Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 2

Well week two could have had a better discussion, but it wasn’t terrible considering the sophomores had just completed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the seniors were all caught up in scholarship deadlines. So the number of students who had not completed the reading outnumbered those who had.

But we started with some predictions. For those that had completed the reading, they had a chance to predict some of what Blue will face. Most of them suspect that life for Blue will take another turn for the worse, but they still don’t have specific predictions.

For those who hadn’t completed the reading, I had them write their predictions for the chapters based on the paragraph synopses of the books the chapters pull their names from. Some of them were able to predict fairly well, but others did not draw a solid connection between the title and what could happen.

What I learned this time was that foreshadowing is more difficult if you haven’t read much. Most of the students in the reading group aren’t readers (yet), and I am learning that what seems obvious to me and jumps off the page as contrived or trite appears new to them. I have some suspicions as to why they are in high school and yet lack the skills to point to examples of foreshadowing.

Next week we will meet more of the characters who will play a larger role in the remainder of the story. We will also hit some of the longest and slowest parts of the novel, but I’m hopeful that the students trust my judgment enough to stick it out. I’d forgotten, until I reread it, that Pessl does a great job laying a solid foundation for the rest of the story to stand on. Why this fantastic world building may trip up several of the students is that so few authors do it anymore. And since many of the students prefer stories that keep up the action (and yet don’t like fantastical elements in their stories), the initially slow pacing may get the better of some of them. But I have faith in the students.