Envisioning Justice, Inquiry, and Action Teaching

This assignment asks you to try to richly envision justice, inquiry, and action teaching around a specific literary work (novel, play, several short stories, collection of poems, or other genre) that serves as an anchor text in a thematic unit appropriate to secondary teaching. 

Your development of a justice oriented thematic approach should incorporate other texts with the anchor text in a several week long unit that focuses on an issue or issues that matter to your students an/or the world. 

I think it might be especially interesting to envision your unit around a text you might actually teach during your internship this semester or next semester. I realize that a several week-long unit may not be possible to add to the class you are interning in, but at least envisioning a longer richer unit might inform the teaching you are able to do in your internship, and, above all, help you think about how to develop richer, more interconnected and meaningful literature teaching in the future.

Your unit should be several (3-5?) weeks in length. While novels likely require more time than shorter works, whatever anchor text you choose, the idea is to not have that anchor text be a "pearl on a string;" but part of a multi-textual thematic inquiry into a question of justice on which students can take action.

Your unit plan should include:

1) Some description of what you have found other teachers to be teaching in regard to the anchor text or the thematic justice topic that you are focusing on. Good teachers look around to see what other teachers are doing, and try to learn from and draw on them. What do you like about what other teachers are doing and what might you do differently?

This description could include ideas from talking with your mentor or other interns, teaching ideas or approaches that you find online from searching for teaching about the anchor text or theme, and ideas from at least one and ideally two or three English Journal articles related to your text, theme, or approach. (The English Journal is the most important journal for secondary English teachers and one dimension of the assignment is to show you are familiar with it. If you have great difficulty finding articles relevant to your anchor text or theme, consult with the professor.

To find articles connected to the unit you are going to lead will want to conduct an ERIC search (via our library database access). For articles on specific literary works or thematic topics, first set "English Journal" as the "SO Journal Title" Field. (Use quotation marks around "English Journal" - even with quotation marks on "English Journal" you may still get journals like "Arab World English Journal," which you can ignore. Look out: without the quotation marks many different journals will come up.) Second, for another Field use descriptive terms for your literary work or thematic topic (try different key word variations to find the best articles). (You will get the most articles if for your topic you use the field "TX All Text" which searches the full text of articles, not just titles or descriptors. Title and descriptor searches can be good if you are getting too many articles).

2) A description of how your unit will address issues of justice.

  • Write some paragraphs about the issue or issues you are focusing on, what are they, why are they important, how do they connect to the lives of your students and/or matter to the world? 

    Describe the grade level and social/cultural background of your students and explain how the age and background of your students factors into the way you are envisioning the unit.

  • Make a list of goals for student learning. The most important goals are what students will be learning about justice, inquiry, and action. You can also list goals that address traditional English knowledge, skills, or standards. (As I read the unit you envision I will keep these goals in mind and ask myself if it looks like students will achieve the goals you set forward.
  • Write some paragraphs about additional pieces you might incorporate to develop student understanding of the justice issue you are focusing on, that might help them better understand the anchor text, address inquiry questions they might raise, or action they might take? (These pieces might include other literary works, film, non-fiction materials, images, websites, speakers, etc.)
  • How might the text and topic touch student emotions? How can you draw on those emotions to engage students? Do the texts and topics you plan to use call for you to support or protect students in certain ways? How might you do so?
  • How will the unit you envision help students examine different perspectives on the topic?
  • How does/might the topic engage controversy? What can you do to create the freedom you need to address this topic with secondary students?

3) Describe how your students might engage in inquiry.

  • How will you foster their asking of meaningful questions?
  • What questions do you think might interest them?
  • How can their questions help direct what they are learning?
  • How can you incorporate student research?
  • How will their questions help them better understand important issues and the world around them?

4) How does the unit lead to students taking action to address the issue? Taking action can take many forms. Educating others about the topic is one form of action.

5) Describe several different kinds of writing assignments that you might use and why.

6) How will you address a diversity of reading abilities in your class? How you might you support ELL students?

7) Include at least one page that describes how you would organize the unit. What might you focus on in each week? Are there specific lessons or activities you would like to do? When would they fit in?

8) (Optional) A lesson plan for one day (or maybe two, if it is a long lesson). This lesson plan could be written using my suggested lesson plan format).

I don't have a fixed idea about how many pages you will need to develop your ideas, 10? On the day that your unit plan is due, I would like you to share it with the rest of the seminar. Your sharing might include a handout, some Google Slides, or other method to help other members of the seminar understand and remember what you have envisioned.

Created by: allen.webb@wmich.edu
Revised Date: 10/23