I need help designing an assessment activity that would demonstrate a student has mastered a critical appreciation (analysis) of Valley Song, including social and ethical issues of the story.

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Athol Fugard's Valley Song is rife with allegories and symbolism that aid the reader who is not familiar with Apartheid to understand the depth with which this system penetrated the lives, the economy, and the psyche of the white and black people of South Africa.

The reader of Valley Song can demonstrate mastery of the topic and the aesthetic value of the plentiful literary devices by creating a graphic representation in the form of a collage, painting, or any other form of graphic organizer that shows, in contrast, how the cycle of growth and development of the pumpkin seeds are juxtaposed to the development and growth of Veronica as a citizen, and as a young woman growing up in Apartheid South Africa.

For example, the student can present a graphic display of the cycle of the pumpkin and correlate it to Veronica. As a child, Veronica is nurtured and cared for by her grandfather. As the pumpkin vine begins to flourish, so do her dreams and aspirations. However, the pumpkin has the chance to come to a full growth while Veronica is likely to remain stranded and never become a fruitful member of a society that rejects her.

Another good assessment tool would be to establish a compare/contrast character analysis of what is important to each character. To the Author, the important thing is the limelight, and how to bring himself down to "reality". Nevertheless, he is still shallow and does not understand what it is to love the land. Meanwhile "old Bucks" is the essence of the land, himself. He loves it, and maintains an interaction with nature by nurturing it, feeding it and, in contrast, Nature feeds and nurtures him back. Veronica is young and at a difficult age where questions about the self and the hope of a better life are ever-present. If you think about it, Old Bucks is the past, the Author is the present, and Veronica is the future. Not only their own past, presents, and futures, but those of South Africa.

Hence, allow your students to manifest their knowledge through art, even if it means graphic arts in the computer. This is a good idea because it will provide them with instant resources to gather information.

One very useful project is to keep a journal where they pretend to be one of the characters and in which they can re-write their own expressions of given circumstances: like, you may ask them a question as if you were the Author and they were one of the characters. Using contextual cues they can also add their personal touch to the answers, hence demonstrating understanding of the gist of the story. To do this project, just open a room on Ning, or use Blogspot to create a blog where all your students can add insights, or information about INTERESTING FACTS about Apartheid, or life in South Africa, that they have found.

Remember that assessing is exploring, not totally measuring. An ongoing assessment is the best to bring out the best in students given that you have a chance to provide constant feedback. Tap on what sets your students "on fire" when they are learning, and take advantage of their motivation.