It’s something I’ve always heard about but never tried. Ideas have popped into my head about it over the years and it’s never seemed like a good time to make them happen. This year, though, I’ve started. I’m going through both English 2 and English 3 thematically. I’m sure that sometimes we’ll fall out of that theme. That could even be a healthy thing. But for the most part, I’m going to stick to it.
Theme: Insiders and outsiders – how do we treat those who don’t meet expectations?
Summary: This is a tough one because kids think they are incredibly inclusive. I suppose, really, when asked directly everyone thinks this. Getting students to think about cliques and gangs is one route to take. Sports teams is another. We started off reading “All Summer in a Day” and picked out the different groups represented there. From a poster/presentation about four different groups each student identifies with, we moved on to “Straw Into Gold” and discussed when Cisneros feels like an outsider and why. Currently humping through The Things They Carried, we’re picking out the different types of groups there. Who does O’Brien try to make the reader sympathize with? What happens to those that are on the outside of a group? How does war time influence all this?
Status: It’s going OK, though I already spent too much time on one chapter of the novel (ironically enough, one called “Spin”). The idea of the class theme is one that I need to develop further in the minds of the kids.
Future Plans: They will write one paper for me all semester long, one that they will simply add to as the months tick off and we step through different writing types. The frame for the paper will be their current understanding of how we categorize people in society, with their reading of each story adding to that understanding and either affirming or changing their beliefs. They have the first writing assignment with relation to TTTC, but I need to get them writing about their own understanding of how this kind of outsider treatment plays out in the world today. I plan to have an in-class writing assignment about this as the way to form the introduction to the paper. What they write about TTTC will extend those in-class written ideas.
Theme: Rule – political, social, familial, why are rules in place? what happens when power goes where it’s not supposed to?
Summary: We began with Cisneros’s “Eleven” and talked about rules for how people should be treated on their birthday, along with rules for how classroom interactions should go. A posted on each student’s three most important rules was next. A brief stop at “The Interlopers” and “Searching for Summer” got to some small discussion of rules before we launched into Animal Farm, where we are currently.
Status: Again, I need to develop this theme in the minds of my students more clearly. This is an easier theme to discuss than the one for English 3, though.
Future Plans: You guessed it, an in-class writing about the importance of rules and what life would be like without them is impending. I haven’t created the final writing prompt for AF yet, but it’s a pretty clear connection to rules and their value. We’re going to talk about the seven principles of animalism on Monday and Tuesday, so that’s a good place to start the discussion.