It's Your (Un)Lucky Day: Developing Cultural Literacy Through Analysis & Discussion

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SWBAT draw inferences from an in-class reading on "Friday the 13th" in order to propel conversation, engage and incorporate others, and clarify and challenge ideas by participating in a class discussion.

Big Idea

Is Friday the 13th your unlucky day? Students examine possible origins for the superstitions surrounding the holiday and share their own superstitions.

Why Read About & Discuss Cultural Literacy?


Introduction & Welcome: It's Friday the 13th!

3 minutes

As students entered the classroom, I handed them a copy of today's article on the history of Friday the 13th. Today's Daily Holiday connects to today's Friday Favorite poll; "Is Friday the 13th LUCKY or UNLUCKY for you?" After a quick poll, I explain that we will be stepping outside of the Age of Faith and The Enlightenment for a day to look at Cultural Literacy and talk about the origins or Friday the 13th.

The "Friday Favorite" vote serves to build a sense of community and trust within the classroom, encouraging students to share their thoughts and participate in a wide range of discussions, build on others' ideas, express their own ideas clearly (SL.9-10.1). In addition, the practice developing and supply evidence for their claims--even in an informal situation--should translate to students' writing as we develop more critical and evaluative pieces this semester (W.9-10.1b). 

I ask the students to skim the article as we get started, in order to analyze how the authors develop the history and significance of superstitions and Friday the 13th (RI.9-10.3). As with all Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community, trust, and class identity in our classroom. 

We take the time "out" of class today to provide variety in the material for the students in order to build cultural literacy, yet still address informational reading and speaking and listening skills. Celebration of the "big" holidays strengthens my efforts to build community and trust in the classroom and provide students with an alternate education experience beyond the textbook.  Some students respond well to these "breaks" from our day-to-day, and it serves to engage them, drawing those students in to the classroom routine. 


If It Wasn't for Bad Luck: Student Superstition

10 minutes

In order to warm up students to the idea of superstitions and Friday the 13th, I begin our conversation by sharing some of the more famous/infamous beliefs people hold, from the general ("Step on a crack, break your mother's back" and "Walk under a ladder, seven years bad luck"), to athletes (Michael Jordan wore the same pair of UNC shorts under his Bulls shorts for most of his career, The Boston Red Sox's Wade Boggs would eat fried chicken before every game--among other things) to the theatrical ("Say "break a leg," because saying "good luck" is bad luck; don't say the title of the play "MacBeth" when performing it.) 

I then ask students if any of them hold superstitions, and solicit volunteers. In order to propel this conversation, I ask students to respond with thoughts on the examples or their own superstitions, if they have a reason or cause for their superstition, and what happens if it is not followed, clarifying as needed (SL.9-10.1c). As students share, I'm careful that any superstition they share is not mocked or belittled. This conversation also requires students to respond perspectives that may vary from their own and qualify or justify their views. The overall conversation should lead to new understanding of their peers' points of view (SL.9-10.1d). By doing so, students contribute to the overall conceptual understanding of superstitions, but also are exposed to and respect others' beliefs and behaviors.

This conversation also serves to bridge understanding the tones of what we've read, with the concepts of Puritans and Revolutionary War with that of what we will be addressing, in Romantics, Gothics, and Transcendentalismv

Active Reading: "Friday the 13th: History of a Phobia"

30 minutes

As a class, we read "Friday the 13th: History of a Phobia" aloud. A class set of this article has been prepared and used under Fair Use: Directed Self-Study, on 13 September 2013; as such, a printable copy is not included here. By reading aloud, students practice adapting their speech to the task at hand, demonstrating command of formal English (SL.9-10.6).

As we read, we pause between each paragraph, address a few concepts from the reading, and then move on with a new reader, determining the central idea of the text and analyzing its development, how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details (RI.9-10.2). With each paragraph,  I ask students to take note in order to practice annotating a text, as there are specific words and phrases used of which students need to determine the literal or connotative meaning in order to understand and analyze their impact on the article as a whole (RI.9-10.4). By paragraph, these are:

Paragraph 1: I break down the etymology of "friggatriskaidekaphobia," and ask what a rhetorical question is, and why are they used? Rhetorical questions will be one of the techniques we study in detail in our look at the writings of the Revolutionary War and The Enlightenment. 

Paragraph 2: I identify and explain the cultural vocabulary of the Code of Hammurabi, the first written list of laws.

Paragraph 3: I point out the rhetorical question, and again ask what it makes the reader think about. I  also define "vilified" and "en masse." We activate prior knowledge by asking, "Has anyone heard these two reasons for Friday the 13th being unlucky?"  

Paragraph 5: I foreshadow later in the the semester, pointing out the authors with a sense of "defiance" were very common in the late 1800s, the Romantics, Gothics, Transcendentalists, and Realists all shared this iconoclastic view to some degree. I also establish the definition of Knickerbocker

Paragraph 6: Again, I point out rhetorical question, and ask what it  makes the reader think about. As a class, we discuss how superstition might affect a person's behavior. 

By having students read aloud, I can control the pace of the assignment. This allows me to check for understanding as a group, and to pause between paragraphs to address the details in each. As we examine these details, we are able to draw connections to relate the current discussion to other type of belief, such as superstition, Puritan work ethic, Native American creation myths; students establish what they believe is "true" and what is "superstition," challenging students' own preconceived notions and calling upon them to clarify ideas and conclusions (SL.9-10.1c). When reading aloud, I typically ask for volunteers, but I will call on students if needed; at this point I have a solid feel for who is willing and able to read aloud and who is not. 

In addition, this discussion allows students to examine the way in which the author unfolds ideas about Friday the 13th, beginning with a personal connection, moving chronologically through history, and wrapping up with a possible modern impact. As students have not done this sort of analysis in detail yet, we discuss why the structure is or is not effective in order to introduce it for later discussions (RI.9-10.3). 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I ask students to pull their desk back to rows, and take any quick questions students may regarding the material on the upcoming test. I inform them they will receive a notes sheet/study guide before the test to review one last time. As the first test is coming up, the students have an opportunity to assuage any fears they may have and address any material they think is of concern. This also allows for a wrap-up of the day.