Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Considering Identity (created by Beth Day, Furman University)

Considering Identity

American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel)

Supplemented by:

Anne Frank's Diary, Anne Frank

Number the Stars, Louis Lowry

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor

The Wringer, Jerry Spinelli

Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

Essential Questions: What does it mean to have an identity? What is your identity? What does it mean to fit in or to be an outsider?


· Identity through

· culture

· gender

· friends

· family

· religion

· Bullying


· The teacher and class begin reading American Born Chinese as a class.

· Each day, the teacher poses one question about the text, and encourages the students to pose questions as well.

· The teacher allows students to choose a novel to supplement American Born Chinese, to be read at home or in provided free reading time.

· The teacher is prepared to help the students draw connections between the texts, and helps facilitate classroom discussions based around how the characters are outsiders and concerned with identity.

· The teacher is also prepared for the possibility of students who have been bullied responding to these texts by sharing their experiences. The teacher may bring in a school counselor to address bullying in relation to the texts, or use other available bullying-prevention tools provided at their school.

· The teacher has, if possible, arranged a video conference online (using a program like Skype) with students from another culture. This will allow students to talk to students from a very different culture (as you can Skype with people around the world) and learn from students' their own age, as well as hopefully increasing a respect for people different than themselves.

Student Products:

· Students begin by reading American Born Chinese with their teacher in the classroom and at home.

· Eventually, the supplemental books are introduced, and for homework, students come up with questions from their reading.

· Students interview friends and family about incidences in which they have felt like and outsider and instances in which they have fit in. Students then write about incidences in their own lives.

· Students respond to online prompts in time provided in media labs at school. These prompts could be on any variety of topics related to the texts and classroom discussions. The change in medium for response provides students that don't usually respond in class a chance to voice their thoughts, and allows the students an opportunity to plan, revise, and edit their contributions before submitting them.

Considering the News (created by Beth Day, Furman University)

Considering the News

The Nightly News (graphic novel) by Jonathon Hickman

Supplemented by:

Safe Area Gorazde (journalistic comic book) by Joe Sacco

Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories of Rick Bragg (collected articles) by Rick Bragg

[News articles from major networks]

Essential Questions: What priorities do journalists consider when choosing what stories to report and in reporting them? What role should/does journalism play today?


· Bias in journalism

· Developing a critical appreciation for the news

· The impact journalism has on society


· The class as a whole reads The Nightly News, a graphic novel by Jonathon Hickman. During the class days while the students are reading this work at home and/or in class,

· The teacher asks students to bring in articles from the news the night before class and helps the students identify bias or “spin” in the articles.

· It may be effective to have students bring in various networks' articles on the same topic or incident to contrast.

· The teacher discusses the differences and similarities between journalism articles and persuasive essays (how language that is inappropriate for journalism can be ideal for persuasive essays) setting the stage for a later essay involving what they have learned about journalism.

· The teacher assigns a series of in-class writing assignments, either about a set topic, or a topic of students' choice, for the students to practice writing interesting and brief news articles. Because of how short the articles are, in-class peer conferences and student-teacher conferences regarding the articles allows for students to develop their journalistic writing quickly while focusing on introductions with interesting ledes, eliminating bias, and writing with only the most expressive, necessary words.

· The teacher provides excerpts from Safe Area Gorazde, a journalistic graphic novel written about war in Bosnia, as well as excerpts from Somebody Told Me, a collection of renowned journalist Rick Bragg's articles, as examples of strong journalism and for contrast and comparison with the articles the students bring in.

Possible Student Products:

· A series of short articles developing specific writing goals and exploring possible topics for journalism.

· Many of the “spin” techniques identified as inappropriate for journalism are appropriate for a strong persuasive essay: this unit may lend itself well to a transition into writing persuasive essays.

· This persuasive essay could be on what the student has come to believe the role of journalism should be to a community, whether or not journalism is important, and what role journalism plays in their own community or country.

· Interested students could write in to a local newspaper (for example, a letter to the editor) about a topic of interest to them.

Considering Fundamentalism (created by Beth Day, Furman University)

Considering Fundamentalism

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Supplemented by:

Excerpts from: Surfacing (Atwood)

Excerpts from: Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose (Atwood)

Reading Lolita in Tehran (Nafisi)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Essential Question: What effect do extremist ideologies have on people? What effect do extremist governments have on their citizens?


· Religious extremism

· Political extremism

· Ideological (Ie- feminist) extremism


· The teacher is familiar with Atwood and Satrapi's own statements about their work. Surfacing and Writing with Intent are good resources for insight into Atwood's background and ideas, as well as this interview: http://www.randomhouse.com/resources/bookgroup/handmaidstale_bgc.html.

· Atwood's discussion of her influences and motivations will likely make clear the connection between these two texts.

· The teacher uses present-day Iran as the springboard from where other research and discussion can move from.

· The teacher joins students in locating Iran on GoogleEarth as well as exploring the country via the internet through this tool and other web-searches. (GoogleEarth provides extremely recent photos of the countryside, the people, and the country as a whole.)

· The teacher provides excerpts from Reading Lolita in Tehran (a book that provides additional insight into Iran during the revolution interspersed with literary criticism of novels students may be familiar with.)

· The teacher prepares quotes from extreme leaders through history, as well as the impact these extremists had on history.

Student Products:

· Students could be responsible for research on:

· Present-day extremist states

· Present-day extremist ideological movements

· Past extremist states

· Past extremist ideological movements

· Students could choose to work in groups and present their findings on a more extensive topic to the class.

· Or, students could opt to write a more in-depth research paper on a specific aspect or person.

· Students might respond to the quotes their teacher provides from extremists with a letter to the person either warning them of the possible consequences of their ideology or encouraging them to continue on, depending on the historical consequences.

· Students could also do this exercise by writing letters to people they perceive to be present-day leaders, warning or encouraging them, backing their concerns or support with references to Persepolis, The Handmaid's Tale, and the research they have done on real-world extremists.

Considering Life after 9/11 (created by Beth Day, Furman University)

Considering Life After 9/11

Excerpts from: The 9/11 Commission Graphic Novel

Supplemented by:

Excerpts from: Extremely Loud and incredibly Close, Jonathan Foer

Excerpts from: Amazing Spider-Man issue #36 (comic)

Excerpts from: Literature after 9/11(scholarly text)

Excerpts from: History, Emotion, and the Body:Mourning in Post-9/11 Fiction, Benjamin Bird (scholarly article)

Essential Question: How has life and literature changed since 9/11?


· Freedom before and after

· Rhetoric before and after

· Role of real-world heroes and superheroes in life and literature


· Provides pictures of iconic 9/11 images to students and asks them to reflect on their memories of the day. If students are too young to remember, the teacher asks students to interview older friends or family about the day.

· The teacher introduces the 9/11 Commission Report graphic novel: the class will read this work in class and at home.

· The teacher provides students with political speeches and news reports following 9/11, and facilitates a discussion of the rhetoric used to discuss the attack as well as the role of “heroes” in the weeks and months after. (Why is the anniversary of 9/11 “Patriot's Day”?)

· The teacher assigns Extremely Loud and incredibly Close and Spiderman issue #36 (each is read by approximately half the class.) These two works are highlighted in Literature after 9/11 and have many potential springboards for discussion and written responses.

Student Products:

· Interviews with family and friends that remember the events of the day.

· Students choose to read either Extremely Loud and incredibly Close or Spiderman issue #36.

· Students read these texts as homework; in class, they work in groups comparing and contrasting the two texts, as well as how each text compares with the political speeches and news reports, using History, Emotion, and the Body:Mourning in Post-9/11 Fiction and Literature after 9/11 as tools.

Considering Censorship (designed by Beth Day, Furman University)

Considering Censorship

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (graphic novel)

Essential Question: What is the importance of the written word to people? What are the implications of eradicating (or attempting to eradicate) the written word?


· Relationship between language and thought

· The power of words

· Impact of written language

· Impact of TV on the written word


· The teacher assigns Fahrenheit 451 (graphic novel) for the class to read

· The teacher leads a series of mini-lessons on:

· slaves not allowed to read

· cultures where women are not allowed to read

· censorship in America through history

· These lessons will facilitate discussion of the interplay between those in power and what is published and the power of writing.

· The teacher leads discussions between the role of television on books, challenging students to watch no TV for a week and observe what they do with their free time in lieu of television. Teachers may want to introduce the idea of the internet and its role on books. Excerpts from a book such as The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) may be used a conversation starter. The teacher challenges the students to consider the authors' ideas and come to their own conclusions. If they disagree, would they censor the author/s?

Student Products:

Students could choose between a variety of products, including:

· Students write an essay arguing for or against banning a book of their choice. This could be retroactive-- a student could write a letter to the society of the time that a book was banned, even if it is no longer banned.

· Students write a paper explaining why books are banned today and whether any of the instances are appropriate.

· Students write a letter to the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) to challenge or support the authors ideas.

· Students choose one book that they would memorize if all the books were to be burned and then write a paper explaining how and why they chose that book.