As students read The Red Badge of Courage, they will notice that the first part of the novel deals with Henry’s overwhelming fear about deserting the fight when it comes to real battles. His fears are not unrealistic: he knows from veterans and seeing wounded soldiers that he could very well be maimed or killed. (Ironically, the only injury Henry receives in the whole novel is in a brief scuffle off of the battle field with another soldier.) One of Henry’s primary issues is that he feels he can’t share his fear with anyone to get help, so he bottles it up inside. Perhaps if he had been given solid advice, or just not felt so alone, he might not have deserted his regiment.
It may help students to identify with Henry by imagining their own worst fears and coming up with an action plan for how to overcome that fear if they are ever faced with it. They can document this in a storyboard like the one below, and share in groups or present to the class. They may be surprised to find out how many of their classmates share the same fear, and there might be great suggestions for how to deal with it!
My Fear: I’m running for class president, but I am afraid of making my speech in front of the entire school next week.
Strategy #1 Practicing beforehand several times creates memories in your muscles that will help you when you actually get up to speak. Your voice will remember what to emphasize, and you’ll already know how to place your hands or stand.
Strategy #2: Don’t make eye contact with anyone; instead, look over their heads, just above their eye level. That way, you don’t get distracted by people’s facial expressions.
Strategy #3: Make the font on the page really large, and only fill each page about halfway down. This way you can look up often and you won’t rely on looking down as much. Also, number the pages so if you drop them, you can quickly put them back in order!
Strategy #4: Enlist the help of a friend or family member to listen and give suggestions. They can even record you so you can already see and hear what the audience will see and hear. That way there will be no surprises!
Grade Level 9-10
Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)
Type of Assignment Individual or PartnerCommon Core Standards
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