Tag Archives: high-interest materials

The Great Debaters: Planning Materials

Over the next several days, I will post an entire unit I wrote, inspired by the Denzel Washington film (he directed and stars as the story’s protagonist, the peripatetic poet and teacher Melvin Tolson)  “The Great Debaters.” on the real-life subjects of that fine film. My original intention was to teach this unit every February in observation of Black History Month. For reasons that involve a long and frustrating story, I was only able to use these materials a couple of times. I’ve parceled them out in dribs and drabs over the years.

I cannot think of better time than now, while students and parents are homebound during this pandemic, to post this unit in its entirety. There are eight lessons in all. I should note, as I do at some length in the unit plan, and as the unit’s title–“Seminar on Prior Knowledge”–that one of the purposes of this unit is to demonstrate for students how learning happens. I want them to understand who the main characters are in “The Great Debaters” before watching the movie. This leads students to understand why it is important for all learning to possess as large a fund of prior knowledge as they can manage to accumulate, or find on their own with the numerous, powerful knowledge-gathering tools–the smartphone is Cold War computing power in the palm of one’s hand–now at our disposal.

In the event that you want to revise or otherwise adapt this unit to your students’ needs, let me start by posting the planning materials for this unit. First, here is the unit plan. This is the lesson plan template. If you want to build some new context clues worksheet for this unit, here is the worksheet template for that. Similarly, here is the worksheet template for building new reading comprehension worksheets for each lesson. This list of definitions for the context clues worksheets already embedded in each lesson will help that part of each lesson proceed without a hitch. Here is a squib on Wiley College, which is at the center of this heroic story, which I grabbed from that institution’s website. Finally, here is another squib on Historically Black Colleges and Universities that I wrote myself and synthesized from a variety of sources, including my own knowledge of these schools; it’s meant to be inserted just about anywhere along the way in this unit.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Surrealism

“Surrealism: Originally a literary movement, officially inaugurated in 1924, it incorporated stylistic and theoretical aspects of Cubism and Dada. Seeking to reveal the reality behind appearances, especially in a psychological sense, surrealism drew heavily on Freudian theories about the unconscious, dreams, irrationality, sexuality, and fantasy. Hence, the use of dream imagery, automatism, and symbolism, Some major figures: Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Crime and Puzzlement: Over the Cliffs and Down We Go

OK, moving right along on this grey, damp morning in southwestern Vermont, here is a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “Over the Cliffs and Down We Go.” I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom, derived from a longer proverb, “For Want of a Nail.” You’ll need this PDF of the illustration and questions that constitute the evidence of this case to conduct your investigation. Finally, here is the typescript of the answer key so that you can complete the investigation and bring the suspect to justice.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

5 Wizards in Lord of the Rings

“Saruman the White * Gandalf the Grey * Radagast the Brown * Alatar also named Morinehtar * Pallando also named Romestamo

The Five are known as Wizards by men, and as the Istari by Elves, and their role is to assist Middle-Earth. Saruman is the man of skills; Gandalf is the elf of the staff; the dreamer; Radagast is the friend of birds and tender of beasts; Alatar (also named Morinehtar) and Pallando (Romestamo) are the sky-blue wizards who journey into the east and out of the story.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Crime and Puzzlement: The $40,000 Raffle

Last but not least this morning, here is a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “The $40,000 Raffle.” You’ll need this PDF of the illustration and questions to conduct your investigation of this case. To solve it, in the final analysis, you’ll want the typescript of the answer key.

I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “Carry a Torch for.” Older people will recognize this as an expression meaning, in today’s parlance, “having a crush on,” or more succinctly, “crushing on.” I’ll let the great Louis Jordan (lyrics by the equally great Jon Hendricks) explain it:

“I’m the man for you and so you better start to face it
If you ever lose my love you know you never can replace it
I think it’s time for you to start to givin’ me some lovin’
‘Cause I’m carryin’ a torch for you that’s hotter than a oven
It’s time for you and me to do a little turtle-dovin'”

Enough said!

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Crime and Puzzlement: “A Case of Kippers”

Alright, last but not least this morning, here is a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “A Case of Kippers.” I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “burning the candle at both ends.” Here is the PDF of the illustration and questions you and your students will need to conduct this investigation. Finally, here is the typescript of the answer key so that you and your class may bring the culprit to the bar of justice.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Star Wars

OK, let’s get started this morning with this relatively high-interest reading on Star Wars and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Nota bene, please, that this reading is about the original 1977 film. That said, there is a lot of room here to expand this material: conceptually, for example, there is an opening for students to explore the business of Hollywood productions by looking at franchise films, as well as the merchandise they create and market.

Furthermore, the Star Wars series can be used as a way of exploring Manichean allegories in books, art, and film. If the Star Wars films aren’t fundamentally about the conflict between good and evil, then I apparently missed the point of the exhausting number of them I watched.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.