A blog following teacher Aaron Jura as he plans engaging, yet relevant English Language Arts content for High School students in New Orleans, LA.
Every year I try to set myself a BIG goal. I am held accountable for the goal through our Professional Growth Plans and always want to see success. This year, my goal is to modernize the English I curriculum. You might be saying to yourself, "What does it mean to modernize the curriculum?" Believe me... I asked myself that same question about 1,000 ways and what I came up with was that the curriculum is not engaging because it is not relevant to students today.
I can't really say what modernizing IS, but I can tell you what it's NOT. Modernizing does not mean eliminating classics. In fact, to modernize doesn't require elimination at all -- it requires a better mastery over classroom time and tightening routines to make the needed adjustments to enrich the curriculum with engaging and relevant content.
For example, where the curriculum says we need to do Homer's Odyssey or Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet it does not say how this should be done. That's where the modernization comes in.
This entire past month I have been added a unit in -- prior to engaging in our reading of The Odyssey -- on Greek Mythology and myth in general. Students have been very engaged in the mythological stories and beginning next week we will work through a group presentation project -- Mythological Reality TV where students will "pitch" a reality TV concept based upon a researched myth (from a culture other than Greek/Roman.) These types of engaging extensions help to modernize the curriculum by encouraging students to get engaged in their readings.
If students are able to understand the Cyclops' mentality based upon Greek mythological representations won't they get to a deeper level of critical analysis when they encounter Polyphemus in the Odyssey?
As for Romeo and Juliet, why not read it through the use of graphic novels? Why not act out scenes in a tableau form? Why not modernize the language and have students write Shakespearean insults? These are all highly engaging activities for the modern student that still allow us English teachers to cover the content we want the students to know and engage with.
Finally, thanks to a generous grant from Jamba Juice we will be adding in a unit on graphic novels and comic books. I am going to use this moment to teach about transition -- and the use of art in relationship. I can't wait to get started. For anyone interested in using comics in class, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and also taking the FREE course at the California College of the Arts (online) called Comics: Art in Relationship. I am also going to start incessantly bothering author Ta Nehisi Coates to see about getting a SKYPE call to the classroom about his work on Marvel comic's Black Panther series. :-)
Just another day in the life of a high school teacher.
Mr. J is a high school teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. J believes in the power of educators to help children and families achieve. Follow his blog for tips and techniques to keep engagement high and student achievement at the forefront.