Course: Critical Thinking through Language Arts, for Everybody

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Course Description

Here you find a work in progress that aims to be an integrated high school Language Arts course appropriate for classrooms that served challenged or challenging students. This course is designed with my specific setting in mind, although I hope it contains a wide range of lessons and materials useful for various grades, units and settings. My particular setting is a residential treatment center for students who qualify for Special Education under the category of Emotional Disturbance. Specifically, this is a small, therapeutic classroom for boys ages 13-18 who require a high level of emotional support and behavioral retraining. Each of these factors impacts the course design, though none defines it. A major feature of this course, however, is its presumption of a preponderance of struggling and reluctant readers in the class. For this reason, all materials are planned to be accessible at the fourth grade reading level. In most cases, the same or similar materials will be made available in more advanced formats for more capable readers. The links here are just to the more accessible, generally modified materials, as they can be harder to find. Another aspect of my class is that students have generally been unsuccessful for numerous years of school, and so the requirement of passing the CAlifornia High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) looms dauntingly before them. Given the context of mixed grades and academic levels, it makes the most sense to gear this course to the standards tested on the CAHSEE. This is the source for those, and they are a helpful and simple guide for teachers. In general, this course seeks to combine exposure to important classic and contemporary literature with basic and moderate comprehension and writing skills, critical thinking, personal expression and public speaking practice. Each unit will contain at least four assessments; a literary elements test, a unit vocabulary test, a CAHSEE-style essay test, and a portfolio writing or speaking project. When useful, these will be differentiated to meet the Zone of Proximal Development material for each student. I hope this will contribute relevant and original lessons and units for teachers of middle and high schools with reluctant readers in their class.

Units and Lessons

The Invention of Language Resources: 14

1,758
The Invention of Fiction: Myths Resources: 73

Students learn basic literature analysis through reading creation myths from Ancient Greece and Indigenous American cultures. Each lesson can be broken down into more than one part, depending on your schedules.

2,289
Reading Comprehension Resources: 54

A very fun excuse to teach advanced reading comprehension skills! A lot could be said about the psycho-social fit of this book, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, but I have used it with great success. On the one hand, it is the consummate middle school book in both tone and subject matter (a goofy mock-mystery game with an unsatisfying end), and the worst thing would be if your students had already read it in middle school. On the other hand, it lacks not for complex vocabulary and makes plain why one needs strategies to understand text. It is complicated!! Even adults get wrapped up in its nuances and secrets! It is ideal for students in 9th and 10th grades, as it will teach them how to approach high school English classes. If your students have already read it or you can't justify the middle school original intent, swap it out for something dressed up more 'adult,' like the X-Files books, the Sally Lockhart series, or The Dark is Rising series perhaps, and apply the same strategies.

3,433
Historical Analysis of LIterature Resources: 80

A slice of the history and culture of the Middle East as lived by the author of the graphic novel Persepolis, with a focus on multiple intelligence learning styles.

3,731
Sense and Sensibility: Emotional Intelligence Resources: 48

Students learn to identify, describe and explain emotions through Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and its graphic novel edition. Students learn to understand emotional decision-making and to evaluate responses to emotional situations. This unit specifically targets students on the high-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum (Asperger's), and students who live in conflict-ridden, emotionally toxic environments.

2,516
Biographical Analysis of Literature

540
Aesthetic Analysis of Literature

576
Socio-cultural Analysis of Literature

693
Informational Writing Resources: 1

939
Persuasive Writing

815
Great Speeches

786
Debate (Forensics): Israel and Palestine Resources: 144

In this unit, students prepare for a Lincoln-Douglas style debate by researching one of the most controversial and complicated issues in modern history. Students are exposed to popular arguments on "both sides" of this intensely complex issue, to a range of concerns involved in the conflict, and to evidence of there being many different sides, rather than a neat division down the middle. I use my personal expertise on the issue to provide them with cold facts as well as emotional pleas from both populations. For each topic, "X" viewpoints are provided, representing some reasonable, fact-based, middle-of-the-road positions that might help bring students and teachers of different views together when things get complicated. Attached to each lesson are documents, links to books, links to movies, or article references that can be given to students and mined for evidence. These were selected for their clarity and applicability to the suggested arguments, but you may also challenge students by having them conduct their own research and construct their own arguments. Teachers should tailor emotional content, complexity of topics and format of debate for each group of students.

1,852
Course Plan Resources: 1

Here you find a work in progress that aims to be an integrated high school Language Arts course appropriate for classrooms that served challenged or challenging students. This course is designed with my specific setting in mind, although I hope it contains a wide range of lessons and materials useful for various grades, units and settings. My particular setting is a residential treatment center for students who qualify for Special Education under the category of Emotional Disturbance. Specifically, this is a small, therapeutic classroom for boys ages 13-18 who require a high level of emotional support and behavioral retraining. Each of these factors impacts the course design, though none defines it. A major feature of this course, however, is its presumption of a preponderance of struggling and reluctant readers in the class. For this reason, all materials are planned to be accessible at the fourth grade reading level. In most cases, the same or similar materials will be made available in more advanced formats for more capable readers. The links here are just to the more accessible, generally modified materials, as they can be harder to find. Another aspect of my class is that students have generally been unsuccessful for numerous years of school, and so the requirement of passing the CAlifornia High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) looms dauntingly before them. Given the context of mixed grades and academic levels, it makes the most sense to gear this course to the standards tested on the CAHSEE. This is the source for those, and they are a helpful and simple guide for teachers. In general, this course seeks to combine exposure to important classic and contemporary literature with basic and moderate comprehension and writing skills, critical thinking, personal expression and public speaking practice. Each unit will contain at least four assessments; a literary elements test, a unit vocabulary test, a CAHSEE-style essay test, and a portfolio writing or speaking project. When useful, these will be differentiated to meet the Zone of Proximal Development material for each student. I hope this will contribute relevant and original lessons and units for teachers of middle and high schools with reluctant readers in their class.

733

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