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Fox Lane Middle School Takes Literary Discussion Outdoors

 FLMS students sit in a circle outdoors for an ELA lesson

“Outside, the woods lay in clear October sunlight: the autumn air was full of the sharp, exciting smell of moist, leaf-covered earth.” So reads the opening line of Ruthless by William de Mille, one of the short stories Fox Lane Middle School eighth graders explored during a recent outdoor lesson. 

With warm temperatures and lots of sunshine this fall, Bedford Central School District students have been able to enjoy the outdoors often. Whether students get outside for physical education classes, reading breaks or for full lessons, teachers have utilized the outdoors as a way to shake things up while simultaneously allowing for mask breaks.

“We are so fortunate to have a beautiful campus to take advantage of the great weather,” said 8 South ELA teacher John Nemsick, who, along with Learning Specialist Pamela Burke, took advantage of a gorgeous day to get students a little extra excited about discussing literature.

During the group discussion, students compared and contrasted two characters from the short stories Ruthless by William de Mille and Button, Button by Richard Matheson through the lens of an interesting question: Do you think people get what they deserve? Students were asked to reference specific scenes in the stories to support their answers.

After the discussion, the group reflected on their involvement noting that participation can include speaking, active listening, note taking and questioning.

“I was a thinker today,” one student commented. “When Addie said that Arthur got what he deserved, I was thinking, ‘I disagree with her reasoning,’ but I didn’t feel like saying that aloud.”

Another student enjoyed the thrill of debate.

“Today’s discussion was fun,” the student said. “We were arguing about whether Norma deserved to die and whether she was responsible for Arthur’s death. We had different opinions but I liked arguing why mine was right.”

A third student enjoyed the change of scenery saying, “It was fun to get out of the classroom.”

“Moving the discussion outside certainly added to the spirit of the conversation,” Nemsick said. “Students were able to congregate in a circular shape so no person had their back to another. The shape of the group and being outside in a casual environment created a dynamic where more students felt comfortable sharing their thoughts.”

Nemsick plans to continue to take advantage of the campus’s unique layout for as long as the weather allows it.