Send me your contemporary social justice book suggestions
I ordered these books for fall 2020 because I’m focusing on the power of literature to effect social change. Of course, recent events in response to the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd make me wonder if there are more topical books I should have ordered instead of or in addition to these.
Have you discovered “The Hero’s Journey” podcast? Subtitled “Books & Films Through a Mythical Lens,” this is a fantastically interesting podcast I used in February to supplement my hero’s journey lessons.
Use the monthly show to introduce students to Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey in popular movies, some lesser known movies, older films, or even in movies you wouldn’t think (at first glance anyway) contain a hero’s journey.
The Hero’s Journey podcast features author Jeff Garvin and book blogger Dan Zarzana who dissect films into the distinct stages of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. You’ll find this short description on their website’s “About” page:
Pioneered by renowned mythologist and teacher Joseph Campbell, and refined for the context of modern storytelling by Disney veteran Christopher Vogler, The Hero’s Journey is a series of motifs and archetypes that pervade myths, folklore, and stories across all cultures and eras.
In each episode, the hosts spend about an hour to an hour-and-a-half parsing the movies out scene by scene to show precisely how the hero’s journey, and all its myriad steps, permeates the storyline.
Movie clips are used to illustrate key hero’s journey points in each podcast episode.
Here’s a sampling of movies covered on the show:
3:10 to Yuma (In February, my classes listened to the podcast for this movie up to the “departure scene.” Listening to the hosts explain the various parts of the introductory movie scenes helped students to continue to follow the journey in the movie. It was an interesting way to help students realize that the hero’s journey is ubiquitous in narrative… even in this award-winning modern Western based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.
The Princess Bride
Field of Dreams
The Shawshank Redemption
The Dark Knight
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Handmaid’s Tale
A Christmas Story
Gangs of New York
Plus about seventeen more!
Take note that a good chunk of each episode devolves into discussions of microbreweries, after dinner drinks, and other alcoholic endeavors. Save time and keep students from objectionable content by skipping these portions.
Give this podcast a listen.
It offers another way for students, and auditory learners in particular, to find engagement with the hero’s journey. The series will reveal to students the influence of Campbell’s formula in popular culture and show them how vitally important the hero’s journey is to narrative traditions.
Thanks for reading! Have you already stumbled upon this podcast? How did you use it in your classroom? Feel free to click like, make a comment or become a follower for more posts about teaching ELA at thehigh school level.
Since so many aspects of teaching right now are new due to school closings amid COVID-19, what’s one more? As long as we’re entering unchartered territory, let’s not only learn how to Zoom, but let’s try Padlet as well.
Padlet is basically an online discussion board application that offers several ways for students to contribute their writing, media, or other content to a board that I create and customize. According to the Padlet.com website, the app will help users “Make beautiful boards, documents, and webpages that are easy to read and fun to contribute to.”
I would agree based on my use of the app so far.
When one creates a Padlet, a link is created for users or teachers to share with students. Students follow the link and can write a post onto the Padlet board. Depending on the type of Padlet template chosen, students may also upload other content, such as videos, photographs, or audio clips.
Users can try Padlet for free, which allows them to create three Padlet “boards.” Because I knew I would need more than that and because the app seemed to be easy and intuitive to use, I went ahead and purchased the $10/month subscription so I could make unlimited Padlets whenever I needed to while our school is closed through the end of the year.
In addition, I’ve added Padlet to my iPhone so I can check in and see student activity when I’m not at my desk. I can also edit existing Padlets or create new Padlets from my phone.
To the extent that I’ve used Padlet so far, I see great potential in using it for my reading and writing classes.
Right now, I’ve created six Padlet assignments while students learn from home. Here’s a description of each:
Padlet Title: Robert Frost Favorite Line(s) Reflections… My junior students started a unit on Robert Frost’s poetry in mid-March. I created a Padlet and assigned students to reflect in writing on their favorite line(s) from one of these three poems we read: “Mending Wall,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and “Birches.” A day or so later, I asked students to read and write a comment on someone else’s Padlet post.
Padlet Title: “Mending Wall” Analysis… I also asked my juniors to watch a video that offered one analysis of “Mending Wall” and then give their perspective on that analysis, including their own personal views as well. Later, students added their thoughts to the opinions of at least one other student.
Padlet Title: The Ballad of “Barbara Allan” by Different Artists… After assigning students to read the Medieval British ballad, “Barbara Allan,” I made a Padlet that included several links to YouTube videos by musicians singing different adaptations of the poem. (This is an age-old ballad that has been “covered” over the centuries up to contemporary artists.) I asked students to post a comment on my original post to indicate which adaptation they wanted to listen to and then explain in their own post on the Padlet.
Padlet Title: Alt Title for A River Runs Through It… Students were to think of an alternative title for the novel by Norman Maclean, and then describe why they would choose this title instead.
Padlet Title: A River Runs Through It Playlists… With this Padlet I asked students to post a music playlist for one of the two main characters in the novel.
Padlet Title: Tim O’Brien Interview Reflection… After watching a 25-minute video of an interview of author Tim O’Brien, students were to reflect in writing on the video addressing some key ideas discussed by O’Brien about his novelThe Things They Carried.
I envision projecting a Padlet as students work so they can publish immediately.
I can envision projecting a Padlet as students work so they can see their comments publish immediately, as well as those of others. Using Padlet in this way would add an immediacy to classroom writing.
Seeing other students thinking and writing in real time in response to a prompt or an ongoing class discussion could be really fun and interesting.
Not that my experience with Padlet has been problem-free. I’ll give you more details about that in my next post, “Pros and Cons of Padlet.”
Thanks for reading! My next post will list several pros of Padlet and a few really big cons that I’ve noticed. Do you have any experience with Padlet or another app you’ve tried out lately? Leave a comment to share your experience.
Make sure you see the words “The Complete Novel” on the DVD jacket.
It was released in 2005 and includes twenty-two additional minutes. Those extra minutes allow room for a new beginning, and a “character-enriching” subplot that resolves at the end in a moving scene with Darry, Ponyboy, and Sodapop. The subplot reveals the Curtis brothers’ deepening relationships as their “family” survives the conflict with the Socs and the deaths of Johnny Cade and Dallas Winston.
It does contain a PG-13 rating instead of the PG original.
While it does contain brief language when Two-Bit confronts Johnny’s mother in the hospital (thereby earning the PG-13 rating), The Outsiders: The Complete Novel gives you more to discuss in class and follows the book much more completely than the original movie.
Thanks for reading! I’m working on a really involved post about an eighth-grade extended writing project I taught at my previous school. It’s one I’m adapting for my new position with high school juniors and seniors. Follow my blog to read that post next Tuesday.
Graphic essays break down theme into bite-size chunks
Graphic essays break down theme into bite-size chunks of textual evidence, interpretation, and symbolism. Read this post to see how my juniors creatively demonstrated their knowledge of various themes found in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “In Another Country.”
In short, I was taken far away from my couch on yet another day at home during the month-long break my school is taking to control the spread of COVID-19. True, since I teach in a rural school, many of my students are fortunately able to get outside. Social distancing is easy to do out in the country. Still, Krakauer’s adventures allow readers to experience exotic sights and destinations they might never expect to see beyond their local environs.
I wish each of my students had a copy of this book to read at home during the break.
Krakauer’s latest book, Classic Krakauer, is a 181-page compilation of ten essays and articles that he wrote early in his career as a freelancer for The New Yorker, Outside and Smithsonianmagazines, and New Age Journal. I haven’t read them all yet, but here are those I have read so far:
Descent to Mars, the story of NASA research in Lechuguilla Cave
Death and Anger on Everest, an account of the 2014 tragedy that highlighted the dangers sherpas endure
Living Under the Volcano, a story about the prospects of living beneath Mt. Rainier
After the Fall, an account of the liability issues that have arisen with the rising popularity of mountain sports
Any one of these pieces would be excellent — and I mean EXCELLENT — readings for my junior and senior English students. Each is a riveting mix of narrative and expository prose packed with compelling digressions that build thick, meaty tales that can be consumed in one — okay, maybe two — sittings.
Even studying Krakauer’s vocabulary would be beneficial for my students. While much of the book’s vocab is domain specific to, for example, mountaineering (such as belay) or geology (such as lahar), Krakauer also employs a healthy dose of rich Tier 2 words that my students need to read and hear (such as discombobulated or pique). Many of my students think writers use “big words” just to confuse readers; Krakauer’s sophisticated semantics are an essential and useful component to his prose.
I’m thinking about requisitioning a classroom set of this book for next year.
Any one of the writings within it would spark robust discussions not only about the subject matter, but also about the writing moves Krakauer makes. Yes, I see great potential in Krakauer’s latest offering.
Thanks for reading! Do you use any Krakauer books in your classroom? What has been your experience? Placed any orders for next year? It seems so far in the future to be thinking about next fall, but once the corona virus chaos is over, it will be back to normal before we know it. Leave a comment with your thoughtsabout your wish list for 2020-21.
My Novels class is currently reading (or supposed to be reading — wink wink) this classic novel by Norman Maclean. I’m reading it again alongside them and this morning I arrived at page forty. It’s only 110 pages long, so it’s a quick read.
If you haven’t read this novella, do; it’s a breath of fresh air in this time of social distancing. (And sidenote: If you’re not into fly-fishing, push through the long, tedious paragraphs about casting, fish psychology and other specific aspects of the sport; however, don’t dismiss these purposeful passages either. Maclean uses fly-fishing metaphorically to tell his story.)
Based between Helena and Missoula, Montana, much of the action takes place on the Big Blackfoot and the smaller Elkhorn. The story shows the struggles of a young Montanan named Paul Maclean through the eyes of his older brother, Norman. The brothers share idyllic childhoods as the sons of a Presbyterian minister. In telling about his brother’s adult life that revolves around journalism, betting, alcohol, and fly-fishing, Norman shares his own struggle to take care of those we love but don’t ever quite understand.
That’s all I’ll say for now, but know that this novel takes you out on great northern rivers, along Montana roads, into dark and dusty speak-easies, and into Presbyterian church pews where a message of love and forgiveness is extolled.