Today’s post comes from an email I received this week from Chantel in Wisconsin (shared with permission):
Our school will be switching to a trimester schedule (12-week classes) and we were told to come up with some elective English courses to fill in some slots. I am wondering, if you could create a few courses, what would you create? And maybe your followers have some input as well?
Thanks for all you do!
Oh, Chantel, you’ve made my hamster wheel brain whirl with possibilities. Okay, these are the first three that came to mind. Sadly, I don’t have official course descriptions or CCSS-aligned materials for you, just a Saturday morning, second-cup-of-coffee tumble of ideas in no particular order. Let’s go!
1. Share Your Voice (Blogging/Social Media/E-Publishing)
Stuff I’d include:
• What are the elements of a success blog?
• Informational text about the business of blogging/how creators drive traffic and get paid
• Effective social media writing and search engine optimization
• Power of infographics to communicate complicated information
• Assign students to build something with academic merit using Canva, a free graphic design tool
• Articles about e-book self-publishing and case studies of success stories, such as this one about author Amanda Hocking
• Life as a blogger or freelance journalist (maybe bring in a guest speaker?)
• Daily grammar scrub bellringers (like these) to polish skills
• Learn how to write the perfect Tweet
• Discuss how to tactfully deal with critics/trolls and practice written responses
• Learn to properly cite sources and respect copyright in the age of digital sharing (study cases of those who do it right and those who were sued for doing it wrong)
Final project: Create a personal-interest blog with at least six posts
2. Life’s a Mystery (Genre)
Stuff I’d include:
• Read and analyze a collection of famous mysteries (Agatha Christie to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Encyclopedia Brown (Donald J. Sobol) to Edgar Allan Poe)
• Compare/contrast Christie’s Murder of the Orient Express with the 2017 film version
• Play mystery games (like murder mystery dinner theater, but maybe without the murder)
• Study the popularity of escape rooms (find informational text about the business side of this entertainment industry and/or bring in a guest speaker if your town has a small business owner who runs one of these operations)
• Small group project to create a breakout game and upload it to the BreakoutEDU site
• Regularly use logic games/brain teasers as bellringers
• Dig into some sample logical reasoning questions from the LSAT
• Build Clue-style character sketches/biography backgrounds
Final project: Write and perform a mystery dinner theater for the community
3. From Script to Screen
Stuff I’d include:
• Elements of a successful script
• Understand the storytelling arc and learn how to skillfully alter it
• Examine how a screenwriter turns a short story or novel into a script
• Practice writing dialogue and playing with written dialect
• Technical details of how to write for film and TV
• Deep dive into the edits that famous storytellers like Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock made during a specific film project
• Watch and discuss the story of two kids who made a shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark:
• Examine the impact of music/sound effects on mood
• Learn about sources for royalty-free music and stock video background clips
• Bring in a guest speaker (local TV news cameraperson or a documentary filmmaker?)
• Study the finances of filmmaking and learn how some full-length films have been made using only cameras from cell phones
• Research careers in filmmaking – there are a lot of other jobs in the industry besides acting, writing, and directing
Final project: Write your own script and produce two scenes for a class viewing party
Okay, teacher friends, what would you teach? Or what would you add to any of my three courses? Leave a description for the English elective class you wish you had permission to teach. Even if we’re not allowed to lead these classes, maybe Chantel and her department members can live the dream.
Teach on, everyone!