What I Learned about Allusions

Ayn Grubb started us off with a picture. Looks like this:

from NM APSI 2010 handout p. 169

A complaint I’ve heard (and I admit, have given my students as a reason to study Greek mythology) is that students don’t read, therefore lacking the background knowledge necessary to understand what purpose allusions have in a story.

There are some clues we can use to help our students recognize when there is an allusion: something that doesn’t fit–something that’s outside the story.

from NM APSI 2010 handout p. 170
So how do we go about scaffolding the instruction? Guiding students to think about why an author would choose to make an allusion rather than spelling everything out. In session, we read an excerpt of “Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara. Then we filled in a T-Chart with information on what we know about Dodge City (which I didn’t know anything about until someone said “Wild West”), and what we knew about Squeaky walking down the street in Harlem.
from p. 172…and my notes
The difference between this exercise and the T-Charts as I’ve seen them used at school is the question at the bottom: “What greater meaning is added to the story by this allusion?” We looked at what Bambara implied without really using all the words, and came up with a purpose for the allusion. For me, this was T-charts in a totally different light.

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