Some time in April or May, I think a lot of teachers, or maybe just teacher geeks like me, start thinking about next year and how they’re going to make it even better. I have not created an entire curriculum map, but I have a skeleton. A few broader goals:
- Using wikis for my classes. And I’ve already begun working on one.
- Organizing a portfolio using LiveBinders.
- Interactive notebooks need some revision or even perhaps an overhaul.
Here are the essential questions for the British Literature and Composition course:
- How do our stories shape us? How do we shape the world around us with stories?
- How is a period of literature a response to the culture/history of that period?
- How is a period of literature a response to the previous period?
- What themes/ideas transcend time and culture?
- What are the key concepts, values, and literary forms of the various periods?
- How has the English language changed over time?
I have Joe Scotese to thank for the first question because I will be using Grendel, and the idea of the storyteller as a shaper and creator of history comes from that book, but it was Joe who made me think about how it applies to all literature. The next four are those overarching questions that frame or could frame any chronological study. The final two regard the study of literary terms and language. I plan to read about language development this summer, namely The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg, which I have on my shelf already.
I have organized the British Literature study into six major units, which is helpful because the textbook does the same; however, because we use a different text for Honors courses, it was helpful to see how I might divide its content. These units are correlated to time periods:
Major works either planned or under consideration:
- excerpts from Beowulf (textbook)
- Grendel, John Gardner
- excerpts from The Canterbury Tales (prose translations from eChaucer)
- Macbeth (textbook)
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Much Ado About Nothing (depending on course level). I suggested Twelfth Night for Honors, which I most likely will not teach.
- Pride and Prejudice? (Not sure about this as it was recently in our 9th Honors curriculum and may need to wait one more year).
- Wuthering Heights
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (summer reading)
- The Importance of Being Ernest
- Brave New World (summer reading)
Major authors by unit:
- Anonymous Beowulf author, John Gardner, Geoffrey Chaucer
- Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney
- Donne, Jonson, Marvell, Herrick, Suckling, Milton, Swift, Pope, Johnson, Gray
- Blake, Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, P. Shelley, M. Shelley, Keats, Austen
- Tennyson, R. Browning, E. B. Browning, E. Brontë, Arnold, Kipling, Housman, Wilde
- Woolf, Yeats, Orwell, Heaney, Huxley, Lessing, Owen, Brooke, Thomas, Hughes, Walcott
Again, just a skeleton.
A mockup of essential questions by unit (excluding essential questions for major works, which have their own).
- How does the literature reflect Anglo-Saxon culture?
- How did Old English evolve into Middle English?
- What can we learn about the values of people during the Middle Ages through their literature?
- How did people in the Middle Ages see their world?
- How did Shakespeare contribute to the development of the English language and to literature?
- How did the sonnet develop as a prominent poetic form?
- How did the monarchy influence literature?
- How did Middle English evolve into Early Modern English?
- How did early dictionaries contribute to the development of the English language?
- How did the English Civil War and Restoration of the Monarchy impact literature?
- How did the rise of literacy and the rise of the middle class impact literature?
- How did lyric poetry and the novel develop as forms?
- How did the spread of the British Empire impact the English language?
- How did the Age of Revolution and spread of Romanticism affect literature?
- How did the rise of industrialism impact literature?
- How did Romanticism influence the arts?
- How did Victorian reserve impact use of language?
- How did the spread of reform and imperialism impact literature?
- How did psychology, realism, and naturalism impact literature?
- How did the influx of women writers impact the development of literature?
- How did the World Wars impact literature?
- How does British English differ from American English?
- How did concepts of modernism and postmodernism develop?
- How did the waning of the British Empire affect literature?
In thinking about the literature, I drafted a list of potential essay/writing assignments, which would make eight major writing assignments in year, or four each semester.
Prospective Composition Assignments
- 2 Narrative Essays—College essay
- Persuasive/Argumentative Essay—Beowulf as hero
- Literary Analysis—characterization in Canterbury Tales, courtly love in CT
- Creative—Macbeth directing a scene, Literary Analysis—characters, theme, symbols in Macbeth, Persuasive—witches’ influence, who is to blame, Lady Macbeth’s influence
- Persuasive/Argumentative Essay—Satire (A Modest Proposal)
- Literary Analysis—Poetry Explication
- Annotating a text
I also think students should learn, refine, or develop these technology skills:
- PowerPoint or other presentation software (specifically, effective use as opposed to “Death by PowerPoint”)
- Digital Audio and/or video
- Microsoft Publisher, Apple Pages, or similar newsletter/document-creation software
- Wikis, Digital Portfolio tools
- Prerequisite skills—e-mail, MS Word (font, line spacing, formatting), online research—this list comes from previous requirements at the school and within our department.
Because I’m not sure what other courses I am teaching, excepting the Hero with a Thousand Faces elective, I have decided not to sketch out any ideas for other courses.