During junior year in New Haven Public Schools, students are expected to focus on American Literature. This unit will allow me to adhere to the standards set forth by the curriculum.
Students often believe they know what democracy is, but are unclear on the various ways it can be represented. Often times they believe that democracy comes in the form of an election or president. With this unit, I want students to explore a number of ways of understanding democracy and how our society represents it through written and non-written texts. Here they will see democracy in the form of political theory as well as fiction, poetry, and film. Students will be able to identify what democracy meant when it was first introduced to American politics. Students will also look at essays and interpret authors purpose and rhetoric strategies used to present that purpose. Moreover, students will view an artist’s cinematic interpretation of a novel and examine the differences and similarities. Students will also have an opportunity to examine how that initial ideology has changed over the course of our nation’s history. They will then also analyze a poem that hopes the original ideals about American democracy can be realized.
Additionally, there is a school wide initiative to increase our scores on the Reading for Information section of the CAPT exam. The Reading for Information requires students to read non-fiction passages and answer multiple choice questions about the meaning and author’s purpose of the passage. Our students often have difficulty interpreting non-fiction text. Although the CAPT is taken during student’s sophomore year, this unit will allow students to continue practice interpreting and analyzing non-fiction texts and how it can connect to fiction.
I chose as my main text,
The Grapes of Wrath
specifically for a number of reasons. Because the New Haven district fosters primarily minority students, they are often over exposed to minority literature paying little attention to classics written about white society. When asked to discuss failures within current and past democracy, many students will discuss slavery, the civil rights movement or Hurricane Katrina. As a former student of the New Haven district, I was never exposed to literature that wasn’t directly related to world that I lived in. Not being exposed to “classical white male” literature will leave students, as it left me, at a disadvantage when they go to college. Many minority students do not have any prior knowledge of a group of white people that have suffered social injustices to the extent of tenant farmers and others who attempted to move West during the Great Depression. I believe that
The Grapes of Wrath
is a book that will reveal to them a harsh reality about democracy that they have might not have been exposed to. This will allow students to understand that social injustices are not solely an experience based on color.