After examining the literature pairs, students will be able to:
- Express interpretations of the work both written and orally
- Use details from the literature to write narratives, make connections and examine their own interpretations in their journals
- Share their work with their classmates
- Create their own "Life Map" which shows students' own connections to place and architecture
- Understand the importance of setting, place and architecture in the creation of fictional characters as well as the shaping of their own lives.
- Comfortably discuss architecture as it relates to fiction
While this unit is designed for an eighth grade Language Arts class, there is no reason why it could not be adapted to any number of other classes. Why not look at the connection between setting and architecture in the shaping of the Plymouth Plantation and the Pilgrims in History class? How was the planning of Washington D.C. a reflection of the people's lives during the late 18th Century? How do people's dwellings in different cultures reflect who they are? It is a natural place to begin any number of lessons in any number of different subjects. What I am really proposing here is a concept rather that a curriculum unit.
Similarly, if you are intending on using this unit for an English class, you are by no means limited to the pairs of stories and poems that I am suggesting be used here. Feel free to adjust the materials to any number of other stories and characters for any number of different levels of English Language Arts. How does setting affect or reflect the characters in the story
? How are characters in science fiction shaped by their surroundings? What is the role of place in biography? Again, the possibilities are endless. The units in the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute are a wonderful resource by themselves, but the true beauty of these units is the endless possibilities that they create for teachers who are willing to borrow this piece or that piece for their own use.
Since I teach at an Arts Magnet school I will also be incorporating artwork into the beginning and ending of each section of the unit. Students will view an image or several images of similar places that they are about to explore. We will brainstorm on the images to see how different places make us feel or think before going on to the literature. So the viewing of images really becomes a sort of pre-reading activity for the classes. I have listed some possible references in my bibliography, but the sources of images are endless. Teachers would lead the classes through the use of questions such as:
- What do you see in this picture?
- How does it make you feel?
- If you lived here what would you have to change about yourself?
- Describe someone who might live here.
- Imaging someone in this picture. What might they be doing? Help us visualize the character that you can imagine.
Next the class moves onto the literature section of the unit. Basically we will be reading two short literary works in each section of this unit. Each pair will consist of a poem and a short story. Each pair will also be arranged under a given theme that will shape discussion of character and setting. Students will read the literature as they do in any class. But the difference in this unit is that teachers will emphasize character and character interaction with his/her surroundings.
The next part of each section will focus on the journal writing and the theme of the pairs. Students will be asked to reflect in their journals and share their reflections with the class. I ask students to utilize the "TAG" method of sharing which was introduced to me by the Connecticut Writing Project. Simply write the letters T, A, G on the blackboard vertically. Tell the students T stands for tell the reader something you liked about the journal, A stands for ask a question about the work and G stands for give a suggestion on how to improve the writing. The TAG method provides a nice give and take among the students during the journal sharing.
Finally students will be asked to wrap up each section with an artistic interpretation of some sort. This might include a drawing in a journal, a mini collage or sculpture or a creative map of the story. As mentioned before I will ask students to create a cumulative "life map" at the end of the unit also.
Each of the four sections of the unit will follow this pattern; View-Read-Write in Journals-Share-Create. Since there are four literature pairs making up the four sections of the entire unit, teachers should plan on spending at least an entire month teaching the unit.