Stumped as to how your literature unit on The Midwife's Apprentice should start? Here are some fun and meaningful unit starter activities for this medieval novel that you can try in your modern classroom.
The fastest and most meaningful way to get the students to connect with any story is to bring up the theme and let the students feel it. In the novel The Midwife’s Apprentice, one of the main themes is faith in the power of believing. Take off with these activities to start The Midwife's Apprentice unit (primary):
Literary Circe Sharing
Start by showing a short video clip that shows perseverance and unwavering faith. After watching as a class, have everyone gather in a circle and start with your Literary Circle. Here are some questions to get the ball rolling:
- Has someone ever told you that you are not good enough?
- How did you feel when someone told you that you are not good enough? If you haven’t been told this, how would you feel, then, if you experience this?
- What are you good at? (In asking this, encourage the students that it is perfectly okay to share to everyone else what they are good at. Gifts are blessings that one should feel proud of.)
Differentiated Group Activities
After the literary circle, divide the class into three groups. Follow differentiated groups aligned with the theory on multiple intelligences—group the writers to form the first team, then have all the actors in the second team, and put all visual artists in the third team. Here are the tasks of each team:
- Writers – Internalize the character of Alyce—particularly when she was still a nameless, homeless girl. Penetrate her thoughts during the time she was in the dung heap. If her mind could talk during that time, what things would she have said about her family? About her destiny? What do you think was she thinking to encourage/discourage herself given her state? About how she perceives and assesses her state? Write down her thoughts on a white cartolina.
- Actors – Portray your own version of how Alyce was found by Jane. Picture the conversation, the body gestures and facial expressions, and the intonation that Jane had at that time. Then, do a segue—have someone else (not a character in the novel) suddenly pop in the middle of the scene to interview Jane at that exact moment. Prepare at least three questions for the interviewer to ask.
- Visual Artists – If you could design a book cover based on what you have read as of now, what images would the book cover contain? Illustrate your answer on a half sheet of cartolina.
Shout Your Heart Out
Again, gather everyone in a circle. Have the students close their eyes as you orally set the mood and atmosphere of the circle activity by describing in vivid detail the situation of Alyce when she was found in the dung heap. Do this carefully and thoroughly. You can have some background music to enhance the imagination and picturing of details in the minds of the students. Then, ask the students (who are in the character of Alyce) to think of one sentence that they would want to shout to the world as they (she) lay helpless in the dung heap. After one minute of think time, instruct the students to shout out their sentences one by one. Emphasize to them that even though they are asked to shout, it doesn’t mean that the emotion they should feel is one of anger. The shout can be of joy, sorrow, anger, anguish, frustration, etc. After everyone has shouted, process the activity by asking them why they “reacted" that way to their “situation."
The key to creating The Midwife's Apprentice lessons is to make the students connect with the characters through theme discussions. It is during these enactment strategies that the students are able to turn their being detached to the novel into being one with the thoughts and feelings of the characters.