I was discussing To Kill a Mockingbird with a 5th grade student of mine, and we analyzed what Scout meant about Atticus treating her and Jem the same outside the house as he does inside--in short, that he's NOT a hypocrite. Lighting up, she exclaimed, "Oh! So he's like Dr. Seuss's character who 'says what me means and means what he says'? That's the opposite of a hypocrite, too, right?" How about that for critical thinking? By a 5th grader! Studying a high-school required reading book! Offering her unique text-to-text analysis! And the greatest part of this whole lesson was the SECOND part: we analyzed the scene in which the teacher, Miss Caroline, admonishes Scout for writing cursive as a first grader, when "we don't write until the third grade." My 5th grade student smiled as she commented, "That teacher doesn't believe kids should do work above their grade level."
"You mean like writing responses to high-school-level books?" I laughed. "Now write an essay-style paragraph about the role of teachers, using concrete details from this passage about Miss Caroline and Scout." She proceeded to write a very thoughtful, not-at-all-5th-grade-level, thematic paragraph.
I love teaching!