Critique of Lesson Plans

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					      (5) Recent Articles
(5) Critiques of Lesson Plans
  (5) Original Lesson Plans
          (5) Resources

       Rebekah Larsen
       SED 720/Cooks
        May 8, 2003


1) Poetry in a Time of Crisis: High School Educators Call on the Power of Poetry to Help
Students Critique Injustice and Develop Empathy

Linda Christensen, 12/2002

Summary: This article caught my attention because it deals with the current increase in
discrimination and hate crimes towards people of Asian descent since the events of September
11 took place. I am personally dedicated to teaching social justice issues in the classroom, but I
am wondering how to go about discussing very charged topics such as this one. Christensen
sees poetry as “only a piece of a much broader social justice curriculum that aims to critique
injustice and build empathy” but feels that “at this moment in our nation's history, poetic
intimacy seems an especially valuable strategy to invite our students to touch the lives of others
- others who may be in urgent need of allies”. Christensen, who is a high school language arts
coordinator, talks about her own use of poetry in the classroom as an effort to raise awareness
of the increase in anti-immigrant attacks. She and a colleague developed a poetry lesson that
raises the issue of the attacks. She also wanted the lesson to emphasize how a person‟s fear can
easily turns into discrimination of innocent people. In their lesson plan, they used a poem by
Suheir Hammad, an African-American/Palestinian (You can access this poem on the website),
written a week after September 11. Christensen asked that the students indicate if they identify
with the reactions in the poem. They were also asked to pinpoint the lines that show the poet‟s
fears. The students could identify with many of the poet‟s reactions to the terrorist attacks, but
what they needed to realize was the fear that this woman experienced, along with many Arabs,
as a result of the events of September 11. In addition to the poetry that the students read, they
also read information, (including detailed accounts, all of which you can access on the website),
about the discrimination and violence against Arab Americans that has increased since
September 11. The students were then able to understand and examine other poems written by
people on the topic of discrimination. Finally, they were then asked to create their own poems
on the topic of discrimination and racist attacks.

Significance: This article offers an excellent approach to teaching poetry that incorporates
issues of discrimination and social injustice in a way that is effective, accessible and interesting
to students.

Connection to Literacy: This article advocates using poetry as a vehicle for raising awareness
of social justice issues, as well as way for students to express their own experiences and
opinions regarding an issue.

2) Who, What, When, and Where of Writing Rituals

Ann B. Dobie, Harriet Maher, Connie McDonald, and Kathleen O‟Shaughnessy, The Quarterly,
Fall 2002.

Summary: There are many “rituals” that a person has before he/she starts writing, whether they
know it or not. Most rituals involve the environment, time, or behavior, and they help to reduce
writing anxiety, enhance fluency, and give the person a sense of control over the process. This
article begins by discussing various “rituals” that famous writers have (or had). For example,
Mary Sarton liked to listen to music, specifically eighteenth-century music. The writers of this
article decided to investigate how student writers get started writing and what rituals work for
them. They found that there are many different types of rituals that students have. Teachers can
try to encourage their students to find the best environment and time for them to write outside the
classroom. There are ways that teachers can enhance the classroom to make it more conducive
to writing, as well. Some of the suggestions included in the article are: 1) reconfigure the
straight rows of individual student desks and changing other arrangements in the classroom, 2)
repetition (writing at the same time, same place, etc) in order to “make writing a normal, non-
threatening activity, 3) use time limits, 4) make use of physical movement, and 5) allow for
“gazing” or “daydreaming” to promote creativity.

Significance: There are some good suggestions for creating a productive class environment in
this article. I, too, have many writing “rituals”, so I can relate to a student‟s need to write in an
environment that they feel comfortable in. Teachers should try to create an environment in
which their students feel comfortable, especially when it comes to writing.

Connection to Literacy: Students can write more fluently and with confidence when they are in
an environment conducive to writing.

3) Student-Writers on the Web
Ted Nellen

Summary: Ted Nellen, a high school English teacher in New York, argues that “the writing
process has become a more complete art form with the World-Wide Web”. He teaches at a high
school that is geared towards business careers, and has a “project-orientated” class. There is a
computer for each student in the classroom. Nellen explores how students‟ access and use of the
internet has transformed the writing process for them. Access to internet has given students
more freedom in writing. Just being able to use a word processor versus handwriting papers is
really helpful in aiding the writing process. Students can use hypertext in their traditional linear
essays in order to add information and enhance their essays, for example: if the paper is on a
specific poem, students can add a link to connect the reader to that poem. Nellen is able to use a
“peek” function to check up on what his students are writing, which he finds helpful in assisting
his students. He is also able to broadcast the students‟ work to the entire class for peer review,
which is an important element in Nellen‟s classroom. Each student in his class has their own
web page. They all write and publish their writing on the internet, and they utilize services such
as telementors. The students can communicate with Nellen over the internet, and he has his
course syllabus online. One of the main benefits to his type of classroom is that the students are
empowered through the focus on projects. They have more choice in what they choose to focus
on, and their work is always “under construction”, due to the nature of the class. The students
also have access to many resources on the web that aid them in their projects. Students that may
be absent from school can access their class work more easily (if they have internet access at
home). Finally, Nellen finds that assessment is much easier when the students‟ work is on the
web. He can watch the stages of their work, and he can email advice at any time, increasing
teacher-student interaction. He feels he can better guide the student through the writing process
in this manner.

Significance: This article offers insight on the benefits of technology in the English classroom.
There are benefits to a computer and web-based approach to teaching writing, many of which
Nellen touches on in this article. This approach has really worked with the author of this article,
and he shares that experience with us.

Connection to Literacy: Using technology (specifically computers and the internet) in the
classroom increases a student‟s computer literacy, as well as strengthens their literacy skills in
the way of writing, reading, and obtaining information.

4) A Systematic Approach to Grammar Instruction

Joan Berger, Voices from the Middle, Vol. 8, Number 3, March 2001.

Summary: This article offers an approach in teaching grammar that focuses mainly on teaching
grammar “in context”. That is, in the context of what is being read in the class, as well as in the
students‟ own writing. The author, Joan Berger, came to the conclusion that teaching grammar
separate from writing was not effective at all. She now believes that grammar instruction must
be connected to what the students are reading and writing. She came up with a systematic
approach that has proven to be very successful in improving the students‟ grammar. For every
month of the school year, Berger focuses on one grammar concept, such as compound sentences.
These concepts follow each other in a natural progression through a variety of sentence
structures. She offers many sample paragraphs for each concept, in which the students see the
concept in action. The students then practice consciously using this concept in their own writing.
They “practice the patterns (and) they learn the terminology” of the concepts. Berger utilizes
peer editing activities in her class in which peer editors use specific worksheets to aid in editing
(which are included in the article). Berger has found that, as a result of her approach, students‟
sentence structure and overall writing becomes much “smoother, more interesting sentences”.
The students are more able to appreciate the writing styles of the literature they read in class.

Significance: This article was extremely helpful to me! It gives the whole “skills versus
fluency” debate a new perspective: it‟s possible to teach grammar effectively in meaningful
contexts which empowers the students and allows them to gain the tools necessary to evaluate
their own writing.

Connection to Literacy: Students can learn how to better communicate their thoughts into well
constructed sentences by taking this approach to teaching grammar. Students examine their own
writing as well as other literature, and work to improve their writing and grammar skills.

5) On the Use of Metawriting to Learn Grammar and Mechanics

Douglas James Joyce, The Quarterly, Fall 2002.

Summary: Metawriting is a term that refers to writing about writing. Douglas Joyce advocates
using metawriting as a tool for learning grammar and mechanics. He teaches college, but feels
that his theory on metawriting could be applied to primary and secondary school settings. He
speaks about a common frustration among English teachers: we see our students making the
same grammatical mistakes over and over again. Obviously, many students are not applying the
concepts that they learn about to their own writing. However, it‟s possible that by writing about
the grammatical error that they keep committing, they may be able to successfully overcome it.
Joyce usually focuses on one error per essay, and has that student write a one page essay that
compares and contrasts three sources that offer insight on this particular convention. The
students must also provide an example of incorrect usage and then correct it. In the article, Joyce
includes samples of his students‟ essays on the grammatical convention that they focus on. The
student write-ups allow a space for the student to “intellectualize” about the grammar topic,
which, according to Joyce, is effective in helping them to avoid making that grammatical error in
the future. Finally, by looking up three different sources for information, the students are
utilizing resources that they may not have otherwise.

Significance: Metawriting is an interesting approach to teaching grammar that has worked for
this teacher at the college level. It seems worthy trying in one‟s own classroom. Metawriting
makes sense in many ways- writing about a concept definitely helps one to understand it better.

Connection to Literacy: This approach to teaching grammar utilizes writing as a tool for
writing! Need I say more?

                         CRITIQUE OF LESSON PLANS

1) “They are not like us!”: Teaching about Biases Against Immigration
Location: Teacher Talk Forum:

Grade Level: 9-12 (English)

Lesson Plan Overview: This lesson plan addresses social justice issues, which I am particularly
interested in. The lesson plan introduces the students to a speech by a “famous American” (who
they will find out later is Benjamin Franklin) in which the speaker expresses xenophobia and
bias against new immigrants to the United States. For example, Franklin says at one point in his
speech, “The ones who come here are usually the most stupid of their nation” and “Unless the
stream of these people can be turned away from their country to other countries, they will soon
outnumber us so that we will not be able to save our language or our government”. Without
know the speaker, the students will answer the following questions: 1) Who do you think is
speaking? 2) What group of people is he/she describing?, and 3) When was this speech made?
After answering these questions the class will discuss issues brought up in the speech, hopefully
eliciting varying responses, including personal opinions, from the students. Students will then be
told that the speech is one by Benjamin Franklin in which "they" refers to early German
immigrants, as opposed to what they might have assumed (such as Mexican immigrants, for
example). The lesson plans suggest “extension activities” that include examining cultural
diversity within the U.S. and the contributions of each group, and writing reflective response
papers on the activity.

Positive/Adapting Aspects: I really liked how this lesson plan touched on issues surrounding
immigrants in the United States, and the fact that xenophobic attitudes have existed throughout
United States history. I would definitely share this speech with my students and use the plan that
this lesson plan outlines. I would not tell my students who the author is until they have made
their own guesses and formed their opinions about the speaker/speech. I think it‟s a great way to
have students analyze and make inferences about the meaning of a speech as well.

Development Areas: I would have liked to see more activities or possible assignments for the
students to participate in before or after the discussion of the speech. Perhaps a bit more
historical background on the speech would be good to include at the end. Other than that, I
thought the lesson plan was simple but effective, interesting, and meaningful.

2) Sex in Advertising


Grade Level: 7-12 (English)

Lesson Plan Overview: The objective of this lesson plan is to examine and discuss the
pervasiveness of sexual messages in advertisements. The students or teachers will collect
advertisements showing men and women (either in print or on television). The students respond
to the images, including examining the qualities of the stereotypical “man” and “woman” that are
seen in the images. The students are asked if the advertisements “confuse the product with sex
appeal” and/or “show people who may not have as much sex appeal”. The teacher explains that
advertisements have specific ways of getting people to buy their products. Examples of
advertisements and their hidden messages, as well as the techniques they use to sell their
products are listed by students. The plan lists the some examples, one of which is the following
example: “Friendship/Having Fun: (Techniques) - People are shown using this product with
attractive, fun-loving friends and (Message) - This product will make you popular, especially
with the opposite sex, and will help you have a good time”.

Positive/Adapting Aspects: I like how this lesson plan deals with advertisements and how they
play with and manipulate our minds into thinking we need certain products. I also like how the
lesson plan looks at sex images and how they play out in advertisements. Students must
critically examine the advertisements and the motives behind them. This lesson plan is a good
springboard into examining movies, sit-coms, magazines, etc. The students will begin to look at
the media more critically, which is very important. In terms of teaching English, the students
will see how the use of language (along with images) can be used in a persuasive manner. This
lesson plan is also great because it will probably be of interest to the students, since most kids
spend a lot of time watching movies, magazine, and television.

Development Areas: Though it‟s a great idea, this lesson plan isn‟t very well constructed. It
doesn‟t explain the activity (listing examples of advertisements) very well, nor does it make the
activity sound very exciting. The activity itself doesn‟t tie into the theme of “sex in advertising”.
Also, the theme of “sex in advertising” is a little too vague and doesn‟t pinpoint exactly what the
students should get out of the lesson. If I were using this lesson plan in my class, I would focus
more on gender stereotypes.

3) The Power of Fiction


Grade Level: 10-12 (English)

Lesson Plan Overview: The class begins with students making a list of books (that they know
of or have read) that convey strong social messages. They will discuss the literary strengths and
weaknesses of the books, and how literature reflects life and can be used as a vehicle to bring
about change. The class will then discuss The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and discuss muckraking
and the historical context of the book. Students will then be asked whether they think the book is
successful as fiction and/or muckraking journalism. Class will discuss why it is difficult for a
literary work to accomplish both goals. They will be told the object of the lesson plan for today
(or however many days it will take) is to delve into the issue of “social action versus fiction”. In
groups of 4-5, students will come up with five works of fiction that focus on social action issues
such as women‟s rights, children‟s rights, immigrant‟s rights, etc. The teacher can make
suggestions if students are having trouble coming up with them on their own. Some suggested
books are Native Son by Richard Wright, Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, and Joy Luck Club by
Amy Tan. Students have 20 minutes to compile the list, and then they will ask questions
regarding muckraking and literature, such as “Do you think the book succeeds in muckraking
and/or fiction, why or why not?” in 3 of the books they have written down. The groups will then
discuss how the books succeed in being great stories and in muckraking, and whether or not the
book would be better as non-fiction. The class would then discuss as a whole The Jungle and its
effectiveness. They also discuss what they can learn about a culture at a particular time by
reading a book with a social message, and finally, they will describe movies that carry social
messages. The lesson plan uses a three-point rubric to evaluate how well the students understand
the concepts, connect them to other books, and participate. It also offers extensions such as
having the students write their own social action piece.

Positive/Adapting Aspects: This lesson plan is very detailed and extensive. It offers ideas on
how to extend the lesson plan over a longer period of time. It‟s great that the students tie the
concept of “muckraking” to more contemporary works of fiction, and analyze to what extent
these social action novels “muckrake”. I like how the students are able to compare and contrast
social action novels.

Developmental Areas: This plan assumes that the students have read a number of social action
novels, which may or may not be the case. It also assumes that they have read The Jungle, which
is a pretty long novel (I haven‟t even read the whole thing). If I were to adapt this lesson plan to
my class, I would probably have my students read 1-2 chapters from The Jungle, versus the
whole book. I would also use this lesson towards the end of the year, after the class has read a
few different novels, (hopefully social action novels), so I know that they have resources they
can draw from and novels that they can relate the lesson plan to.

4) Military Women


Grade Level: 9-12 (English or History)

Summary: The subject of “women in the military” is the focus for this lesson plan. The class
starts by discussing the subject, and the teacher passes out a handout that details the history of
women in the U.S. military (which you can access on this website) as well as a News Hour Extra
article regarding the recent rescue of Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq. The teacher also discusses
the current status of women in the military and their roles in the war in Iraq (the plan includes
extensive data on this subject as well as a website where you can go to get more information).
The plan offers important questions to ask the students to respond to. These questions include 1)
Should women be eligible for a draft? Why or why not? What are your feelings about the draft?
2) Should all jobs in the military be open to women? Should they be allowed to participate in
ground combat and serve on submarines? Why or why not? 3) What should the military do about
the impact of deployment on military families? The author of this lesson plan also includes
extension ideas such as researching women‟s contributions to the U.S. during wartime (and she
lists examples), researching arguments for and against women being in the military, and/or
researching the issue of sexual assault in the military. Finally, the plan offers additional
resources on the subject of women in the military.

Positive/Adapting Aspects: I love the resources that are available through this lesson plan.
There are so many listed, as well as access to a handout on women in the military. The author
covers all the bases in this lesson plan. It is thorough and insightful. The questions she brings
up for discussion are expertly written. Additionally, I think this is an excellent topic for
discussion/debate among high school students. It‟s also a good way to introduce a research
paper assignment. The students are also exposed to a journalistic piece, (the article on the rescue
of Jessica Lynch), which is current and interesting to the students.

Developmental Areas: It would be nice to tie this lesson plan into a work of fiction that the
students are reading, but it‟s not necessary. I would probably want to include this lesson plan in
a unit on women‟s rights/feminism in literature. I can‟t really think of any negative aspects of
this lesson plan, since it was so comprehensive and carefully constructed. There are a few
additional activities that I may want to include in this lesson which are free writing on the
subject, and gender-reversal activities. Gender reversal activities would be really interesting to
include in this lesson plan.

5) Poetry of Music

Grade Level: 7-9 Language Arts

Summary: This lesson plan‟s goal is to teach students to find and identify various poetic
devices in song lyrics. The choice of what poetic devices to focus on is up to the teacher, just as
the choice of song is up to the teacher. The author of this lesson plan uses The Beatles “White
Album”. The lesson plan itself is fairly simple. To begin the class, the teacher will generate
discussion by bringing up the fact that rhyme, a poetic device, is commonly used in songs. Then
he/she will focus on a few other poetic devices of his/her choosing (ones that the students have
been studying). The students will then look for these devices in the song lyrics. The author
mentions that there are some poetic devices that aren‟t easily found in songs, so the teacher may
choose to have the students reformat or change the song to use that particular device. For
follow-up assignments, the lesson plan suggests having students write their own poems (using
the devices). Lastly, the lesson adds that this lesson can be adapted to Special Education
students by using lyrics of nursery rhymes, and for gifted students the teacher can have THEM
find the lyrics.

Positive/Adapting Aspects: I love the idea of bring music into the classroom as a form of
poetry. Students relate well with music, and everyone has favorite song lyrics. I think I would
use his idea of having the students bring in their own lyrics, and then I would have them identify
the poetic devices the writer uses in the song. I could also bring in a song of my own that
demonstrates a device that the students may be having a hard time understanding. I also like the
plan‟s idea of reconfiguring the song to utilize a particular poetic device. That would be an
interesting assignment, perhaps a good group assignment. It‟s challenging and interesting.

Developmental Areas: Other than finding poetic devices in song lyrics, there are many other
characteristics to look for. I would have like to see this lesson plan discuss other characteristics
of and ways of analyzing song lyrics/poetry. I also feel that the lesson plan is a bit too simple,
although that may work for certain classes.

                                       ORIGINAL LESSON PLANS

1) Language in Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Topic/Objective: Language in Their Eyes Were Watching God- Hurston‟s use of Black English
will be examined and grammatical “rules” or patterns determined. Students will then use this
knowledge to “translate” another text into the dialect that Hurston uses.

Materials: Handout that contains the poems that the students will translate, pencils or pencils,
paper, chalk and chalkboard.


(First 10-15 minutes) Students will read aloud pages 60-62 to get a sense of the dialect that
Hurston uses in the text. (Any excerpt that contains interesting dialogue could be used).
Students will brainstorm “rules” or patterns of speech that they notice from the text, which will
be written on the board. For example, “to is pronounced (and written) as „tuh‟”. Students will
brainstorm as many “rules” as they can.

(5-10 minutes) The students will be placed in groups of 2-3. The teacher will circulate a handout
that will contain the following four classic love poems:

Sonnet CXXX                                          Sonnet XLIII
My mistress‟ eyes are nothing like the sun;          How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Coral is far more red, than her lips red;            I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;      My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head.      For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,           I love thee to the level of every day‟s
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;               Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
And in some perfumes is there more delight           I love thee feely, as men strive for Right;
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.      I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know            I love thee with the passion put to use
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;           In my old griefs, and with my childhood‟s faith.
I grant I never saw a goddess go,                    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:   With my lost saints, - I love thee with the breath,
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,          Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
As any she belied with false compare.                I shall but love thee better after death.
-Shakespeare.                                        -Elizabeth Barret Browning
Hope is a Thing With Feathers                        The Dream

Hope is a thing with feathers                        Love, if I weep it will not matter,
That perches in the soul                             And if you laugh I shall not care;
And sings a tune without words                       Foolish am I to think about it,
And never stops at all.                              But it is good to feel you there.

And sweetest, in the gale, is heard                  Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking,
And sore must be the storm                           White and awful the moonlight reached
That could abash the little bird                     Over the floor, and somewhere, somewhere
That keeps so many warm.                             There was a shutter loose- it screeched!

I‟ve heard it in the chilliest land                  Swung in the wind- and no wind blowing-
And on the strangest sea                             I was afraid and turned to you,
Yet, never, in extremity                             Put out my hand to you for comfort-
It ask a crumb of me.                                And you were gone! Cold as the dew,
-Emily Dickenson
                                                     Under my hand the moonlight lay!
                                                     Love, if you laugh I shall not care,
                                                     But if I weep it will not matter-

                                                Ah, it is good to feel you there.
                                                -Edna St. Vincent Millay

Students (as a group) will choose one poem from the four to “translate”.

(Next 25 minutes) Students will work on translating the poem, with limited teacher intervention.

(Debrief/last 5-10 minutes) Students will be able to read aloud their translations to the rest of the
class, if time permits.

Homework: Homework will be due in 3 days. The students will be required to research the
topic of Black English and find two resources (most likely, web sites) and write a paragraph on
each. Students will also continue reading Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Assessment: Students will receive partial, full, or no credit based on completion of the group
assignment. They will receive extra credit if they volunteer to read theirs to the class (if this is
offered, there must be enough time for all groups to go, if need be).

2) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Writing a Eulogy

Students will write a creative response, in the form of a eulogy, to the text. They will respond to
the text and the characters by taking on the voice of Janie and writing from her perspective in
two ways- the way she would write to the public, and the way she would write to herself.
Students will critically examine Janie‟s personal and public life. The students will have read
through Chapter 9 in the book.

Students will need journal notebooks and a pen or pencil. Teacher will need eulogy model to
hand out to class.

(first 10 minutes) The teacher will introduce the lesson. Teacher will hand out example of a
eulogy (from Malcolm X‟s funeral), including a short definition. Students will be asked to read
over the handout.

(25 minutes) Students will be placed in groups of 2-3. The teacher will assign each group a
number – “1” or “2”. The “1‟s” are given the assignment to write a short, one-paragraph eulogy
for Jody from Janie‟s perspective, based on what the townspeople would expect/want her to
say/feel. The “2‟s” are to write a short, one-paragraph eulogy to Jody from Janie‟s perspective
based on how she really feels about him and their marriage. Teacher will write this assignment
on the board for students to refer to while writing.

(15 minutes) The teacher will ask for volunteers to read aloud eulogies from both sides (1‟s and
2‟s) to share with the class. If no students volunteer, the teacher will randomly select students to

(Debrief/last 10 minutes) Students will write, on their own, the second eulogy (the one they did
not write in class). It should be one paragraph. Also, continue reading the novel.

Students will be given credit/no credit for the in-class assignment. For homework, they will
receive a check (partial credit), check plus (full credit) or no credit. In order to receive full credit
for the eulogy assignment (both in-class and homework), students must demonstrate their
understanding of the text - student writing must be based on actual events and feelings of
characters in the novel.

3) Is Holden Caulfield Insane?: A Debate
   Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Topic/Objective: Students will examine the main character Holden Caulfield and use textual
evidence and personal opinions to determine if Holden is “insane”. They will debate their
arguments and examine the word “insane” and decide to what extent they feel he is insane, or if
he is just depressed, mentally disturbed, or none of these.

Literacy Aspect: Students will work on their persuasive speech techniques, as well as making
connections between their arguments and the textual evidence. They will critically examine the
text and make assumptions regarding it.

Materials: paper, pens/pencils.

(First 10 minutes) Students will be asked for a show of hands as to who thinks Holden is insane
(the fact that Holden is institutionalized will be recognized). There will be no explanation of
what “insane” means, so that the students will interpret this for themselves. Students will break
into 3 groups (3 separate areas of the room) - one will be those that feel that Holden is insane,
those that feel he is somewhat insane, and those that feel he is not insane at all.

(15 minutes) Students will be asked to discuss in their groups their opinions and find as much
textual evidence as they can that supports their claim. Each group will have to come up with at
least 2 quotations or incidents in the book that they will focus their claim around. They will
choose one person to present the opening argument that will sum up their reasons behind their

(20 minutes) Before the debate begins, the teacher will make clear that each student can make
only 2 responses each (with a 30 second limit on each), and then they may not say more. This is
to ensure that the debate is not dominated by a few outspoken students. The teacher will keep
track of this on the board. The debate will begin, with the teacher as facilitator. The teacher will
first ask for a 30 second argument from each group with no responses. Then the floor will be
opened up for responses. Students will raise their hands in order to comment. The teacher will
call on students, making sure that a variety of students are called on.

Debrief/last 5-10 minutes) A concluding comment from each group will end the debate.
Students will return to their seats and homework will be passed out and explained.

Homework: A handout with the following questions will be given out to all the students: 1)
What was your original opinion about Holden‟s sanity (at the beginning of class)? 2) Did your
opinion change at all as a result of the debate? 3) What were 2 good points that the opposing
sides brought up (you can still disagree with them)?
Assessment: Students will be given credit/no credit based on if they seemed to be participating
in the debate/group discussion in some way. The homework will be graded credit/no credit as

4) War in Iraq: An Iraqi-American Teenager’s Perspective

Topic/Objective: This lesson plan touches on current events in the War in Iraq and brings to life
the voice of an 18 year old Iraqi refugee. The students will read her article concerning the war
which details her own experiences as a refugee. They will write a journal entry in the voice of an
Iraqi child (living in Iraq). The importance of point-of-view and narrative voice in writing will
be addressed. The students will also view images of war and pictures of the children in Iraq.

Literacy Aspect: Students will read an article by an 18 year old Iraqi refugee and they will
write their own journal entry in the voice of an Iraqi child. They will critically examine the
point-of-view of the article and the way that the author expresses herself, as well as the images of
children in the midst of a war. They will then translate this knowledge and create their own
journal entry in the voice of an Iraqi.

Materials: Copies of the article for everyone (article is below but can also be found at:, images of children (in
the midst of the war)-clippings from newspapers, magazines, paper, pens/pencils.


(First 10 minutes) Teacher will ask the question: “How do you feel about the war in Iraq?” and
open up a brief discussion just to get the students started in thinking about the issues surrounding
the war.

(15-20 minutes) The article (entitled “Being an Iraqi American” by Muna Al-Husaini) will be
passed out to everyone.

Being an Iraqi American
By Muna Al-Husaini, Age 18

When I first left my home country of Iraq ten years ago, I was only eight years old. I remember being very frightened since we
were involved in the Gulf War and the people were now trying to rise up against our leader, Saddam Hussein. Would I ever see
my home again? What about my friends and the family we were leaving behind? What would our future be like? These and a
thousand other questions raced through my mind as we entered Saudi Arabia and an unknown future.
The United Nations people were very nice to us and I learned a new word, I was a "refugee." How strange this seemed to me
when only a short time ago I was a happy girl with nothing more to worry about than school and play.
After a time in the Saudi refugee camp we were told by the U.N. staff that we would be going to our new home and that would be
America. You see, a refugee never knows what country they will be sent to and they must wait until a government decides to
accept them.
My family and I talked excitedly about what life would be like in America, we had all seen American movies and of course we
had learned in school about it. We were still worried about whether we would be able to get along in this new and wonderful
country, but the thought of life without bombs and fear overwhelmed any trepidations we may have had. Everyone looked
forward to the day when we would get on a big plane and begin our lives in the United States.
When we arrived in America we were sent to Erie, PA where people were waiting to help us. The International Institute of Erie
staff came to the airport to pick us up and they showed us all we needed to do over the next few weeks. There was so much to
learn, from language to grocery shopping to how to go to the doctor. We felt very lucky that Americans were so friendly and
helpful to us and gradually we learned all we needed to know.
Now I feel that I am American and not Iraqi. I came here at such a young age that most of my schooling and growing up were
done here and this made me American. I still follow my Muslim religion and I wear the headscarf known as "hijab" but I also
enjoy pizza and shopping malls!
The news that is on the TV now has reawakened the worries and fears that once were a part of my daily life. I hear talk of war,

weapon inspections, bombings and I am afraid all over again.
This time I am not afraid for myself but for all those innocent people who still live in my homeland. My country has babies,
children and grandparents and bombs do not discriminate when they land.
Saddam Hussein has caused too much pain for the citizens of Iraq, he needs to leave office, but how will bombing help this? If
they kill others and not him will anything change?
I do not pretend to understand the complications of world politics, I am an eighteen-year-old girl, but I'm not sure if this is the
answer to the problems that have plagued Iraq for so many years. I know that I want my family and my old friends to be safe and
that someday I would like to be able to return there for a vacation and hug each and everyone of them.

The students will take turns reading it aloud. After reading the article, the teacher will ask for
responses. “How did this article make you feel?” and “Does it bring up any concerns for you?”
are some possible questions to ask the students if they are having trouble responding. Another
important question to ask is “Have you heard this point-of-view before regarding the war?” to
get the students thinking about what type of information the media conveys to them.

(10 minutes) Assignment will be introduced. Students will be asked to take on the voice of a
child in Iraq (they may choose the gender and age) and write a journal (or diary) entry from the
perspective of this child. The question will be asked, “How would YOU feel if bombs were
being dropped on your city?” among other similar questions. The images of the children in Iraq
(amidst the war) will be passed around.

(10 minutes) The students will have 10 minutes to brainstorm what they will write about with a
partner. They can express their ideas and personal opinions to their partners.

(Debrief/last 10 minutes) Students will begin writing their entries and the teacher will remind
them that this will be due tomorrow.

Homework: The journal entry must be at least a page handwritten or a half a page typed (12
font, double-spaced) and it is due tomorrow.

Assessment: The teacher will grade this assignment based on a rubric that includes meeting
length requirement, creativity, content, and presentation.

5) Found Poetry
Topic/Objective: The objective of this lesson plan is to get the students‟ creative juices flowing
for writing their own poetry. “Found poetry” is not intimidating at all because the students don‟t
actually write anything of their own- they just rearrange sentences and words from other texts,
such as magazine articles. It‟s a great introduction to writing poetry.

Materials: newspapers and magazines, paper, pens/pencils, scissors, glue.


(First 10-15 minutes) Students will be asked to take out their article that they found for
homework (from the previous day). (They were asked to find an interesting article from the
paper or a magazine- on that was particularly unique). They will then get into groups of about
three. Those students who forgot to bring an article will be given magazines and newspapers to
find one quickly and cut it out.

(25-30 minutes) Students will work in their groups to examine the articles and create a poem
using the words and/or sentences from the articles and rearranging them to form a poem. They
will be given scissors, paper, and glue to accomplish this task. The main idea is to be creative
and come up with an interesting poem. Note: This activity could take more than 25-30 minutes
so it‟s up to the teacher as to how long he/she wants to allow for this activity.

(10 minutes) Students will then choose someone from their group to read their poem to the class.
All poems will be shared and a short discussion will take place (this may take more than 10

(Debrief/ last 5 minutes) Students will discuss how the activity went for them and homework
will be assigned.

Homework: Students will work on their own found poem for homework.

Assessment: Students will receive credit/no credit for having an article, as well as participating
in the group activity. The homework will be graded with a check or check plus (or no credit).


1) A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne
   aha! Process, Inc. (Founded by Ruby Payne, this is a
   resource that contains information and access to texts on poverty and education).

I wanted to include this text because I feel that it is a must-read for all teachers and teachers-in
training. The number of children in poverty is on the rise (over 25% of children in California are
living in poverty), and as teachers, especially urban teachers, we play an extremely important
role in these children‟s lives. We may not be able to provide the financial resources needed for
these students, but we are mentors, role models, and supporters. In order for us to understand
where these students are coming from, we must have knowledge of the culture of poverty in
which they live- and in many cases, in which their families have lived for many generations.
Payne offers a framework for understanding poverty that is simple and extremely insightful.
Payne outlines the definition and characteristics of poverty, and she also offers possible teaching
techniques and strategies to helping students in poverty. The techniques and strategies she offers
are impressive, since most books on poverty define “problems” and discuss characteristics of
children in poverty, but offer no realistic advice to teachers in how to deal with such issues.

Payne‟s book is set up in a way that is incredibly easy to read and to understand- there are key
points in bold type, illustrations, graphic organizers, information presented in the form of
scenarios that encourage reader involvement, and other various tools that Payne incorporates to
increase reader participation and understanding. She includes activities that challenge us to undo
our stereotypes of the poor and evaluate the attitude that many people from middle class and
wealth have- somehow it is one‟s own “fault” if one is poor. She explains that it is the lack of
resources, specifically financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, role
models/relationships, and knowledge of hidden rules that define poverty. A Framework also
brings to light the distinct differences in language patterns, hidden rules, values, and other
characteristics between children from poverty and children from middle class and wealth.
Throughout her book, Payne carries a tone of respect towards adults and children in poverty that
is very important for teachers to adopt. She challenges the notion that poor people aren‟t as
intelligent as middle class or wealthy, and she acknowledges the differences between classes not
as a way to indicate that one is better than the other, but to simply educate people on those
differences and they may play out in the classroom.

2) Rethinking Schools Online: An Urban Education Resource


Rethinking Schools Online is an excellent resource for the progressive educator who is interested
in reforming public education and social justice issues. Rethinking Schools was founded in 1986
by activist teachers, and it is a nonprofit, independent publisher of educational materials.
On this website, you can access current issues of the publication, including many interesting
articles on urban education. This site is unlike other sites for teachers in that it takes a
progressive slant and it focuses on social justice issues within education. I was encouraged to
find such a resource, and I plan on using it often. I found many great articles and tools for
teaching students about the war in Iraq, as well as articles and resources on topics such as the
over-representation of African American males in Special Education, sexism in schools, and
Ebonics. I can also find out about groups that I could join that are against the war (there are
many listed on this website). You can sign up to be on their emailing list as well. Basically, this
website is a great resource for staying up-to-date with educational/social issues, and for finding
ways to get involved in social justice efforts. It‟s also a great support system for teachers like
me, who find comfort in knowing there are other teacher out there who care about social justice

3) Teaching for Change: Building Social Justice, Starting in the Classroom

Teaching for Change is similar to Rethinking Schools in that it‟s a website dedicated to social
justice issues. It is different in that the main focus of Teaching for Change is to promote social
and economic justice through public education, whereas Rethinking Schools focuses more on
reforming the education system. Teaching for Change is affiliated nationally with the National
Coalition of Education Activists and the National Association of Multicultural Education. It is,
like Rethinking Schools, a not-for-profit organization and is based in Washington D.C. The
website offers an online catalog as a source of many materials for the classroom, including
books, videos, posters, etc. These materials all have to do with promoting social and economic
justice in the classroom, which I find very refreshing and useful! The website also has a
“Featured Resource”, a resource chosen by the site as useful for teaching. You can check out the
latest issue of Teaching for Change Review, which is a publication of the nonprofit. Teaching
for Change offers staff development on equity issues, as well as conferences and summer study
programs. They also ask for articles and lesson plan submissions for a K-12 teaching guide
called Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching. All in all, this site is an awesome

4) 500 SAT Words and How to Remember Them Forever by Charles Gulotta
This book is a great resource for English teachers because we can use it as a guide to teaching
vocabulary words (specifically those that will help them to do good on the SAT). Even though
the SAT itself is unfair and bias, teachers know that, for the time being, it is important that our
students do well on it in order to go to a good college. Until they get rid of the SAT (I wish!) we
find ways to teach our students the words that our commonly used in the SAT. This book
presents words that are important to know for the SAT, and it also teaches you how to learn

Gulotta uses visual images (including cartoons) in order for the visual learner to make the
connections between the images and what‟s going on in the images to the simple meaning of the
word. He attempts to build a “bridge” between the word and it‟s meaning- a way for a student to
understand and remember a difficult word. He certainly makes the words less intimidating to
learn, and the process to learning them more fun. This method of learning vocabulary words
works well for me, (and probably many students), but teachers also need to remember that it may
not work well for everyone. It‟s definitely an interesting and effective approach, however, and
because it is innovative and unique, it allows students to broaden and create new techniques that
help them to learn new words.

The book is also great in helping you and your students to understand how the SAT works.
Gulotta stresses the importance of knowing the meanings of the words, but also the “traps” and
loopholes of the vocabulary part of the SAT. It‟s a practical examination of the SAT and it
provides valuable insight. For example, he reveals words that look and sound alike, but are
different (these words, coincidentally, are commonly used in the SAT).

In addition to helping your students prepare for the SAT, the book also helps to build a strong
vocabulary in general. The words in the book aren‟t quite as difficult as words in other SAT
preparation books, so it‟s a good beginner book.

5) Online Poetry Classroom


Online Poetry Classroom is a website that allows teachers to search for their favorite poets or
poems, (or just find poems to use in the classroom), find lesson plans or curriculum units on
poetry through the teacher resource center, register for teacher forums, and read transcripts from
poetry seminars at Columbia University‟s Teachers College. The Online Poetry Classroom
(OPC) Project was started in May of 2001 and is still developing its site. The key point of the
OPC program is that it “combines poetry, pedagogy, and technology with the belief that poetry is
an essential part of America's heritage and a vital tool in helping students comprehend and
articulate human experience”. The focus of the project is on high school language arts teachers.
OPC offers workshops for teachers in order to develop and enhance their curriculum and
knowledge of poetry and educational technologies. The workshops combine working with a
poet, a curricular advisor, and other teachers. The best thing about this site is that you can find
many different lesson plans for all kinds of poetry.