Being able to design and implement an effective unit plan is absolutely essential to any prospective teacher. My philosophy involves teaching the classics, as well as introducing our culturally diverse students to a variety of young adult literature. I believe that by being exposed to a combination of the two, students will find something relevant, and that speaks to them as individuals regardsless of their interests, preferences, and/or beliefs. In his book Teaching English by Design, Peter Smagorinsky discusses the importance of approaching a unit plan from a constructivist point of view, which has guided my teaching toward a more creative, student-centered curriculum in which students are active participants, while avoiding the type of pre-packaged, teacher-centered activities that cause students to check out.
Here are a few of the unit plans I have developed for use in a high school classroom. I have attached the units for both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hunger Games. The unit for Othello was constructed while student teaching, and it was done over a six-week period. Some of the essential questions for the unit included:
- How might a person's surroundings affect their personality?
- How do the effects of racism affect a person's self-esteem?
- Is there such a thing as "motiveless malignity?"
This unit culminated with our students' participation in the New York City Student Shakespeare Festival, where they decided to explore different forms of hatred: racism, sexism, classism, and jealousy and how these are tragic flaws of humanity / human nature.
Rationale: Unit Plan - The Hunger Games.doc
The overall theme of this unit will focus on social status. The central text is Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. As a piece of young adult fiction, the protagonists are roughly the same age as the students in my class. I feel that many of my students would not consider themselves to be on top of the social ladder, and that they may be able to relate to some of the struggles that Katniss and her family deal with. By giving my students tools for approaching the text, and by highlighting the relevancy of the book’s themes to those of their own lives, I hope to teach them how issues of social class can affect the way we live, the way we are perceived, and the way we perceive others. I also want them to think about how living in a dystopian society can alter the ways in which we are affected by our social status. I also want students discover/discuss how people can succeed even when they are supposedly “destined to fail” due to their social status.
Critical Lens: Marxist/Social Class:
Furthermore, students will be asked to view themes in the book through a Marxist lens, except I will use the term “social-class lens” (Appleman, 52). I believe this is an appropriate lens because social class/status is such a huge theme in The Hunger Games, and as I alluded to in my rationale for the unit, I want to focus on the many ways in which the characters and situations can be viewed through this lens in particular. Other themes found within the book, such as power, oppressive government practices, and unequal distribution of food and wealth, are also extremely relevant to the lives of my students and to the world they live in. Furthermore, anyone who is not at the top of the social food chain would be able to find some connections between themselves and the book’s protagonists. In the end, I want my students to be able to discuss these themes while connecting them to their own lives within a safe and exciting environment.