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Overall Framework When crafting the framework of a Creative Writing unit meant for high school students in grades 9 through 12, it is important to draw upon widely varied and distinct theories of literacy and learning. As an elective course, Creative Writing both benefits and suffers from its lack of pressure to abide by standards-based alignment; assuming administrative support, teachers have the freedom to create a curriculum that caters to their own pedagogical preferences and desires, while also finding themselves faced with the problem of making the content meaningful to students both in the immediate moment and later on in school and beyond. Neither a strictly writing-focused course nor a strictly reading-focused course, Creative Writing can root itself in a thoroughly exploratory approach to literacy, deviating from traditional assignments without sacrificing the development of crucial skills. The theoretical underpinnings of my own Creative Writing unit will influence my attempt to realize this opportunity, helping me choose the texts which I use in my classroom, the projects I give to my students, the long-term trajectory of what I hope for my class to learn, and the short-term plan of what my students must learn every day in order to get to their final destination. By and large, my unit will attempt to unpack the broad spectrum of meanings attributed to literacy in an attempt to help students come to their own conclusion regarding literacy and its link to identity formation. The guiding question of the unit is influenced by the interrelationship between text and context. As Paulo Friere claims, reading the word is preceded by reading the world, and in order to derive meaning from text, it is important not only to decode written language but also to comprehend the ways in which the words reflect or serve to illuminate ideas about the world around the individual (Freire 6). If students must read through various genres of work and
as well as bringing knowledge from their immediate lives into the reading of the text itself. exposing themselves to a new literary style and building up important literacy skills such as vocabulary development (which in many ways. images. I am giving the students help with the technical skills . scripting the proceedings as they think they ought to unfold and acting them out. could also be reading the world— the acquisition of another lexicon or the revelation of a new way of speaking). political. a student who reads a text such as To Kill a Mockingbird will most definitely read the word. and economic spheres around them. instead of producing a five-page essay on the theme of “Justice” in To Kill a Mockingbird. adding themes. questions. and as such. they also stand a better chance of synthesizing the literature beyond reproducing a superficial surface analysis of what district standards deem to be the “important stuff. But they will also be reading the world more overtly.produce their own written examples. doing so while imposing their own selves on the text means that they stand a better chance of engaging with the literature beyond a superficial surface reading. cultural. As Freire says. where students reread the circumstances of their own individual communities in order to empathize or base as a comparison against the environment in which the characters of the text live (Freire 8). By giving this assignment. and ideas from the text to their understanding of the social. for this particular text. students might produce a modern-day rendition of the blockbuster trial from the book. So circling back to the idea that students can synthesize their selfinsertion into the text in a way that transcends simply demonstrating mastery of standards listed on a planning-scheduling timeline. we as students and an instructor are engaging in a partnership wherein I am not acting as the student’s creative jailor but as the student’s creative gateway. A discussion regarding voting rights and the judicial system might stem from a text like To Kill a Mockingbird.” As an example.
it is possible to teach based on the pedagogy that developing good writers is a process—if not independent of—only tangentially related to the dog-and-pony show of grammar instruction. the impetus to learn by the book is huge.” “apply. the students through virtue of creative license are tasked to read the word justice as their own. and correspondingly associates good with complex. we will first “identify” grammar rules but then strive to “synthesize. as Kutz and Roskelly demonstrate. Perhaps because of this. and critical thinking skills that characterize school-based literacy. the balance between learning content and appreciating its meaning comes into play here. What is most important is giving writers the toolkit they need to adequately express themselves. my unit will work to change the very perception of writing—rather than focus on the way mechanics validates writing as good or bad. though I am giving them an assignment that essentially asks them to meditate on justice in the book.and organization of thought needed to get to a place where they can read the word in their own way. the intersection of imposing a set of rules on students and letting them create their own rules within the realm of literacy is tricky. this toolkit will be unique to each writer and their understanding of what “makes” a good writer. spelling. Largely. bad with simple. despite the fact that this understanding of literacy is often standardized amongst those who know the so-called “privileged” grammatical code (Kutz and Roskelly 6). . which are often seen as extensions of test-prep classes where important test skills can be remediated and practiced. and in classes such as Creative Writing. complex or simple. and to rewrite it in the context of their understanding of the text and their own worlds (Freire 10). the course will examine style and word usage as its “mechanics” focus: going through Bloom’s Taxonomy.” in the context of the world which students are reading. In urban schools especially.” and “explain. Of course. this is because the students I am teaching lack the basic grammar. However.
nonetheless. accessible and readable. Stressing the importance on meaning rather than the mechanics gives the students the power to “be wrong” and not have the fear of such defiance limit creativity. I want to ensure that my students can access the same texts. and as such. even mechanics instruction can be manipulated to relate to the overarching theme of “Who Am I?” by examining the cultural and educational underpinnings to language in the individual. By ensuring that the unit plan I . and knowledge that is used to gauge literacy rates countrywide. a lesson on verb tense agreement may begin by going through conjugation. These two identities have motives that at once coincide. knowledge of words goes hand in hand with knowledge of the cultural realities that the words represent (Hirsch 161). By knowing their own communities. my hope is to increase cultural literacy within my students’ own communities. as Hirsch says. can add important insight about their identity to the works they produce (Kutz and Roskelly 8). As a result. in their own writing. while as an instructor. students will be better equipped to read the world at large. because as an educator. when talking about teachers and their notions of cultural superiority. So the challenge falls to me to develop a roster of works that integrates the community around them as well as providing ample examples of worlds beyond their own that are. Many of the errors students produce are evidence of the world around them and the language to which they have become accustomed (and further evidence of patterns and styles of learning). luxury of ignorance. Gary Howard. One of the biggest challenges in crafting this unit plan will be choosing texts and deciding on appropriate assignments. or blind perpetuation of the legacy of…privilege” (Howard 127). notes that it is necessary for curriculums to reflect a move away from “unconscious or conscious” exposure to “assumptions of rightness. but the end goal will be for students. to play with verb tense agreement deliberately to change meaning. vocabulary.For example.
elective courses are meant to diversify experience and give students supplemental knowledge. Accordingly. from grades 9 to 11--as well as on PSSA reading and writing skills. as my principal says. the class has narrowed its thematic focus on multiculturalism and global studies. especially the kinds which empower students to use their own voices (because there is so little opportunity to do so in a continuous and evolving manner with other courses). As a result. there is no outlined. after careful observation of my students. because it can be whatever I want it to be. By doing so. I can reinforce learning goals from both the school’s history curriculum--a class with which my students universally struggle. I do have some people who--while not overtly dictating my classroom-strongly suggest that my course touches on certain areas of test-prep. specific set of objectives that absolutely must be mastered. For electives. II: Theoretical Framework Being a Creative Writing teacher. and according to most of the personnel (both administrative and District) who have visited my classroom. I have total autonomy over my course. my course caters to non-fiction texts (an area of the PSSA which is consistently failed) and constructed responses . with the odd 9th and 12th grader thrown in. I teach an elective that is not bound by a pre-written curriculum nor by a District-created planning and scheduling timeline. I have decided to tweak the Creative Writing nature of the course. my curriculum can also be whatever I want it to be. the outcome should be one where students learn a combination of content and meaning.devise accounts for both the worlds that my students already read and the worlds that they must learn to read. As such. during the progression of the year. those decisions are best left to the teacher because the teacher has a better sense of what her kids do and do not know. While it does still focus on non-traditional forms of writing. As my class is populated with mostly 10th and 11th graders.
So the students are happy to get something old (and sorely in need of practice) under the guise of something new and exciting. as has the administration. is give my students the opportunity to common History and English themes in more than just their core classes (thereby validating the importance of such themes and giving students much-needed repeated exposure) while also allowing them to exercise some measure of freedom in the areas of interest that they explore.” Instead of learning history or social studies in the context of old dead white men. bohemian style I so want to cultivate. so as not to feel like test prep). they are learning current events in Africa. outside of a restrictive curriculum that dictates “what kids need to know. Instead of learning theme through Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest work. and my principal is happy because I am preparing the 11th graders for areas of the . What my curriculum does. Though the kids can sometimes get fatigued of repeating the same objectives more than once (for example. My students have responded positively to this direction. they do get to choose the topic in the first place. Much of the content of what I choose to cover in the class is dictated by a studentgenerated list of important issues facing the world and communities today. by combining nontraditional source material with the type of questions they must get used to answering in a specific way. the fact remains that these requirements loom large in my students’ minds. while they may have to discuss the topic of choice in the format that I have decided they need to practice. “Identify and describe the theme of the piece”) they voraciously consume the texts because they are new areas to study. as well as general vocabulary enhancement (for the SATs) and DBQs (preparation for a common type of history question). they are watching a documentary and communicating important examples of symbolism and their correlation to theme. While these testing-like materials threaten to give the class an air unlike the free-thinking.(a format which can be applied to any form of writing response in the class.
in my view. . While some may criticize this class as not having an overt big goal. I disagree. meant to teach the things that students do not get through their mainstream education--the skills and ideas that they normally would not get to exercise. Potential pushback and obstacles do arise as we near the PSSAs and the school renews its focus on constructed responses in every class. I want my students to get a broader world education and practice writing that is not always held to the grammatical and mechanical standards that often keep kids from expressing their ideas freely. and confident test takers.” While the class isn’t a completely effective avenue of test-prep. I am giving students at least once a week reinforcement on those things. all the time. As such. by incorporating certain forms of writing and reading and critical thinking that they will need to master on PSSAs and SATs. and as such. no way to measure success or growth over the year.PSSA. but the main crux of the class is to use interesting content to incite deeper thinking from my students in a state-test format with which they must familiarize themselves. But my point of view as an educator is that core classes are already cluttered with objectives and standards that need to be taught. I am confident students will better learn the type of responses that are expected on tests that look for higher-order thinking. while also appeasing his sense of “be creative in the classroom. they don’t perform to expectations. But if they are given opportunities to write where their critical thinking skills and thoughts are more lauded than the manner which they are expressed. The presentation skills come through subtle reinforcement such as peer revision and Do-Nows that examine mistakes in punctuations and grammar. students do the work needed to get the grade and nothing more (and often. deeper readers. Elective courses are. so that effort is thwarted as well). Too scared not to conform to the standards that the courses demand. and in turn. help them become better thinkers.
will watch the documentary covering a northern Ugandan primary school’s efforts to reach national competition for dance. Will use PSSA-style prompts after each day of viewing to pose questions regarding what the onscreen evidence tells us about the life the children lead. b. Overarching question: What role does conflict (civil and self) play in affecting the human spirit? Over the course of two days. Will learn to summarize key facts in non-fiction texts. WarDance. Part I: Uganda. Hotel Rwanda. Overarching question: What purpose does it have to dramatize that is already dramatic in its reality? What truths get stretched/left out for a story favor of public . c. etc. Part II: Rwanda. Will learn key PSSA/SAT vocabulary through newspaper articles.” Overarching question: How are the problems in Western communities similar to and different from that of the problems that Ugandan children face? Will compare and contrast problems of Western society and in Uganda.Not Just a Hollywood Story a.Children and Conflict a. II. disease. Will learn to draft a formal letter for the purposes of finding out more information about the conflict from specific organizations. Will use PSSA-style prompts to examine the theme of conflict over the course of the movie. Invisible Children Press Release.) and work backwards to map out and address the root cause. “Hard Target: the Hunt for Africa’s Last Warlord. Will examine use of commas and quotations in dialogue through script-style journal responses. poverty.Outline of Sources Unit Theme: Africa and Its Humanitarian Crises (Four Part Unit) I.” and “Major Northside Gang Leaders Busted. Overarching question: What can the average Western urban child do to alleviate the suffering of global counterparts? Will isolate one core problem (war.
Part III: Sudan. . do the events of Darfur lose their resonance? If so. c. documents and debate whole-class response to the crisis. Excerpts from “Stories from Rwanda. and how do we know? Will motives of various “characters” from the conflict/text. assuming teacher-assigned points of view.” Overarching question: How does a story change depending on the person telling it? Who can we “trust” when we are from a life so different than our own.N. Will writing by turning fictionalized work into a b.” Overarching question: Does the naming of an event as “genocide” make it worse? Without the term genocide. Will practice PSSA- What and unseen)? Will the 1994 genocide. Will practice non-fiction newspaper article.interest? Will learn to research and apply knowledge in order to learn elements of drama. Will write and then perform an oral argument on whether Darfur was a genocide. Will reaction assessing whether individual pieces work on developing “voice” in hearing stories identify and assess the analyze authorial intent and write a were or were not effective in their goals.” Overarching question: are the long-term effects of genocide in a country like Rwanda (both seen use the internet to track the history of Rwanda prior to and since examine U. “Sudan’s Mass Killings Not Genocide-UN Report. Will writing by role-playing as different actors in the text. Will regarding the appropriateness of global style constructed responses comparing and contrasting Rwandan genocide to other world crises. separate fact from fiction. why? What are the implications of a word like genocide and what words carry a similar weight in Western culture? Will examine other genocides in world history and discuss the globally-recognized definition of genocide. “Rwandan President Rejects Human Rights Criticism.How to “Save Darfur” a. III.
Will examine words in Western culture that carry a similar controversial weight of “is it or isn’t it?” and outline the cause and effect of applying the words. television. Overarching question: Which social. economic. The unit as I have planned it covers the length of approximately one month. with each part . Will write a PSSA-style constructed response identifying the main problem and suggest remedies. Will list observations regarding the continent and discuss the implications of the observations. b. IV. and if not. Will use PSSA-style constructed responses to discuss the implication of celebrity support on global politics. Overarching question: How does the general American public perceive Africa? Is this perception accurate. Will write a creative essay from the point-of-view of a Sudanese fan of a celebrity who supports world power that supports Sudanese rebels. Will discuss racial heritage. what are the prejudices that go into this perception? Will make KWL chart about the continent and the conflicts/issues that take place therein. “Artists Abetting Genocide?” Various pictures of campaigns such as “Save Darfur” and “Darfur is Dying. Will discuss what the average Western teenager can/should do to raise awareness of global issues.” Overarching question: What role do celebrities. Part IV: Synthesis of Issues Facing Africa as a Continent a. and the internet play in a globalized world? How do conflicts like Darfur become a “cause” and is it beneficial to the Sudanese that this occurs? Will examine marketing techniques in various campaigns to raise awareness for Darfur. b. or political issues facing the different countries on the continent are most in need of immediate remedy? How might that remedy come about? Will identify and list the main social/economic/political issues that come out of Africa. will accordingly learn about and assess propaganda. and racism in the context of the United States and globally. culture.
These restrictions that will be taught to work under are mainly ideological in nature. The overarching hope for this unit is to make students comfortable with creatively expressing themselves and then progressing to them doing so under the restrictions that will be placed on them in formal writing experiences. to practice different forms of persuasive and creative writing such as dialogue (script form) and debate (oral arguments). so that each source is given an added weight in the larger framework of the unit. not much attention will be paid to what the writing looks like aesthetically. synthesize the facts. and draw conclusion based on their understanding of what they have read. Grammar and mechanics will be an important component to the development of “good” writing. to learn and repeatedly use PSSA/SAT-level vocabulary such that is found in newspaper articles and then regurgitated in the students’ own writing. and end with students presenting information on that region to show their knowledge. The fourth and fifth day of the week will focus on writing the assignment for that part of the unit. I plan to introduce each part of the unit with a piece of dynamic and engaging source material.covering the length of one week. . Then the third day will be a full lesson on the history of the region. but will not be a specific target of this unit. and to develop students’ critical understanding of the readings presented. both learning the skill and then demonstrating the ability to practice that skill. as well as how to construct a critically-thoughtful written work of their own. usually this is two days of watching a movie or going over posters and texts with a graphic organizer accompaniment to track observations and thoughts. The educational goals of this unit as a whole are to learn how to write constructed responses on questions that require students to read a non-fiction text. Each part of the unit will begin with an introduction to the specific region. and instead. how it sounds and what the writing actually says.
Evaluation of Unit Plan In the course of completing this project. All in all. the goals of the district. Lesson Plans Included in the Folder IV. with lesson plans due with each paper part. and how creativity can be marred by requirements such as certain skill remediation. and the goals of the particular class you are teaching. I found out about restrictions. people would not find it so daunting to turn in 30 (or 15. As for sessions in the class that I particularly enjoyed versus sections of the class that I did not. and how a teacher can sometimes enhance creativity by merging requirements with an innovative new practice. this could be bitterness and resentment projecting rather than any real basis behind my claim). perhaps having a more steady forum of discussion and a set format would help. The assignment itself was difficult to complete only because the natural procrastination instinct. I think that I have learned quite a bit about the depth of thought and planning that goes into creating a whole new unit that is aligned to the goals of yourself. sometimes. however. to perhaps offset this foray into too much editorializing. But I also learned about ingenuity.III. ensured that while the planning stages went well. as it turns out) lesson plans. The style of experiential learning and the ways in which you challenged us to think really do enrich the ways in which I view my . I very much enjoyed the class. in the end. I think if the assignment could be bumped up. coupled with a sudden overflow of work. the actual execution is not as good as it could be. I would have to say that while I love hearing my peers share out. too. some classes where we shared our own best practices and ideas felt too much like venting and complaint about the ways in which the system screws us over or the ways in which we are exemplar teachers and everyone should be in awe of us (although to be fair.
practice and this profession. . For this reason. I really appreciate the dialogue-driven nature of your classroom and the ways that teachers continually get to share out.
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