed and sighed. It evaded and loomed. But its soft tune was accompanied with crickets chirping — waves tucking in a surprisingly civil side of the island, somewhere obscured from other boys — somewhere between the mountain and Castle Rock. Its hand reached out, not to choke life but to offer a gesture of reconciliation.
He’d almost forgotten his family: a father, mother, two younger sisters, and a brother about the age of fifteen. There was also his wearied grandfather who once served British troops in Somalia and China, but whose colonizing retreated now to the non-invasive habitation of his own son’s home. He remembered his sisters in particular. He remembered their smiles, their seemingly unending happiness and optimism. Just the thought of them brought a brief wash of the warmth of home over his overexposed, exhausted body.
For some reason, away from the others, with the mild sea breeze bringing restful reminiscences, the boy with the birthmark felt safe. There was something he knew once concerned him, but the optimistic eye of a luminescent crescent above him made the once tremorous night subtly so much more nestling. No sign nor fleeting thought of a creature or beastie; no snake-thing slithered into his cabin of palm trees this night — his bed a cozy womb-like mat discreetly burrowed and undetectable from as close as five feet.
The littlun woke up with morning dew on his face. He slowly rose up from the ground and stretched. Momentarily disoriented, he forgot where he was. Taking a moment to observe his surroundings, he remembered he had fled here after the flames and ferocity of the previous night scared him away. The boy with the mulberry birthmark looked around for something to eat. The pangs of morning hunger gnawed at his stomach, but he felt surprisingly hopeful at what this new day would bring.
He counted every step he took, leaping here and there over branches and rocks that would have hurt his bare feet. He hummed a tune to himself — a distantly familiar tune he thought was just off the top of his head. The fresh dew drenched everything in sight and made the ground as mucky as Monday mornings. He thought to himself — not too long ago he had been living the life of a normal innocent child.
He had lost track of time. Heaven knows how long they had been out there. A week? Two? A month? Months? However long, it had been long enough to almost forget — to be — changed. Fortunately, it hadn’t been too long.
An awakening breeze whistled through the creepers and trees as he shivered from the slight chill. Remnants of clothes barely covered the boy, and the breeze was enough to nip at his revealing skin. He made his way through the creepers, his only concern keeping an eye out for any edible morsel he could get his hands on.
The birthmark-faced boy was looking for the least disturbed place on the island — a place never touched by the devious hands of humanity. And there they were. Bananas. He looked up to see a hand of bananas hanging in a tall, bountiful palm. He climbed high, inching up like a koala to the perfect branch on which to secure a footing and extend his hungry, calloused hands.
A pause. From over his right shoulder came a soft sound. He bear-hugged the palm and turned his head to look. About 20 yards from the tree was a meandering brook with a steady crystalline trickle of the refreshment he’d use to wash down his hand-picked bananas. These luxuries on any other part of the island would have been taken for granted.
He made his way over to the brook, stepping on fallen branches and tangled vines. He knelt, then cupped his hands to take several swallows of fresh mountain water.
“From the morning dew,” he said to himself as to a friend. After eating a couple bananas and drinking the water, the littlun contentedly looked through newly formed drops of sweat at what surrounded him, hoping other provisions looked on.
And they were. They came with what once would have been a startling sound that prompted unimaginable fears of slithering monsters, but with his luck this day, it wasn’t discomfiting at all. A rhythmic, approaching sound of cracking and crunching creepers and leaves signaled a solace like that of the arrival of a familiar friend.
And that was it. Never again in this place would the boy utter the words beastie, snake-thing, or nightmare. Simon’s unique, even-keeled outlook on life and morality fought away the fear. Thoughts of goodness and potential remained.
He went to welcome Simon who looked through him in the dense greenery. He was fearless — nearly eye-to-eye with a boy he had considered just another stranger.
At the boy’s greeting, Simon startled, erect and recoiled back on his heels. The littlun fell back on his rump, surprised by Simon’s incognizance.
The moment he realized it was just a littlun, Simon relaxed and collected himself.
Simon reached out his hand. “Here, let me help you up.” His voice reflected a tone of comfort and compassion.
The littlun hesitated slightly before taking his hand.
He pulled the littlun onto his feet.
Simon looked at the boy with a confused face.
“Wait, aren’t you the boy from– ?” He turned the boy’s head to show his mark.
“You are! The others feared you were dead!”
He released the littlun and stood back.
“How did you get all the way out here?” he probed the littlun. The littlun looked down and started wringing his hands nervously.
Simon invited the littlun to sit down in the grass with him. The boy sat, then crossed his legs, but his eyes were fixed on a curious meter-length vine in Simon’s hand.
Simon thought of ways to break the ice; the boy thought of ways he once acted in a time when he didn’t have to try to be so grown up.
“You look okay. Have you eaten?”
The boy nodded.
Again, a nod.
Simon noticed the boy’s gaze.
“Oh, this? This is for swinging. I once lived in London. Did you live in the city?”
The boy shook his head. “I lived — um — live — a few kilometers from Haverhill,” he said. “At least that’s what my father says.”
“I come here every so often to get away. The others need me, but I need peace. You know what I mean?”
The boy, more naive but still aware of the evolution experienced by their company, straightened one side of his mouth, tightening half his face and signaling his assent with a second of direct eye contact.
“I need my mum. My father. My big brother. My little…”
“I know. But for now — .” Simon sought a diversion. “So you’ve never swung from a lamp post? It’s ever so fun! And it’s not a dangerous game like those others.”
“Whizzo! Can you show me?”
“Sure, but you’ll have to help me find a strong low branch. In the city, we use the crossbar of the lamp post — the one lamplighter’s lean their ladders on. So I guess the branch should be a couple meters high. Enough to throw the vine over the branch and grab it at both ends.”
The friends played most of the day. First just dangling their feet. Then starting by dangling, and then kicking their feet to swing. After an hour or two of fun and laughter of the improvised gymnastics, they found a tree with similar branches on either side. The boys realized they could start running from about five meters away and, if timed just right, grab onto the suspended vine with both hands and allow the momentum to take them almost the height of the branches.
Before they knew it, it was late afternoon. The littlun’s stomach growled so loudly, it seemed to echo through the trees. His next meal would be easier than the last.
Simon was at work immediately. He sprung from the cushy cot where they had reclined to catch an afternoon nap and attached himself to a tree, scaling it quickly and grabbing some of the delicious fruit at the top. He leapt off the tree and landed on the soft grass. He came back and sat down, handing one of the fruits to the littlun.
“Here you go, uh — .” Simon paused. He could not remember the boy’s name, or if he was ever told what it was. “I’ve been meaning to ask. What’s your name?” The littlun looked up at Simon, pieces of the juicy fruit covering his face.
“My…my name? My name — is — Bastion. My name is Bastion.” The boy smiled a smile at Simon that continued uninterrupted into the last bite of his fruit as he considered the incredible new friend he had made that day.
No one here could ruin this bond. What Simon attempted to give everyone, he was able to get from Bastion: respect, appreciation, and companionship. Bastion gave these almost unconditionally, without hesitation; as far as the others, though Simon had tried to cultivate these things among them, they refused.
The two agreed. Bastion would continue to live independent of the other boys who assumed him dead. Simon would bring supplies, help him find and catch food, play games with him, and help him maintain a perfectly stable hut suitable for protection from the elements and representative of the habitations to which they both hoped to return one day. It turns out where these two boys were wasn’t the unfriendly side of the mountain as the others thought. They just hoped it would last.
Simon left to return to the other side of the island to tend to the littluns and attempt sleep. The night wind grew and delivered a scent of salt and smoke that hovered unnoticed over Bastion’s peacefully resting body.
Leave a comment below to let us know what you think. How would you add to this? What would you change? Can you identify some ways we attempted to replicate the original author’s use of symbolism, diction, plot and theme development, and characterization?