I tried a new unit with 10th grade English this semester, mostly thanks to the new English teacher in the department with whom I have become chummy.
In the past, I have filled the gap in our curriculum betwen Night and The Kite Runner with a world poetry unit (haiku, Anceint Egyptian poetry, etc.) it has always worked fairly well because the content was light, which was perfect for the time of the semester when I was most focused on teaching esay writing. This year, however, I have English second semester, with the writing test (and thus our writing unit) was over and done with in early March. I needed a middle unit that was more beefed up, content wise. It also struck me that, with a class that was 90% male, poetry might not be my best bet this go around.
Thus began the “Hero” unit. We read myths from many different world cultures (Greek, Mayan, Japanese, Persian) and compared and contrasted the heroes, discussed the parts of the (extremely abbreviated) hero cycle, etc.
Everything went fine. This interest level was … not bad. The comprehension level was high (at least amongst those who attended class). But the final project turned out to be the best of all.
For their culminating project, I had students write their own myth. It had to incorporate all parts of the hero cycle and be school appropriate, but beyond that I left it wide open. Students also had to color up and complete an “action figure” template of their hero.
Holy god, this project was like 10th grade crack. I have never seen this group more focused (and this the week before spring break!) I just barely had time to say “pull out your myth project and get to work” each day before silence descended on the room and students plotted on their myth planning sheet and calmly colored with crayons. It was fabulous. I got some extremely creative and amusing “heros” out of this project. One student, clearly taking our unit on Night to an unexpected level, created a Ninja-Rabbi with Star of David nunchucks. Another student actually turned in two completed “action figures” because I nixed his first (Action Mary Jane, she was green with blood shot eyes, born out of a plant, and she went around making depressed people happy. *snerk*) as non school appropriate. He actually finished it at home. I haven’t recieved any essays from this student all year, but Action Mary Jane he’ll complete at home.
Clearly, I need to have these students color more often.
English is my last block and my A.P. students, wandering in after school to complete test corrections picked up a couple of the blank templates.
“What is this!?”
“Is this what we are doing tomorrow!?” (the level of hope in their voices was pathetic)
“Sorry guys. That’s for my 10th Grade English class.”
“Tomorrow we’re discussing the diplomatic underpinnings of the U.S.’s foreign policy during the early Cold War.”
(I mock glared at them). “Hey now, hey now.”
“Oh, sorry. Um … Yay?”