Saturday, October 5, 2013

American Literature Units Chosen by Students

This year I decided to ask my students to vote on the units they would study in American Literature.  A big thank you to all those who helped refine my list of topics and corresponding texts.

For those who are interested, here is the final list I gave my students to choose from.  Here's the raw data from voting results.

And here are the units I'm teaching this year:

  • Classroom and School Community (my unit to start off the year)
  • Witch Hunts (The Crucible as an anchor text with literature circles on books about Salem witch trials, modern adaptations, and 1950s McCarthyism)
  • Horror Stories (Edgar Allen Poe, I Am Legend, and possibly In Cold Blood)
  • Terrorism (Not sure yet; maybe literature circles with some YA texts like Ghosts of War, Sunrise Over Fallujah1, but also some non-YA texts like Manhunt)
  • Dark Times in America (Snow Falling on Cedars?  All the President's Men?  Other texts about times America was on the wrong side of history)
  • In my district, in 11th grade they write a pretty extensive research paper.  I may do this with the horror stories unit because I have a number of students who are really interested in serial killers2, or I may do this as a separate unit.
I'm still finishing up the school community unit, but from what I saw the first days, the unit selection earned me some street cred3, and in some ways it made my job easier - I wouldn't be able to cover all of American Literature in a year.  One of my colleagues says he rarely gets past transcendentalism.  This way I cover a wider breadth historically and have greater engagement from my students.

Next time, I think I may just give students a list of units.  I gravitated towards those results since I already had an idea of what I could do with them, and I think they are more engaging to the students as well rather than a list of historical eras.

1. Those these are more related to the War in Iraq than terrorism directly . . . Go back.
2. Yeah, it's a little creepy.  Go back.
3. Not street cred.  Some other type of cred.  But more than just regular ol' credibility.  Cred.  Go back.

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