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Teacher Lesson Return to "Talking to the Ceiling"
Talking to the Ceiling
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Lesson for "Talking to the Ceiling"

Faith and Death: Discussion, Group Activity, and Writing Assignment

1. Before the activity: Before the class, write down each “Starter Question” listed below on a separate piece of paper or index card. Cut up the questions and put them in a hat or box.

2. Introduce the activity: Tell your group they are going to read a story about a teen who thinks about the connection between religion and death. You will also ask the group to write the author a letter.

3. Read aloud from one passage to get them interested: Read aloud the passage that starts with “When I arrived…” and ends with “I went to the living room to sit with the woman.”

Ask the class what about this passage stands out. Call their attention to the powerful, specific description of the dying man. Ask them why Percy provides such a detailed description. What do the details make them feel? What does putting these details into the story reveal about Percy: Is he compassionate? Fearful? Morbid?

4. Group work, reading, and discussion: Divide the class into four groups. (Note: They will be reading the story in the group so include one stronger reader in each group.) Ask them to draw a starter question from the box or hat.

Tell your groups to read the story aloud and then choose a group leader to take notes as they discuss their starter question. They are to list as many answers as they can generate in 15 minutes. All answers must be supported by an example from the story or from life. There must be at least one example drawn from the story for each group.

5. Present results: Groups take turns presenting the results, with each member giving at least one answer-with-example to the whole class. The class asks follow-up questions requesting more details, and makes connections to their own presentations and their own lives. You can map this on the board. Write short notes with the issues and examples from each group; then draw lines where the class has noted connections. At the end, you’ll have filled the board with connections.

6. Write a letter to Percy: Ask the students to write a letter to the author. Ask them to answer the following questions in their letter: Do you agree with his attitudes about death and religion? What do you think about his witnessing someone’s death? Have you ever felt the same emotions he describes about religion?

Starter Questions

A. Why do you think Percy thinks about death when he thinks about religion? What do you think about the connections between religion and death?

B. How can a person believe something is true yet have feelings that maybe it isn’t true? Do you think Percy will someday change his mind and believe in God? Do you think he’s confused? What is an issue or belief that you have been confused about?

C. How does Percy’s view of death and the role of death in the world differ from some religious believers? How is it similar or how does it differ from your own views?

D. What does Percy think about the beliefs of religious people? Is it right for him to comfort people by saying things that he maybe doesn’t believe in? Have you ever told somebody something that you didn’t really believe in order to make him or her feel better? Was it right to do that? Why or why not?
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