This discussion will take place in the Office Conference room.

Emily Weinrich
Chris McGonigle
Grace Mallett (Facilitator)
David Smurphy
Caroline Mallet
Binks Colby-George
John Auble

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Pre-Discussion Processing

Significant Characters:
Mr. Burnham
Ah Fatt
Neel Halder

On the banks of the holy river Ganges and in Calcutta. Set prior to the Opium Wars in the 1800s.

1. Whip

Whip questions for beginning of the discussion:
  • How did you like the book?
  • How did you respond to a certain character?
  • What did you care most about in the book?
  • Describe your level of understanding.
Whip questions for the middle of the discussion:
  • How did you respond to a plot event?
  • What passage(s) made an impact on you?
  • What points already said do you agree or disagree with?
Whip questions for the end of the discussion:
  • What comment made today most affected your thinking?
  • What have you learned most about the book/the issues raised by the book today?
  • What questions still linger for you?

2. Ten Words or Less

  • On your own or with one partner, summarize the book in ten words or less. Give everyone three minutes.
  • Share the summaries: the writer reads the summary and another participant asks a question or makes a comment in response to that summary. The writer responds and talk can open from there. Move to the next summary.
  • Commit to each summary earning one comment or question from another participant.

3. Leveled Questions

1. What is the significance of the title of the novel "Sea of Poppies?" What do the poppies represent?
2. What does the Ibis represent to Zachary at various points in the novel? How does his perception of the ship change as his perception of himself changes?
3. What aspects of the Opium War surprised you the most?
4. What are some of the major themes that reoccur throughout the novel?
5. How does Paulette's upbringing serve her later in life? What are her advantages and disadvantages?
6. What is the opium of today?
7. How does love motivate the different characters? (i.e. when Deeti gives up her child)
8. How do you feel about the way the novel ended?

4. Passage Path

  • Everyone should refresh their memory of passages they've marked as important in the text.
  • One person starts by bringing the group to a passage that felt significant. He or she briefly explains why the passage feels important.
  • The rest of the group should be thinking about other passages that compares or contrasts (for any reason) to the original. When a participant feels she has one, direct the rest of the group members to the page number and read the passage aloud. The participant explains the connection to the first passage; others can contribute.
  • Repeat #2 until as many passages have been brought up as there are participants in the group, or for a small group, go around twice. Feel free to make connections to passages discussed earlier.
  • Be aware not to but undue pressure on individuals with this protocol, but work together to find and explain the connections between the passages.

5. Another Point of View

  • Choose a scene or longer passage that is ripe for discussion.
  • Together, examine how the story is narrated. Describe the narrator’s position, level of power, and tone. Open discussion for three minutes or until you’ve covered it.
  • After you feel content with the discussion in #2, re-examine the scene from another character’s or narrator’s point of view, especially a person who has a different level of power than the narrator.
  • Discuss the scene/passage openly from both points of view.

Discussion Questions:

What are the issues and ideas within this novel you’d like to discuss with each other? Be sure to consider various parts of the text (beginning, middle and end). Collaboratively create 15-25 open-ended questions that promote discussion and organize them logically. You can use them within a protocol or on their own.

  • Personal Response Questions -- These questions might address your personal reactions to the style and content of the novel and ask group members to share and compare.
  • Open-ended, analytical questions -- These promote multiple perspectives and don’t yield a single answer. They address the WHY and HOW.
  • Significant passage questions -- Observe, as you would in close reading, the qualities of the text and how the passage brings meaning to the novel overall.

4. Culture & Context

We recognize that we're reading books that take place in different cultures than ours. What do you need to know about this culture that would give you deeper insight to the story? Use a Historical/Biographical approach and pose questions. The bullets below give you some places to start. Each group member should post at least one question, and each group member should research a resource and post his or her findings that respond to the question. Post a resource for someone else's question. Label your questions and posts so we can see that everyone contributed to both steps.

Important Cultural Interviews:

Culture Questions:

Was it acceptable to use opium in that time period? (David)

What were the effects of opium use, and did it have any roots in the Opium War? (Grace)

What was the Ibis's role in the Opium War? (Emmy)

What was the cause of the Opium War? (Grace)