Young Narrators: Voice, Identity and Coming of Age in Short Fiction Unit Rationale:
As a 9th grade English teacher at an urban, public high school, my students’ learning needs, strengths, personalities, and interests vary significantly. Each year, I share my classroom with many students reading and writing well-below grade level, with some that love reading and writing, with some that are indifferent to it, and some that unabashedly, and quite frequently, announce their aversion to the written word. There are always the extroverts, eager to seize the room, along with the more reserved, quiet ones, desperate to blend into their seats. My hope is to create a unit that will encourage access for all learners, regardless of skill level and personality—one that will capitalize on the varied backgrounds, cultures, and learning styles of my 9th graders.
I want to teach this unit as the first unit of the year this fall, and chose the format of the short story because I think it offers students a fantastic entry point into critical literary analysis; because of the length, I think students will feel less intimidated and less overwhelmed as they begin their first high school English class, than they would if they were to begin with a novel. This will allow me to focus more heavily on the “tools” for critical literary analysis, the habits of successful close-reading, and the foundational writing skills that we will build on throughout the year. One major focus of this unit will be to completely immerse students in the skills, habits, and practices of strong, critical readers.
The literature choices for this unit, in the format of the short story, are intended to immerse students into a world of young narrators that are in some way grappling with their own identities and their understanding of and place in the world. Students will encounter these narrators as they read excerpts from Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street, along with the following short stories: “Fiesta” by Junot Diaz, “Lessons” by Justin Torres, “Brownies” by Z.Z. Packer, and “Refresh, Refresh” by Benjamin Percy. The formation of identity can in no way be separated from race, class, gender and disability, all of which surface in the stories; explorations of these topics and how they relate to student understanding of the texts will be deliberately incorporated into the unit. Although we will analyze each short story for various literary elements, the focus will be on an author’s development of character, perspective, and voice, and how these elements work together to shape characters’ identities and their understanding of the world. In many ways, much of this unit will be about the appreciation of voice—the voice of a young girl in “Brownies” as she attends a racially divided summer camp, and is forced to learn an important lesson about a young girl with a disability, or the teenage voice of Junior in “Fiesta,” as he comes to understand more than he wanted to know about his mother and his father’s infidelity. By the end of the unit, my hope is that students see the universality of coming of age, and appreciate the rich and varied texture of the adolescent experience, both of the narrators in the stories, and of the one unfolding in their own lives.
In addition to the common themes, I selected the literature for this unit based on the authors’ use of language and its importance to their stories. Our class discussions throughout this course around language, our teaching of proper English, and our treatment of the various vernaculars spoken by our students, really resonated with me and forced me to reconsider my treatment of it—both in my instruction and assessment. In “Teaching New Worlds, New Words”, Bell Hooks explores the role of the Black Vernacular in her life, challenging the academic’s world adherence to standard English. She writes: “Reflecting on Adrienne Rich’s words, I know that it is not the English language that hurts me, but what the oppressors do with it, how they shape it to become a territory that limits and defines, how they make it a weapon that can shame, humiliate, colonize.” (Hooks 257). This unit seeks to respond to this idea, to disengage from the traditional mindset there is only one “correct” way for students to speak and write. Some of the stories students will read in this unit are directly affirming of the value and beauty of language that deviates from standard English, such as “Fiesta,” in which Diaz writes incredibly compelling, complex, relatable fiction that relies heavily on the use of the vernacular. Other stories that will be read in this unit, such as “Refresh, Refresh” will invite rich conversation about the author’s word choice, use of language, and what those choices reveal to us about class, language, and the narrator’s place in the world.
The class activities and assessments will not at all dismiss the value and inevitable need for students to write, read and speak to the best of their ability in standard English; my students will be judged, and either denied or given opportunities throughout their whole lives based on their ability to do so, and I obviously plan to prepare them for this in the best way that I know how. However, many of the lessons, as well as the framework that I will use to discuss each of the texts, will work to help students come away with the sense that there are many different ways to speak, that one way of talking isn’t necessarily “better” than another, and there are many opportunities in the classroom for non-standard English to be valued and celebrated, not merely “allowed” in an extra-credit assignment or Do-Now. As William Labov illustrates in “Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence” it’s critical for teachers to truly value the Black Vernacular, and to not be so quick to dismiss the reality that formal English is, perhaps, just one way of speaking (Labov 270). My hope is that this unit sends the message to students that all of the languages we speak—whether it is another native language or the Black Vernacular, the “dialect” we speak with friends versus the one we adopt in a professional setting—are of equal value, and have a critical place in the classroom and in our own unique ways of learning.
Students Will Be Able To…
Create a working definition of identity and explain how each of the narrators in the short stories are struggling to define their own identities
Understand and explain the function of the following literary terms in each of the stories: point of view, diction, voice, characterization, theme, sensory details, and symbolism
Articulate ideas and opinions in writing and respond to the ideas and opinions of others by participating in a blog
Enhance critical analysis and writing skills by participating in close, active readings of several texts
Participate orally and on a regular basis in small-group and large-group discussions of a text
Understand how each short story demonstrates the universal experience of “coming of age”
Write multiple drafts of their own short story (using a variety of self-editing and peer-editing techniques) that demonstrates mastery of several literary elements studied in the short stories
This unit would take place over the course of six-weeks. The follows are sample lessons, assessments and handouts from the unit, along with a description of the final project.
Duration: 2 Class Periods (60 min each.)
Students Will Be Able To…
Articulate, in writing, ideas about their own identities
Explore, write, and speak about the experiences in their lives that have impacted (and continue to impact) their identities
Create a Bio Poem that encapsulates ideas about their identities
Use PhotoShop to create a visual representation of their poems and identities
Do-Now: Explain the directions in the handout “Once I Was” (*Handout A)
Read through models with students (i.e. I was once a negative person…now I am optimistic and happy)
Instruct students to complete handout by writing their three sentences (Part A)
Think, Pair, Share (with partner or small group)
Instruct students to complete Part B independently, explaining what experiences led to the changes they described.
Whole Class Share-Out
Tell students that they are going to be writing a Bio Poem, which is a poem about themselves and who they are. Explain that the handout they just completed was purposeful in helping them think about who they are.
Provide Students with instructions for the assignment, which encourages them to integrate non-standard English, if they choose. This could include words from other languages, if they speak another language besides English, or elements of “urban slang” or the Black Vernacular. Caution students against profanity or offensive language.
Provide models for poem (*Handout B)
Students should complete rough draft of poems by the end of class
Students make final edits to Bio Poems
Provide students with instructions on PhotoShop assignment, in which they will create a document in photoshop that combines their poem with an image that symbolizes, or represents, their poem, and thus their identity.
1. Students work on PhotoShop Bio Poem assignment, which should be due at the end of the period. If there is time, students can share work. Teacher should print and display poems with student permission.
Lesson 2: “What’s in a Name?”
Lesson Duration: 2 Class Periods (60 min each)
Students Will Be Able To…
Explore the links between one's name and his or her identity
Reflect on the importance of a name
Define and identify point of view
Discuss Cisneros’ use of language and identify specific words/phrases that contribute to the development of a unique voice in the excerpts
1. Write the following quotation by Ralph Ellison on the board: “Through our names we place ourselves in the world.” Ask students to respond to this quote. What does it mean? Do you agree or disagree? How important are names? Why are they important to us?
2. Ask students to free write on anything they know about their name. How the name was chosen, what it means, what it might have to do with their family history, if they like/dislike their name. Ask them also how their feelings about their names might have changed (if at all) as they have grown.
3. Think/Pair/Share – Have students turn to a partner and share what they wrote.
4. Whole class share out.
5. Pass out the following excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street. Read aloud together.
In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.It was my great-grandmother's name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse--which is supposed to be bad luck if you're born female-but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don't like their women strong.
My great-grandmother. I would've liked to have known her, a wild, horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn't marry. Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. That's the way he did it. And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window. At school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth. But in Spanish my name is made out of a softer something, like silver, not quite as thick as sister's name Magdalena--which is uglier than mine. Magdalena who at least- -can come home and become Nenny. But I am always Esperanza. I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do.
6. Define Point of View and Voice for students. Write definition on board/PPT and have students record.
7. Ask students what they notice about Cisneros use of language: How is it similar to things you have read in the past? How is it different?
8. Have students complete handout that asks them to look closely at Cisneros’ use of language, and how it is related to Point of View and the development of the narrator’s voice. Make sure to focus on the discussion of how the language choices create a certain feeling. Ask students: how would this excerpt be different if Cisneros had not included Spanish words? What about if she hadn’t relied on such sensory imagery?
9. Using the excerpt from House on Mango Street as a “Mentor Text,” have students write several paragraphs about their own name, trying to replicate (though not copy) Cisneros’ voice and Point of View. Make sure to review the elements of Cisneros’ text that contribute to the voice, so that students have something concrete to work with.
Have students complete their “Mentor Text” paragraphs about their name.
Share Out with Class if there is time.
Lesson 3: “Beginning our Digital Conversation”
Students Will Be Able To…
Understand the purpose and function of the class blog in the short story unit
Understand expectations for their contributions to the class blog
Review sentence starters for blog entries to encourage conversation and dialogue between students
1. Do-Now: Have students respond: What is a blog? Why are blogs used? How are they different from a group discussion? How are they the same?
2. Discuss as large group
3. Instruct students to take out computers and go to their unit blog
4. Have students download handouts from the left column that include general instructions and expectations (*Handout C)
5. Instruct students to put their laptop screens half way down, and then review instructions on the Smartboard together as a class
6. Have students create their own weebly account and then show them how to post comments
7. Assign students to blog groups.
8. Have students complete their first blog entry in response to a quote. Though this won’t allow them to necessarily respond to each other, it will given them an opportunity to use the blog, demonstrate an understanding of expectations and make sure that their account and password is working.
Lesson 4: A Lesson in Point of View: Rotten Fruit
Students Will Be Able To…
Understand the terms “diction” and “biased details” and apply it to an activity
Understand and experience how authors use diction to create Point of View
(Prior to lesson: Obtain five pieces of rotten fruit (preferably something large enough for students to view in detail when sitting in a group, such as peaches or apples, to bring to class)
Place the students into five groups, with a piece of rotten fruit in the middle of each table or arrangement of desks
Give each student in the group a card that says that they are one of the following: someone who hasn’t eaten a thing in four days, a wealthy person who eats often and just finished an enormous meal, someone who is trying to sell the piece of rotten fruit, and someone who thinks that rotten fruit brings back luck.
Remind students what sensory details are (should have been taught previous)
Tell students to write three sentences describing the fruit from the point of view of the person they were given with the card. Tell students they must use as many descriptive sensory details as possible, and that their choices of details should hint at how they, as the person they were given, feel about the fruit. Tell students NOT to say directly how they feel about the fruit.
Once students are done, ask for volunteers to read their description, but to not tell the class which perspective they were given. Have the class guess on the perspective.
Discuss as a small group, then large: How did you know which description matched which point of view? What details did you use in your own sentences that helped to create the voice of your point of view/imaginary character? What did the details used tell us about who your imaginary character was?
Explain to students that they just used “biased details” and diction in the fruit activity Explain how authors, just like they were, are very careful in their choices of language, and that the language choices are used to create a point of view, a voice, and a feeling. Explain that word choice is called diction, and have students record the definition on their notebooks. Also have students record a definition of “biased details.”
Next, provide students with a new set of cards, this time with ones that give them identities based on age: a five-year old, a ten year old, a middle-aged woman, and an elderly man. This time, tell students to do the same as before, but this time, write in such a way that will help your classmates guess which perspective you have, without coming out and saying it.
Close with a discussion about point of view, diction, and biased details and how it connects to understanding a text.
Lesson 5: Point of View and Voice in “Fiesta” by Junot Diaz Objectives:
Students Will Be Able To…
Critically analyze Voice, Point of View, and Diction in a text
Appreciate Diaz’s use of a very specific vernacular and how it brings the narrator alive for the reader
Understand the theme of “coming of age” and how Diaz’s story is, in many ways, universal
Do-Now: One paragraph response. Two choices: 1) What are the positive things about growing up? What might be negative about growing up? How does growing up force us to learn new things about the adults in our lives? 2) Is there one “right” way to talk to write? How do you know?
Discuss both questions in the Do-Now.
Read the opening passage of “Fiesta.”
Instruct students to circle the words or phrases that tell readers something about the narrator. Have students complete a chart in which they list words/phrases on one side and what it tells readers about the narrator or character on the other (*Handout D)
Share out responses
Ask students to respond in writing: How would the opening passage be different if Diaz had not included phrases such as “my tia Yrma,” “dope idea,” and “kicked our asses something serious” ? Why do you think Diaz chose to use these words? What effect do they have?
Continue to read the story together as a class, having student highlight “biased details” or diction choices that they think tell readers something about the narrator.
Stop 10 minutes before class is over to ask students to share their words/phrases and what they think they tell readers about the narrator.
*Fast-forwarding through a few lessons*
I intend to repeat this process with the chart, throughout subsequent lessons until the story is finished, encouraging students to understand and appreciate Diaz’s language choices. I also intend to make sure to ask students to identify what words written in non-standard English really bring Junior to life for the reader. Subsequent lessons for this story will focus on the coming of age theme, the impact of class and race on the characters, how Junior changed, and what he learns about his parents and himself. I will encourage students to identify and discuss the universal aspects of coming of age, as well as the subtle brushstrokes Diaz’s provides on the assimilation process into American culture. During the reading of this, students will write multiple postings on the blog in response to questions related to voice, diction, point of view, and Diaz’s general use of language. I will also encourage students to perform a close reading by annotating the text in multiple ways, and to annotate using the informal language that helps them to best understand and remember their thoughts.
Lesson 6: Perspective in Z.Z. Packer’s “Brownies”
Lesson Duration: 2 Class Periods (60 min each)
Students Will Be Able To…
Critically analyze Voice, Point of View, Diction, symbolism, and character development in a text
Understand what the author’s use of language reveals to us about the narrator’s growing sense of identity, age, racism in the lives of the characters, and what it means to “belong”
Reflect on the how characters in the story react to disability, and how the people in their own lives seems to respond to disability
Procedure: Day 1
Do-Now: Two choices: 1) Why is it sometimes difficult to make an unpopular decision, even when it might be the right thing to do? 2) Describe a time in your own life when you were forced to make a difficult ethical decision (one that required you to use your judgment about what is right or wrong)
Introduce chart that requires students to identify and analyze examples of Voice, Point of View, Diction, Symbolism, and character development.
Read “Brownies” as a class, highlighting for the above terms and stopping to fill out chart and share examples.
Encourage students to identify how the author’s choices of details inform us about the narrator’s perceptions of her race and other races at the camp.
Finish reading story and completing chart
Blog Assignment: Provide each blog group with different characters from Brownies that they will assume the role of in their post. As the assigned character, have students respond to the following: What do you feel your role was with regards to the incident in the restroom? Do you think you made the right decision? What factors in your life do you think influenced your decision? What did you learn from the incident? Encourage students to write in the voice of their character by making realistic diction choices for the character and maintaining a consistent point of view.
After students have completed their responses, have them read their group’s responses and choose one to respond to, still from the perspective of the characters.
Lesson 7: The Illusion of Choice in “Refresh, Refresh” Lesson Duration: 2 Class Periods (60 min each)
Students Will Be Able To…
Take an active role in critically analyzing Voice, Point of View, Diction and Symbolism and how it relates to the narrator’s development of identity
Articulate the coming of age theme depicted in a text
Understand how the author uses language to illustrate the narrator’s invisible struggles with class barriers and gender constructs
Procedure: Day 1
Do-Now: Choices: 1) What does it mean to be “tough”? Why do some people seem to value this quality so much 2) Is there an adult in your life that you emulate or admire and want to be like when you grow older? What do you admire about this person?
Discuss Do-Now in small/large groups
Have students reads the story together, aloud, in small groups. If there is access, some students can be moved to an alternate space or in the hallways so that it doesn’t get too loud. (Depending on the reading level of the class, students may need two periods to read the text or may have to finish it at home)
Ask students to write their own questions (minimum of 5) about the text. Questions must relate to the author’s development of Voice, Point of View, Diction, Symbolism, character development, or any other literary term discussed thus far.
Circulate the classroom and help students in writing their own questions.
Once a good list has been generated, have students begin discussing questions
Conclude class with a large group discussion of one question from each group.
*Fast forwarding through a few lessons* After students have had the opportunity to discuss their questions, I will spend the next few lessons having them dissecting Percy’s use of language and how it illustrates the class barriers that the narrator and other characters are forced to confront in the small, desert town of Tumalo, Oregon. We will make use of the blog, multiple opportunities for oral expression, and several opportunities to practice using biased details to take on the voice of a character. Discussion will begin to tie the narrators in each of the stories together in their universal depiction of coming of age themes, identity, and their use of language in developing voice. Specifically, students will move towards an understanding of one of the story’s more important, though quite pessimistic, themes: the illusion of choice in the lives of those who are oppressed. During our reading of this story, I will begin to ask students to choose a few of their blog posts, written in conversational style, to reproduce in standard English. We would openly discuss the value of doing so, and the idea that certain types of language are required in different settings, and that it’s not a question of value, but of the ability to make the switch when necessary. For this assignment, I would have a specific grammar focus, and would repeat the process a few times throughout the rest of the unit. In the last short story of the unit, “Lessons” by Justin Torres, I will focus on similar strategies and themes.
Lesson 8: “And Our Next Guest Is…”
Lesson Duration: 2 Class Periods (60 min each)
Students Will Be Able To…
Assume of the role and voice of a character in one of the stories read throughout the unit
Demonstrate knowledge of characters by participating in an activity that requires both written and oral contributions
For this assignment, in groups, students will be asked to create a five-page script for a talk show in which characters from one of the stories will be the guests. There will be five groups and each group will have one of the five stories read. Please see attached assignment (*Handout E)
Lesson 9: Final Project
For the final project, students will be asked to write either an alternate ending or an additional scene for one of the short stories read. Although I consider this a creative project and want to give students creative freedom, I will require that students assume the role of the narrator, and write in and maintain the voice of that narrator. These requirements will help me to assess student understanding of the literary elements we focused on throughout the unit, such as Point of View, Diction, and Voice, and to see if students can apply that understanding to a creative work. Please see the final project assignment (*Handout F*)
*Handout A* Name: Date:
Do Now: “Once I Was, Now I Am”
Directions: For this Do-Now, you are going to write THREE SENTENCES about yourself using the following format:
“Once I was……………………………, now I am. Examples: 1. Once I was a smoker, now I am a health nut.
2. Once I was a really negative person, now I am someone who always tries to think positively.
3. Once I was happy and optimistic, now I am sad and fearful.
4. Once I was an innocent child, now I am a mature adult.
5. Once I was distrustful of others, now I am someone that trusts others until they give me a reason not to.
Part A: Please write your sentences below:
Part B: Next, choose once of your sentences and explain what experiences in your life created the change in you that you described. For example, if you became a person that learned to trust others, how did this happen? What experiences shaped this aspect of your identity? *Handout B* ~ Bio Poem Examples
Bio Poem for Barack Obama
Brother of many
Lover of Michelle, his daughters, and Bo
Who feels confident, optimistic, and powerful
Who needs love from his family, support from the country, and protection from the Secret Service
Who gives us hope for the future
Who fears soldiers dying in war, people losing jobs, Bo peeing on the Oval Office carpet
Who would like to see equality and justice
Resident of the White House
Bio Poem ~ Ms. Motta
Artistic, complicated, sensitive, caring
Sister of Marcus, Joshua, Jessica, Vanessa, Paige
Lover of Writing, Teaching, and the outdoors
Who feels hopeful, curious, and thankful for what she has
Who needs more sleep, support from those she loves, and to see her students succeed in life
Who gives respect, understanding, and compassion
Who fears being misunderstood, losing someone close to her, and letting loved ones down
Who would like to see social justice, a gentler world, and her students to accomplish their dreams
Resident of Quincy, MA
*Handout C* Weebly Blog Information and Expectations
1. How do sign up for a weebly account so that I can post on the blog?
Go to weebly.com
Insert full name
Enter a valid gmail address (see me if you don’t have a gmail account)
Create a password
Click the “sign up it’s free” button
You’re good to go!
2. How does this all work? Throughout the unit, there will be many times that you will be asked to complete a blog posting. This means that you will post a piece of your writing on the blog, and that your writing can be viewed by your classmates.
3, How do the groups work? You will be assigned to a group, and each group will have its own page on the blog. You will be mainly responding to the comments made by your group members. In most cases, there will be a prompt related to a story we are reading, and you will be asked to write a response. Then, depending on the assignment, you will read the responses of your group members, and will be asked to respond to one or more of the comments made.
4. What is the purpose of all this?
You can think of this portion of the unit as a “digital conversation.” It will allow you the opportunity to think clearly and thoughtfully before you contribute to a conversation, as you will be writing not speaking, and will allow to better understand the thoughts and opinions of your classmates. It will “slow down” the crucial elements of our discussions in class, and allow each person to have a voice in the critical analysis of a text.
5. What are the expectations for each blog post? I expect that you always complete each blog assignment to the best of your ability, and that you meet all length and content expectations, as specifically outlined for each one.
6. Do I have to use Standard English when writing a blog post? No! I encourage you to write with clarity, as your classmates will need to read and understand your work, but I do encourage the use of conversational language. Be ready to teach me any new terms that your old teacher might not know!
7. Can I use profanity or any other kind of offensive language? No, no, and more no.
8. How will I be graded? You will be graded on on whether or not you met the expectations for the assignment (i.e. answered the question, met the length requirement) the quality and depth of your ideas, your level of engagement with your peers, and your overall effort in responding to the text and the ideas of others. You will be given a rubric for your first text response.
*Handout D* Diction In “Fiesta” Directions: As we read, please highlight words or phrases, or “biased details” that tell readers something about the narrator. Next, record them in the chart below in the left hand column and then explain the inference that can be made in the right hand column.
What it tells us about the narrator (Inference)
*Handout E* Name: Date:
Talk Show Assignment ~ Short Story Unit Do-Now Brainstorm: (One LARGE paragraph – at least 7-8 sentences)
Name of Story Your Group Has Been Given: ______________________________
If the characters from (insert title of short story here ____________________________)were to go onto a talk show, what issues do you think would get discussed? Who would argue? What would they argue about? What would some characters say to defend themselves again inevitable accusations?
For this assignment, you are going to deepen your understanding of the characters, points of views of characters, the relationships between characters, and themes in your assigned short story by working in your groups to write and stage a mock talk show. This assignment will also afford you the opportunity to assume the role of characters and practice developing voice, which you will need to do for your final project. The guests on your talk show will be characters from your assigned short story, and the issues and conflicts that they discuss on the show will be based on your knowledge and understanding of the story. You will write a script for the talk show, and then act it out in front of the class.
Your Script Must:
Be at least five pages, typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt.
Include discussions of at least two separate conflicts between characters
Include one character that is considered unlikeable or the antagonist in the story
Include at least three pieces of dialogue (quoted) from the story
Show thoughtful conclusions about WHY certain characters act the way they do (you can show this when you characters defend themselves)
Maintain the voice of each of the characters through the creation of believable dialogue that one could easily imagine your characters saying.Look back at the story. What kinds of words does the author choose for the narrator? How can you recreate (without directly copying) this voice? Try to be as true to the character as possible.
During Your Performance…
Each group member must have at LEAST one line.
You CANNOT use your script during the performance – you must HAVE YOUR LINES MEMOIRZED!
One group member must be the talk show host.
Although you should aim to be as creative as possible, your script must be based on the real conflicts/issues/personality traits of the characters from the stories.
I encourage you to maintain the voice of the characters, complete with any vernacular or incorporation of words or phrases from other languages. However, do not use profanity of any kind!
*Handout F* Young Narrators: Voice, Identity and Coming of Age in Short Fiction:
Final Project Description In each of the coming-of-age-stories that we read this unit, there was a clearly developed point of view and voice that we worked very hard to identify and analyze. As you know, we spent time identifying the author’s word choices (diction) and analyzing how these choices impacted the story and the development of the narrative voice. For this project, you will demonstrate both your extensive knowledge of one of the short stories we read, as well as your skills in identifying and developing Voice and Point of View by completing one of the following:
Choice A:Write an alternate ending to one of the short stories that we read. Viewing the story as your “mentor text,” you must assume the role of the narrator and work hard to include vivid, carefully selected details that work to maintain the voice and point of view of the narrator. Your story must be at least 3 pages, typed, doubled spaced, Times New Roman. Your ending should reflect your understanding of the identity and coming-of-age theme that was discussed throughout the unit.
Choice B:Write an additional scene (either one that takes place during the story, or after) for one of the short stories that we read. Viewing the story as your “mentor text,” you must assume the role of the narrator and work hard to include vivid, carefully selected details that work to maintain the voice and point of view of the narrator. Your scene must be at least 3 pages, typed, doubled spaced, Times New Roman. Your scene should reflect your understanding of the identity and coming-of-age theme that was discussed throughout the unit.
I have several hesitations for this unit, especially considering the personal aspects of the theme of identity and some of the sensitive issues that are central to the stories we will be reading. Given that I am planning for this to be the first unit I teach in the fall, I am worried that it may be difficult to begin the year with the theme of identity. I won’t know the students very well yet, which might make it hard for them to feel comfortable with integrating their personal opinions and experiences into their own learning. This also applies to the format of the blog—I find that students do get comfortable sharing their work with each other at some point during the year, but may not be comfortable with the public format so early on.
I’m also worried about the difficult of teaching the concept of dictions, and of framing conversations in terms of the author’s choices. This might be difficult for some students to grasp, especially if they are not yet strong readers and haven’t entered into abstract thinking. To address this, I plan to rely on ongoing assessments to get a sense of how challenging this will be for certain students. If it’s too much, I can alter the focus while still maintaining the theme of identity. I’m also a little uneasy about the final project. I know that each year, I have students that are deeply resistant to any kind of creative writing. I’m not sure if it’s fair, or if it will serve as an accurate assessment of students learning when some students are just opposed to the creative nature of it. I’m wondering if I should include another choice that doesn’t require the creative elements.
1. Ana, Otto Santa. Tongue Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education. Lantham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Print.
2. Cisneros, Sandra. House on Mango Street. Arte Publico Press, 1984. Print.
2. Darder, Antonia, Marta P. Baltodano, and Rodolfo D. Torres, ed. The Critical Pedagogy Reader. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.