>This week we have been reading one of my favorite stories, “Flowers for Algernon.” Charlie Gordon, a 37 year old man, with an IQ of 68, undergoes an experimental brain surgery that is designed to triple his intelligence.
In the story, Charlie continuously competes with a mouse named Algernon, to complete a set of maze races. Throughout the story, there are numerous pictures and detailed descriptions of said mouse as well as the various mazes they race through.
As I read the story aloud, the kids follow along in their books stopping at various places to summarize the main ideas and answer questions. I am constantly surprised at how kids can go through the motions of learning, but clearly miss… well… you’ll see.
Me: At this point in the story, Charlie is frustrated because he doesn’t feel like he’s getting any smarter. Think about what we read yesterday, take a look at your notes, and list three examples that show Charlie’s intelligence is actually increasing.
Student 1: “Oh, he beat that moose in some race.”
Student 2: “It wasn’t a moose, it was a monkey.”
Student 1: “Right. He beat that monkey in a race. Monkeys aren’t even that smart or else they wouldn’t sit around all day holding their poop.” (He then proceeds to do a very poor pantomime of, what I assumed to be a monkey juggling his poop.) “Look at me playing with my poop. I’m so smart, just try to beat me.”
I hold my hand up in the air to get everyone’s attention.
Me: “This is an activity that does not require talking. Please be sure you are using your notes, and for some of you, it might be a good idea to look through the book to help you out.”
I begin to weave up and down the rows as students begin writing.
Student 3: With a look of deep thought on her face, and her pencil moving frantically across her paper, she mumbles to herself, “A monkey, especially a gorilla, better think twice about fighting me because man, it would be so on.”