Saturday, June 15, 2013

American Literature Units

Next year I'm teaching American Literature to juniors.  The last time I taught the course was my first year teaching, so there are quite a few things I'd like to do differently.

This will also be the first summer I've had a solid job set up for next year.  I won't be spending my time completing applications for dozens of districts or signing up for licensure tests to add endorsements that are contingent for my employment.

So, because I'm a little sick1, I already started putting together a basic year-long plan aligned with standards.

I was feeling good and wanted to nail down some overarching questions for the full year, because that would be cool.  Overarching questions are like essential questions that cover the whole year - the "so what?"  I had one, but I wanted some other ideas and decided to consult some literature from my undergrad to make sure I remembered how to select overarching questions.

So I pulled out Teaching English Through Principled Practice by Peter Smagorinsky and found the section on overarching questions, which gave me some ideas, and looked through the chapter on year long units2.

Smagorinsky (2002) states there are three ways to set up a years worth of units.  There are all out teacher selected or where students craft all the units.  Then, there is the middle ground:
In this approach to choosing a curriculum, the teacher sets up a menu of possible topics, allowing the students to select eight or so for their year's study . . . This approach has the advantage of giving the students choices in their learning while operating in a framework of topics that the teacher considers culturally and educationally important (p. 36).
I had considered doing this my first year teaching, but Smagorinsky (2002) warns against it:
It is often a good idea to wait a few years before taking this approach so that you will have several units prepared, rather than having to write many new units from scratch in your first or second year on the job (p. 36).
After teaching for five years in three different districts, I'm ready to skin this chicken.  Peel this potato.  Gut this fish.  I am all over this like ham on cheese.  And apparently in need of a snack.

Here's where you, my dear readers, come in.  Having taught American Literature only once, and for just a semester, as a first year teacher, I need a list of American Literature units.  I've got 26 ideas right now on this Google doc.  Some are bad, some are better.  I also need texts I could teach with them.  No idea is too questionable.  From this I can put together a final list and say to my students in September4, "Choose your top ten."

Works Cited

Smagorinsky, P. (2002). Teaching English through principled practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

1. You can use the common interpretation or the student vernacular. Go back.
2. My current favorite quote from this book: "You'll probably end up teaching the selections in an order quite different from their order in the anthology.  Such is the life of the maverick" (p. 87).3 Go back.
3. I teach mostly with mavericks . . . wait, doesn't that go against the definition?
4. Yeah, that's right, suckas!  I don't start school until after Labor Day!5 Go back.
5. Makes working until mid-June worth it.

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