A. Cover Essay
Is this literacy? – Simon Son
Our community defined literate performance of students as the ability to make independent meaning from different forms of media. This is a layered process that starts with the basics, such as knowing which letters make certain sounds. This dynamic will evolve as students age, for instance, obtaining literal meaning from texts, literary interpretations and analyses. At the high school level, we expect students to have moved beyond the basics and be capable of rudimentary literary analysis. Furthermore, students should be able to recognize and engage with different forms of media and to make meaning from them. Ultimately, literate performance at the highschool level means students formulating their own critical reading upon different forms of media.
The target audience of our lesson plans will be public high schools coming from urban backgrounds, specifically students in the Sec-IV and Sec-V grade levels. Teaching to students from urban backgrounds is a great advantage, since these students grow in an environment exposed to diverse cross-cultural interactions and social phenomena. In this sense, students from urban background have various experiences and resources upon which to formulate their critical readings of texts. Each of our lesson plans have three common elements throughout – diverse forms of text, the opportunity to discuss among peers and to use the information gained from such discussions to develop their independent, critical perspective of a certain text. As teachers, we provide a pedagogical platform for students to explore the media of their own accord, albeit with professional guidance. In this sense, the lesson plans are not literacy-rich simply because they produce students who can interpret different forms of text. Rather, the lessons perpetuate deep involvements of literary performances by encouraging students to work with one another (with as minimal teacherassistance possible) to construct their unique interpretation of a piece of media.
Learning Objectives – Caitlin Santori
Overall, the learning objectives were not aimed at whether or not a student has memorized the literature. It was about what the student took from it, and if the student learned something from it. For example, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the goal was understanding the use of satire; for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, the goal was to help students grasp the idea of differences; lastly Lord of the Flies, the goal was for students to create their own opinion on an issue. As one can see, our group valued the idea of breaking things down. Essentially, that is what literate performance is. Taking this form of literature, and not looking at the larger picture, but what makes up this large picture.
This is again reflected in the strategies and assessments. The strategies such as ‘hotseating’ and a debate followed by a reflection, allow students to focus their attention. There is no wrong or right answer in these types of strategies. An English class should be freed of these terms, because literature is personal interpretation, if a student can prove their thoughts and opinion, then there is no reason to shoot them down. In the assessments, there is no category to mark them on whether or not they reached the appropriate answer. We choose to assess them on how well they were able to fight for their opinion, or support their view on a certain character. The student needs to have confidence in themselves, and if we give them learning objectives that have no limit, they expand their creativity. And isn’t that what the goal of the English teacher is?
Text Choices – Shoshana Pepin-Signer
The Witch Hunt segment of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Lord of the Flies were all carefully chosen texts for our diverse, urban, Secondary IV and V students. We chose Monty Python and the Holy Grail because it uses satire in a way that students are likely to understand. Satire has been used and continues to be used as a vehicle for biting social, moral, and political commentary. As such, students need to be able to identify it and its purpose if they are to make meaning from it in their every day lives. By starting their journey with satire through Monty Python and the Holy Grail, they are given the chance to work with something they are likely to have already seen or heard of and it is something they may have found funny despite not understanding that it was satirical.
Next, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian sets up a clear dichotomy that will make it easier for students to see both sides of Junior’s life. This stark contrast may not be entirely accurate to their own lives, but it is a dramatic portrayal of what they may be experiencing. By hotseating, they have the chance to see what things are like from another perspective; in this case, the other perspective is clearly outlined, thus giving them the skills later in life to see the other side even when it may be less clear.
Finally, Lord of the Flies allows students to see the possible consequences of certain choices. The novel deals with the lives of young people in extraordinary but not impossible situations. As such, the students are forced to think in hypotheticals, which is a useful skill to have. Furthermore, with the debate activity, students learn how to justify their own opinions based on the text and their lived experiences.
Strategies – Isaac Fish
The strategies used in these lessons are all directed towards discussion and learning in the classroom that are promoted by having the class work as a small communal well of knowledge. The use of the group dynamic is shown when the class discusses the themes of Civilization and Savagery in Lord of the Flies where new perspectives are shared with the group, the use of the ‘hot seating’ strategy during the lesson on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian creates a new communal questioning period where differences and bias are understood by all, and the joint readings of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as a satirical comedy will create a space that is both lighthearted with comedy while also explaining a new type of social commentary that the students can then use. The issues, themes and ideas that are introduced through these discussions are made relational by having the students form the discussion on their own, with the teacher only giving small direction. The overall effort to use the class of students as a larger entity will create an understanding that each student would not have gained on their own.
With the help of these discussion and group-oriented strategies, students have the chance to develop a number of skills including considering difference points of view, enlist and evaluate evidence and the ability to take and defend a position on a topic. The class will be shown the relationships between ideals, actions or events from their perspective along with others’ to create a plethora of ideas that they can then use in future studies. These types of skills will penetrate into the lives of students as they continue through the rest of their education and into the world as adults.
Assessments – Simon Son
All our assessment plans follow through a “backwards design” philosophy, where students are assessed according to how well they attain each learning objective. Since our community values the ability to construct a critical reading of text, learning objectives always require the text. Accordingly, the assessment rubrics explicitly require students to attain these objectives. For instance, in our Lord of the Flies lesson plan, students are assessed on two components, the debate and the written response. For both components, the assessment rubrics provide detailed guidelines that inform to what degree each student attained the learning objectives. For the debate rubric, guidelines are phrased in question form so students can self-reflect and question themselves, evaluating of their own accord if they succeeded in following through the learning objectives. Furthermore, guidelines are outlined in a step-by-step format analogous to the progression of the lesson. This is done to ensure students have maximum opportunities for feedback and reevaluation. To illustrate, the debate rubric of the Lord of the Flies lesson asks students if they have completed each step of the debate to ensure students achieve their own critical responses at the end of the lesson. At each step – whether it be formulating an opinion or providing support from text – our community ensures that feedback is given to each and every increment within lesson procedures.
B. Is it Satire or is it not? That is the Question.
For this lesson our genre of focus will be satire. For the text, we will use Monty Python and The Holy Grail. In particular, the witch-hunt segment will be presented in both video and script format. The reason for choosing Monty Python is because satire is a complex genre requiring familiarity with other literary genres such as comedy and parody. Since the target audience is more mature, our community believes satire to provide a challenge to students without losing students’ attentions through humour. Prior to engaging with the texts, we will first provide students with a brief introduction to witch hunting and the context of its practice. This is done to ensure students are aware of the contextual implications of witch-hunting both historically and in terms of the narrative. Since students are coming from urban backgrounds where the majority of media they are exposed to deals with modern issues, it is crucial to touch on this for students to better understand the story. Prior to instruction, students will be given certain prompts such as “what joke strikes out as unusual?” to encourage students to adopt a point-driven stance in reading. Since our community believes in students creating critical readings of texts through peer-assistance, stimulating discussion is an essential aspect of our lesson plan. By having students read texts with the explicit intentions of identifying and analyzing satire, we provide students with a clear objective. Following this, our lesson will be approached in two aspects – teaching what satire is itself and what this specific instance of satire accomplishes within this text. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify the specific instances of satire within Monty Python and accordingly apply this reading to identify satire as a genre.
From this lesson, the student will be able to:
- Point out the use of satire in this scene from The Holy Grail
- Moments of exaggerations
- Moments of sarcasm
- Understand why satire is used
The overall objective of this lesson will be to help students identify satire. In everyday media, satire is being used more and more to present points. The purpose of satire is to take critical humour and use it towards a topic. Usually this topic deals with a moral or political issue, there criticizing it through humour. Through this humour, the overall theme tends to stick longer with the audience, therefore making them think about it more critically. This lesson will help students identify these moments through the example presented, and possibly gain an understanding as to why people may choose to use this form of criticism.
The Witch Hunt segment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is iconic and well known. Consequently, many of the students will have already seen it or be familiar with it. While younger students might not pick up on the subtleties of the segment and see it only as absurd humour, the older students (Secondary IV and V) may pick up that there is more to this segment without being able to articulate what it is. By using humour and something the students are likely to be familiar with, we allow them the opportunity to engage with something they feel comfortable with and can relate to their own experiences. This is an aspect that is important to us – to make any kind of meaning from what they are learning, it has to be connected to their prior knowledge. In this case, it might be their knowledge of Monty Python, comedy, satire, witch-hunts, or anything else related to the segment. Finally, we believe the Witch Hunt segment of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to be an apt choice because it is fun and funny. While students will certainly be learning something, we do not want it to feel burdensome so, by choosing this text, students are served because they are entertained and we know that their learning is situated and layered with their past experiences.
Active Learning Strategies:
This lesson focused on the witch burning scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail from which the students will analyze both the script and filmed scene to understand satirical representations loosely based on historical events. By having students read texts with the explicit intentions of identifying and analyzing satire, we provide students with a clear method of social criticism that is non-violent and comedic in it’s structure. Satire usually is constructed of irony that makes statements on social norms and questions the integrity of our society, the students should be made aware of this and understand that they too can question things that they seemingly took for granted. This strategy of introducing historical centred events through a satirical lens will teach students how to analyze the interaction between satire and real events and reinforce the student’s ability to understand underlying concepts behind satire itself.
This assignment is a formative assessment that will be collected at the end of the class after the students have completed the discussion of satire, read through the script together as a class with children acting out how they think it should be done and then finally seeing how the scene was done in Monty Python’s version. This response will show that the students can:
- Understand the overlap between satire and real events
- Understand the comedic aspect of the ironic/witty humor used
The responses should be casually structured (aka: not in an essay format) and spelling and grammar are not to be graded unless it is illegible.
C. A Walk in my Shoes
For this lesson our choice of text will be The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Students will adopt a Social Class/Marxist Approach from the textbook. This perspective critically examines the economic, political and social differences of different classes that are present between the teenagers in the reserve and the upper-class high school students in the book. This will explore the feelings of students who feel they are outside of the norm or social constructs that surround them and are present in their society, and compare it to other students who feel the same emotions but in other societies. These are students coming from urban backgrounds where a multitude of cultures, traditions, and social classes/niches contribute to the construction of a student’s identity. Through a novel that explicitly deals with issues of identity and social class – especially in the perspective of a character a similar age as the reader – students will be more inclined to relate and engage with the text. As a result, thoughtful and genuine opinions are generated through each student’s unique reading of the text. In terms of pedagogic strategy, students will partake in ‘hotseating’ role-play as the character in the text, such as the protagonist split between two communities or the other teenagers that he sees in his daily life. This will allow students to inhabit a point of view and reflect of a different perspective by answering questions and communicating as that character would to their peers who are also in different roles. Given the multitude of perspectives and identities within the class, this activity will foster more matured readings of text informed by the different perspectives of their peers. Furthermore, this lesson will allow the students to humanize the characters and analyze them in a deeper way while also improving improvisational skills.
From this lesson, students will be able to:
- Understand the theme of difference in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
- Reservation vs. Countryside (economic)
- Natives vs. Caucasian (social)
- Relate this theme to their everyday lives
- Properly reenact certain scenes or characters through hotseating role-play
- Know why a character acts a certain way (point of view)
The overall object of the lesson is to have the students leaving the classroom rethinking their opinion of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. For starters, once the students finish the novel, they should be able to point out the contrast between the two societies, both economically and socially. Through the reading and the activity, the students should be able to see how these differences are constantly around them. And like in the novel, these differences cause conflicts. So once the student leaves the classroom, they should understand that the story talks about an everyday issue, and does not stay within the fictional world.
With the activity of hotseating, the theme of difference will continue but with a twist. This activity will allow students to see from a difference angle. For example, if they related better to the characters from the countryside, they could possibly react someone from the reserve. This will allow them to see how others may feel in their situation, or act why they do. Through this, they can use it towards to expand their views, to see how certain elements affect our lives.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a great choice for a Secondary IV English classroom because there are important ties with the History and Citizenship curriculum they are learning. A major focus during Secondary IV is Quebec history and a part of that deals with Aboriginal-European interactions and history. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian deals with some of the ramifications of Aboriginal-European contact in the Western World. Therefore, students will be able to make meaningful connections between the history they are learning and the contemporary story. This is helpful in their studies as they will be able to more clearly see the influence of the past on the present and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will humanize that which they are learning about in history. Along with historical connections, this novel will likely have many parallels to their own lives. This is especially true for the fifteen and sixteen year olds reading it because they are at the age when they are most conflicted about their role in society. Furthermore, psychologically, they believe that they are the only ones with certain experiences, so reading about someone who shares similar concerns and struggles will help them understand their own. Once again, students are making layered meaning from the text by relating it to their own lives and by having the opportunity to relate to people who are unlike themselves, they can expand their own views.
Active Learning Strategies:
The form of active learning we have chosen to use during this lesson is called “hot seating” which is a useful tool to use in a classroom to encourage discussion of controversial issues while also promoting the sharing of multiple perspectives. Students will be asked to partake in role-playing as certain characters that they have studied in the text The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This strategy places students in the “hot seat” as a character they have studied, and are then questioned by their peers which allows the students to humanize the characters in a way that brings them off the pages of a book so that they may analyze them in a more realistic way. This improves oral skills, improvisational skills, working with others, and lets the students be creative in a positive way.
Part I: Comparison Table
Students will fill out two tables: Reservation/Countryside and Natives/Caucasians. In it, they must list the differences between the two from The Absolutely True Diary of a PartTime Indian. On the back of each sheet, the student must create a list of their own to show differences they have seen in their own lives.
Part II: Hotseating Exercise
Five students will engage in the hotseating exercise at a time. Four act as the interviewers while one acts as an interviewee as characters from The Absolutely True Diary of a PartTime Indian. During the activity, the students must demonstrate an understanding of the actions and motivations of the character they are playing and react to questions according to how the character would react. They must take turns as the interviewee and the interviewers. Only the interviewee will be evaluated during the interview.
At the end, the interviewee must justify at least one of their answers with textual evidence.
D. Order or Survival of the Fittest?
The text of choice for this lesson plan will be Lord of the Flies by William Golding. After reading the book, students will engage in a discussion in which they share alternative perspectives with each other on the prompt of “civilization or savagery, which side is more justified?” Since these students come from different backgrounds, we believe students will face disagreements with each other that ultimately foster a lively exchange of ideas. In doing so, students will be exposed to a diversity of opinions and accordingly expected to construct their personal critical stance on the prompt. After the debate, students will engage in a personal reflection where they will compare and contrast their peers’ opinions to formulate a critical perspective on the discussion prompt. Having gone through a process of discussion, revision, and evaluation of their original positions, this assignment provides the opportunity for students to finalize their critical reading by using multiple opinions as a resource. By the end of this lesson, students should be able to talk about their own and others’ perspectives in a clear and concise manner.
From this lesson, the students will be able to:
- Form an opinion on the prompt of “civilization or savagery, which side is more justified?”
- Contest their opinion
- Through evidence from the text (necessary)
- Through evidence from outside sources
- Reflect upon other opinions
- Does this change how they think?
- Did the other side provide a better argument?
- Create a short response on this debate to be handed in
- What was their initial opinion?
- What did they think about the others’ argument?
- What is their ending opinion?
The overall objective of this lesson is for students to be able to create an opinion on a certain matter. The activity will force students to choose a side on the prompt of “civilization or savagery, which side is more justified?” They will then have to use specific evidence through the novel and outside examples to prove their point to the opposing side. This will allow students to understand that in reality, we are often going to be ask why we prefer a certain side. We cannot simply say we like it, but must provide elements as to why we prefer it.
Students will then have listen to the opposing argument. This will allow students to understand why others may prefer this side, and also help them see why everyone doesn’t always agree. The idea of conflicting interests is something they will face often, and be able to politely listen for to their reasoning is important. It will also help them shape their opinion, and show them that not all views are concrete.
To finish, students will be asked to create a response that discusses their original belief, what they thought about the argument for the other side, and what they concluding opinion is. This relates back to the previous two paragraphs, but just allows students to see the flow through their response. The students will now be able to see how opinions work, and how quickly they can change.
Since our classroom is made up of so many people with uniquely diverse backgrounds who may not see eye to eye, we believe Lord of the Flies is a good choice of text. The novel itself deals with people who cannot see eye to eye and argue amongst themselves. It provides a harsh view of Running head: what life could be like and a cynical outlook on humanity. This goes against much of what Secondary IV and V students will have read since the typical narrative surrounds a heroic figure and cooperation among individuals for the greater good. Expanding students’ worldviews is important to us and we believe that the students will have their own experiences of people turning on each other or resorting to unseemly means to get what they want or need. Furthermore, we believe Lord of the Flies leaves a lot of room for critical reflection and debate, which is the cornerstone of our understanding of literacy.
Active Learning Strategies:
This lesson on Lord of the Flies will be centred around a class-wide debate/discussion that compares two major themes in the text: Civilization and Savagery. Since the topic for discussion is which one of the two themes is more justified, there will be conflicting views by students who will be encouraged to bring up their ideas, while also encouraging students to respond to each other in a constructive way. Under no circumstance should the debate become an argument between two or more students and instead be a safe space for all perspectives on the issue. This teaches oration skills, and will fight stage-fright for students who are not as comfortable talking in front of their peers.
Part I: Debate (Participation Marks)
- The student formed a clear and comprehensive on the prompt “civilization or savagery, which side is more justified?” (Observe)
- The student chose a side, and was not neutral
- The student was able to contest their opinion (Observe)
- The student participated by either talking out loud, or contributing to the group
- The student provided examples from the novel, either it be a quote or an overall theme
- The student, if possible, were able to give examples from outside sources, and explain why it relates to this topic
- Personal examples
- Examples from the news
- Collect notes, if any were taken, to ensure that the student participated, and had an understanding of the topic
- The student allowed their opponents to state their opinion
Part II: Response (Individual Mark)
- At the end of the class, the student handed in all their notes and short response as well
- The response is short and not formal.
- Spelling is not counted but the response has to be somewhat legible