You’re a part of it. You contribute to it. You’re shaped by it. What do you know about “it”?
These issues and this question will be at the core of my unit. As a theme for reading and writing, “family” is indeed rich. Teacher and students have expertise to bring to the subject. The theme facilitates crossing literary genres in the search for worthwhile titles for inclusion in the unit. These crossovers can help students realize the richness and variety of family life—as a daily reality as well as a school subject.
In addition to this appreciation, the unit will concentrate on reading critically and analytically, responding actively and imaginatively to the literature: engaging in discussion; writing.
The titles in the unit incorporate opportunities to discuss these elements of family life:
the function of the family in society;
the importance of a family to an individual;
the working-through of the developmental tasks of adolescence.
I’ve taught a unit on The Family in Literature to my eighth grade students for the past two years. Until now, the unit has existed primarily in my head as an amorphous body of work. It has been too loosely woven: the theme has been given short shrift. Now, the writing and research I have done for this seminar have prompted me to rethink the unit thoroughly, for it is too important a theme—covered at a critical point in students’ lives—to be covered superficially. The plays, novels, short stories, and poems my students and I will read and discuss deal with self-discovery, an important strand in our seminar work: new knowledge of who we are, where we came from, what matters to us, and why.