I have been struggling with writing a UbD plan for Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. I think have have one sketched out, though I still need to create guiding questions for various pieces of the unit, including YouTube videos and a selection from Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat.
In looking at the plot and themes of the play, and perhaps because it is so much in my thoughts lately because of my professional development courses, I made a connection between the play and the modernization/globalization or flattening of the world that our students will need to contend with in their work lives. One chapter of The World is Flat in particular came to mind — “The Untouchables” — as I began thinking about connections. I opened my book only to see Friedman himself referred to Willy Loman in that chapter. It must have been there in my subconscious because I had recently read it, but I was grateful to have my connection thus solidified.
I struggled to come up with a performance task that is relevant and addresses my essential questions, but would also be engaging. I think I have one. I am fairly happy with the unit as it stands because I think it is a unit that connects a past Miller was familiar with to a present and future he probably could not have imagined, and I think it will have interest and relevance for my students. You can check out the unit at the UbD Educators wiki.
I want to ask wiki members a question: Miguel suggested that we unlock those summary pages to allow nonmembers to participate. What do you think? My idea was that allowing editing by wiki members only would prevent vandalism, but it also closes participation — I have not denied membership to anyone, nor do I plan to (unless they join then vandalize the wiki, which seems unlikely), so perhaps the point is moot.
Check out the summaries and add your thoughts. I’m really excited about Miguel’s work and plan to begin adding my own ideas this weekend.
I have mentioned before that the UbD Educators wiki has grown quiet. I think there may be two reasons for this:
We’re all busy educators who have difficulty finding the time to create, post, and/or comment on others’ posted UbD units.
We’re not getting what we need out of the wiki.
It’s not in my power to alleviate the first problem, and believe me, I hear you there. However, the second problem is much easier to address. The wiki is only as good as we make it. If you need a feature that the wiki doesn’t have, add it. If you have trouble keeping up with new pages and discussions, try subscribing to the site’s various RSS feeds (you can keep up with all changes or just changes to one page). If you want to make a change, but you aren’t sure, ask the wiki members about it on the Suggestions page. the majority of the wiki’s members have not yet contributed either unit plans or discussions. I want to hear your voice! I don’t mind lurkers, but we have the potential to make this wiki a huge repository of ideas and discussion about UbD, and we can only do that through teacher contributions.
I just finished writing UbD units for Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet at the UbD Educators wiki. As I finished writing the unit for Hamlet and saved the page, I lost half the work I had done, and I am still not sure how it happened, so I had to re-do it. Word to the wise — when working with anything you’re doing online, save and save often. When, oh when will I learn to do that?
In order to successfully steal the Hamlet unit, you’ll need to purchase a copy of Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Hamlet and Henry IV, Part 1. I have the edition published in 1994, and I haven’t seen the latest edition, so if you know the difference between the two editions and would care to share in the comments for interested parties, I would appreciate it. I think the Shakespeare Set Free series is a great resource for educators, but I don’t do all of the performance activities.
If you are looking for Shakespeare video, you might check out Shakespeare and More over at YouTube. They have a large selection of Shakespearean video. Speaking of video, if you were looking at older posts about teaching Romeo and Juliet, you will have noticed the videos don’t work. I’m sorry about that. I’ll need to go back and revise the posts so that the video isn’t necessary, as the videos are no longer available at YouTube.
Meg Fitzpatrick, editor of of the UbD e-journal Big Ideas, invited me to contribute to both the e-journal and a new blog they are announcing today: The Faculty Room. Please come on over and join in our conversations (my first post on the blog should appear some time tomorrow). You will find other “familiar faces” over there. Also, now seems as good a time as any to remind you that the UbD Educators wiki is a good resource for you to post, share, “borrow,” and obtain or leave feedback on UbD lesson plans.
I am once again teaching The Odyssey. I have posted my UbD plan for this unit over at the UbD Educators wiki. The unit plan is not different from what I’ve done with The Odyssey in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever framed it with essential questions. Incidentally, inspired by Tom from Bionic Teaching, I have decided to integrate Google Earth into the project for the first time. I need to do some more playing with Google Earth so I can figure out how it works, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I think it will be a good tool for us.
The performance assessment is a project detailed in English Journal, “Bringing Homer’s Odyssey Up to Date: An Alternative Assessment,” Vol. 86 No. 1, pp. 65-68, Jan 1997. I was a student teacher when I first used it (the 1996-1997 year was my student teaching year), and I have always had great success with it. If you teach The Odyssey, I highly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of that article. I am going to have the students chart their own Odysseus’ journey using Google Earth. I am contemplating publication online through a blog or wiki or some other type of website, but we’ll see.
Well, at any rate, I invite new folks to join in, quiet members to speak up, and previously active members (such as myself) to become active again. I think this kind of professional development, sadly, is much more valuable and important than much of what teachers normally get. I’m only sad I can’t get you PLU credits for it.
I’m going to start with a unit on The Canterbury Tales. Wish me luck, but give me time to finish it before you comment.
See you over there.
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