We have a new lesson plan available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store that uses Childish Gambino’s “This is America” as part of a larger teaching unit on Junot Diaz’s “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”.
Students will examine Donald Glover’s video, “This is America” and close-read its authorial choices, looking for examples of subversion and dictatorship–themes aligned with Diaz’s own work.
Students will create a brief presentation examining how these themes become apparent while also discussing their importance.
We have a new lesson on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The lesson includes two major assessments:
One, a 24-hour project for applying knowledge of major concepts in the book, such as diaspora and binary oppositions.
The second, a group presentation wherein students create a rigorous lesson to be presented on one of the symbols in the text. Students will have to trace their assigned symbol throughout the text in order to create sufficient arguments.
We have a new lesson available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is titled: Bildungsroman and Oscar Wao, and it is part of a larger unit on Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
This is an assignment in which students get to reflect on their own personal moments of bildungsroman–where they grew up and couldn’t go back. A powerful assignment in appreciating both the necessity and tragedy of growing up.
We have an exam on Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
The exam can be given orally or in written form. Students will need to show a depth of understanding of tricky subjects in order to score well. The teacher can allow them to use their texts during the exam in order to supply sufficient textual evidence.
We have a complete teaching unit for The Great Gatsby available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
This unit can be used over the course of 4-6 weeks. Students will close-read, do a ton of writing, and apply nonfiction research to the study of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
This hits all Common Core Anchor Standards and provides excellent skill development for your students.
We have a series of Hamlet assessments available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store.
We have a test on Act I of Shakespeare’s Hamlet available in our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Please check it out!
We have a new PowerPoint lesson available in our Teachers Pay Teachers Store. It is titled “Romeo and Juliet: The Tragedy of Growing Up.”
Focusing on the more universal tragedies within the text, this lesson examines growing beyond your friends and family–a more accessible aspect of the tragedy within the play.
A few weeks ago, Liz and I flew down to San Diego for our second CATE (California Association of Teachers of English) Conference.
Last year, the conference was in Santa Clara (a not-too-long drive for us), and we gave a presentation based on a chapter of our book, Method to the Madness. The presentation was titled, Creating Critical Thinkers through the Study of Literature (which is also our book’s subtitle).
This year, our presentation was based on another chapter of the book and was titled, Contemporary Short Fiction: the Key to Unlocking Potential and Leveling the Playing Field for Students of All Ability Levels (long title). We had given a longer version of the presentation to Tracy Unified School District in January.
The presentation began with the rationale for building curriculum centered on quality literature (fiction, poetry, drama, creative nonfiction). There was (still is?) a misperception that Common Core equals less literature in the English classroom and more “informational” reading. This, of course, is a misunderstanding that the framers of the standards have addressed: “Said plainly, stories, drama, poetry, and other literature account for the majority of reading that students will do in the high school ELA classroom. […]The Standards could not be clearer: ELA classrooms must focus on literature — that is not negotiable, but a requirement of high school ELA.” (David Coleman & Susan Pimental)
Next, Liz gave her pitch for using contemporary short stories in the English classroom, particularly as an opening unit, such stories being accessible to a variety of students (including those with attendance issues). These high-quality stories can be taught in a single class period (or two), and they offer students the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of voices while allowing the teacher the opportunity to establish (or remediate) essential skills.
We had prepared to use three short stories—Sticks by George Saunders, The Flowers by Amy Walker, and How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes) by Lorrie Moore—but we only got through the first two.
Each of those stories (Sticks and The Flowers) fits onto a single page, but each story is very meaty. We asked our participants to read and annotate each story, and, despite (as mentioned) each story being only one page, they each led to a wide-ranging academic discussion of the significant choices being made by the author.
(Note: all of the above was great, great, great, and a lot of fun, because our participants were so great, and also because Liz is so great at this.)
We ended with a discussion of narrative structure (the traditional plot curve, which is sometimes incorrectly perceived as a restraint to creativity and voice [a view I once embarrassingly held] but that instead allows for infinite variation).
We were getting short of our time, there were several slides to go, and I was sort of floundering, describing the plots of Pixar movies. Liz would later say that when I gave a third such example, she knew I was in trouble.
But a participant saved me by asking if, when learning about this narrative structure, which is so obvious in Pixar movies, students can apply the elements (ground situation, inciting incident, conflict, complications, climax, resolution) to something like The Flowers, which is so short and describes a single event.
This was exactly where, despite all floundering, we were supposed to be headed, and, as a group, we tried it. It turns out, despite being only one page and describing only one incident, The Flowers “fits” the narrative structure perfectly (infinite variation).
So, we modeled lessons on two one-page short stories (Sticks, by the way, Liz describes as the only “magic bullet” for English teachers: a two-paragraph story that students always like and always have so much to say about). Each story is accessible to a variety of students, and each story provides the opportunity for critical reading, critical thinking, analytical writing, and academic discussion.
Several people came up at the end to buy books (which was very nice), and a few told us that it was the best presentation they had been to all weekend (but maybe they say that to all the presenters).