Planning for Next Year

Titanic BlueprintSome 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:

  1. Anglo-Saxon/Medieval
  2. Renaissance
  3. Restoration/Neoclassical
  4. Romanticism
  5. Victorian
  6. Modernism/Postmodernism

Major works either planned or under consideration:

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).

Unit 1

  1. How does the literature reflect Anglo-Saxon culture?
  2. How did Old English evolve into Middle English?
  3. What can we learn about the values of people during the Middle Ages through their literature?
  4. How did people in the Middle Ages see their world?

Unit 2

  1. How did Shakespeare contribute to the development of the English language and to literature?
  2. How did the sonnet develop as a prominent poetic form?
  3. How did the monarchy influence literature?
  4. How did Middle English evolve into Early Modern English?

Unit 3

  1. How did early dictionaries contribute to the development of the English language?
  2. How did the English Civil War and Restoration of the Monarchy impact literature?
  3. How did the rise of literacy and the rise of the middle class impact literature?
  4. How did lyric poetry and the novel develop as forms?

Unit 4

  1. How did the spread of the British Empire impact the English language?
  2. How did the Age of Revolution and spread of Romanticism affect literature?
  3. How did the rise of industrialism impact literature?
  4. How did Romanticism influence the arts?

Unit 5

  1. How did Victorian reserve impact use of language?
  2. How did the spread of reform and imperialism impact literature?
  3. How did psychology, realism, and naturalism impact literature?
  4. How did the influx of women writers impact the development of literature?

Unit 6

  1. How did the World Wars impact literature?
  2. How does British English differ from American English?
  3. How did concepts of modernism and postmodernism develop?
  4. 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

  1. 2 Narrative Essays—College essay
  2. Persuasive/Argumentative Essay—Beowulf as hero
  3. Literary Analysis—characterization in Canterbury Tales, courtly love in CT
  4. Creative—Macbeth directing a scene, Literary Analysis—characters, theme, symbols in Macbeth, Persuasive—witches’ influence, who is to blame, Lady Macbeth’s influence
  5. Persuasive/Argumentative Essay—Satire (A Modest Proposal)
  6. Literary Analysis—Poetry Explication
  7. 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.

Creative Commons License photo credit: R P Marks

18 thoughts on “Planning for Next Year”

  1. Wow. Just wow. I am very impressed with all the planning you're doing. I will have to check back in when I have a little more time just to check out your ideas. I'm also glad to see that I'm not the only one who begins thinking of next year before this one's even over! Thanks for writing on this blog; I enjoy reading it.

      1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who starts planning before the current year is out! 🙂 I love your ideas, by the way. And I totally agree, the planning is the fun part! LOL!

  2. I'm so glad you did this — this will help me as I plan for next year. I have trouble nailing down details and I plan to use your skeleton as a template to help me. w00t!

    Additionally — why not teach a different Austen book? What about Emma (ties to Clueless) or Sense & Sensibility? I think those two are the other most accessible of her six books. Just a thought…

    1. Mainly I chose Pride and Prejudice because it's my favorite. Sense and Sensibility might work, but I am not sure if it might be a part of our curriculum elsewhere. It has been in the past. Marianne certainly serves to represent the dangers of Romantic (in both senses) sensibilities. I didn't like Emma as much as the other, too, though I loved Amy Heckerling's adaptation.

  3. Hi! Love your site. I teach a semester-long Brit Lit course with mostly the same texts (a shorter version of your reading list). I would HIGHLY recommend Bragg's book and the video if you can find it. It structured my course very nicely, and the kids were into it.

  4. I have definitely starting planning for next year! I need to revamp the way I use blogs and see how I can make them useful for each unit, and I'm planning to blog on my teacher website for the first time, so I want to think about how to do that. It's a great feeling too that I have actually have a fair amount of successful stuff from this year that will go into my bag o' tricks–ending my third year teaching HS, I feel like my bag is finally expanding!

    1. I have always felt, every time I've worked in a new school or teaching a new subject, that I finally have it down by the third year. This will be my third year teaching Brit. Lit. I think it's going to be good.

  5. I so wish I was one of your students…between the thoughtful planning and the wealth of literature being offered, any student should feel very lucky. Thank you for sharing your plan. It has inspired me to start thinking about next year and how to better serve my students.

  6. Just a thought…and one more thing to add to your full plate…I would love to participate in a book study like we did a couple of summers ago with Penny Kettle's book Writing Beside Them.

    Would this be something you might consider?

      1. Three that I have on my Amazon wish list right now that I might be interested in reading with people are Teaching Adolescent Writers (Kelly Gallagher), Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction (Edgar Schuster), or Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents (Deborah Appleman). I really don't know anything about them other than what I see on Amazon, but they are on my wish list because one day I might just be intrigued enough to buy one!

  7. You are a life saver. I was in need of writing a course objective ASAP . You have made it so easy to plan for. I will be using many of your lessons. So glad I clicked on your web page. I have all new classes for 2010-11, Brit lit, Comp. and Eng. IV. Lot of work for the summer with lesson plans, and reading. Thank you. Enjoyed reading others comments too. Want to keep in contact with all who have been writing.

Comments are closed.