Students in English I Class Enjoy Experiential Learning

by An Hoang ’14 –

While learning the book Silas Marner, students in Mrs. Davis’ English I class had a chance to experience the elements in the book in real life.

Silas Marner by George Eliot is a novel about a weaver who loses faith in God and humanity and discovers it again through the love of an orphan child. The book is full of lessons about choices and consequences and catastrophes. In Raveloe (where Silas resides), there is one place called The Rainbow where the rich and poor gather to hear fiddlers playing for them. Moreover, the children of farmers in Raveloe are suspicious of Silas because they were not familiar with the sound of the loom.

Realizing that the book conveys to the reader that important issues in the mid 1800’s are still critical today, Mrs. Davis decided to make the novel come alive to our class by recreating the important details, such as the weaving process and The Rainbow. For three years now, Mrs. Davis has been bringing students to, fellow teacher, Mrs. Geyer’s house so that they can see and weave on a real loom that she bought in Philadelphia. The loom is a huge, wooden contraption, with twelve pedals for different weaving styles and a shuttle. By manipulating the combination of pedals and the movement of the thread shuttle, the weaver can create many different patterns. On another day, Mrs. Davis took the class to the Vanilla Bean and then had Bennett Konesni and Jeff Davis play old English folk tunes for them in order to imitate The Rainbow in Silas Marner.

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Mrs. Davis has been thinking and practicing experiential learning for about 10 years now. The reason she prefers this practice is because, as she said: “Doing something that can help students relate to the book is critical and essential. They can understand the book more clearly, it grabs their attention and brings enthusiasm in studying.”

Silas Marner is a hard book to learn for freshman, because the language is thick and hard to read. At first, some students are not keen on learning a book from the 1800’s. However, after enjoying experiential learning, Mrs. Davis received the following positive feedback:

“I thought it just felt so real to weave and to be in a place like The Rainbow, I felt like I was in the book.”

“Seeing what Silas had to do to weave gave me an appreciation of his work.”

About Pomfret School

Founded in 1894, Pomfret is an independent co-educational college preparatory boarding and day school for 350 students in grades 9 through 12 and postgraduate, located on a scenic 500 acre campus in Northeastern Connecticut.
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