Today’s post comes from an email I received this week from Chantel in Wisconsin (shared with permission):

Hi Laura,
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!
Chantel

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!

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Laura-
    Your ‘hamster wheel brain’ constantly amazes and inspires me! There are so many great ideas and potential resources here! Thank-you!
    Amy

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  2. Thanks, Amy! I’m hoping to hear from other folks, too. Let’s fill Chantel’s course offerings list. Come, everyone, don’t be shy…

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  3. Create podcasts for the local blind library. If kids, maybe fairy stories with a modern twist; if older generations (grandparents), perhaps historic non-fiction – those are just random ideas. Basically, consider their audience and tailor their writing and recording appropriately.

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  4. YES, Abena! Podcasting and Audio Storytelling
    I’d want to teach that class, too! I’ve found success using Listen & Learn podcast lessons with my students (my reluctant readers love ’em) and I know NPR has some useful resources, like this: http://training.npr.org/audio/how-to-edit-with-your-ears/
    Great suggestion! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would love to teach a course on oration; I would include famous speeches, and how we have evolved to TedTalks and Rants, and how to create a successful YouTube type broadcast. I might use the above mediums but also something like OfficeMix as well.

    I was also thinking of a Media Analysis course but those topics have already been covered.

    One course we used to teach here was a Writer’s Craft course that would focus on fiction writing. On a quest to write the greatest essay I find the students don’t get a lot of time to explore writing fiction and poetry. But that might depend on whether you already get chance to do that in your school!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We added “Horror in Fiction and Film”. It is a great success. The course begins with an examination of fear (how our body and mind responds to being scared and why we like being scared). Then we examine Edgar Allan Poe and the origin of horror genre. Next we examine the horror film genre, sub-genres, film techniques, and how horror has changed from Poe’s time. We also examine horror films through the ages beginning with Nosferatu all the way through “Paranormal Activity”. We then read Stephen King’s classic novel “Carrie” and examine the two films based on the novel. I love teaching the course and the students love scary movies.

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  7. Great options, PositiveGrit and Ramona! Keep ’em coming, everyone…

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  8. What about a course on Dystopian Literature? You could call it Dystopia – fact or fiction?
    You could examine older texts like 1984 and Brave New World but also look at newer ones like Feed and Divergent. You could look at the truths they hold and even watch some of the dim productions.

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  9. I love all these ideas! How about using found objects and photos to inspire students to create original pieces of writing? They could look for things at thrift stores, tag sales, etc. Check out the book Significant Objects for inspiration. The final project could be an installation with the objects/photos accompanied by the student writing. Maybe the course could be called “The Story of Stuff”?!? Good luck! 😀

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  10. These are all so creative! Now I’m starting to wonder which ones Chantel will take to her department meeting. Hmm… 🙂

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  11. Oh my goodness, you guys! I am so thankful for all of your ideas! These are so fresh and creative!
    Laura, your detailed courses blow me away! Seriously, the amount of ideas you shared for each course in the span of a couple cups of coffee, well, all I can say is WOW!! Thank you for sharing your expertise and sharing on your blog!
    Now, which to work on…

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  12. Oh yeah, Chantel, the blog readers really showed up yesterday! To further complicate your decision, here are more suggestions that teacher friends posted on my Instagram (@randazzzo_laura) and Facebook (@randazzled):

    • Will Power (a study of all things Shakespeare)
    • Why Shakespeare? (The Bard’s influence on contemporary humanities)
    • Myths and Legends
    • Bible as Literature
    • (She Blinded Me with) Sciene Fiction
    • Feminist Lit.
    • Spoken Word Poetry
    • Intro. to Filmmaking
    • History of Film
    • Fiction to Film (another name for Script to Screen)

    Enjoy!

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  13. A couple I have seen taught but have not personally taught myself:
    Law and Literature (Taught by a former lawyer turned teacher but they examined how literature is important in changing the way people think and how it can actually change the course of history. One class period I sat in on discussed Black Lives Matter and the disproportionate amount of black men in jail versus white men.)
    Literature of the Holocaust (Probably the most popular class taught in the school. There is always a waiting list to get into it)

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  14. Great additions to the list, Abby!

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  15. I heard a great episode of On Point (NPR 4/6/18) about senior thesis work… graduating seniors from around the country opened up about their culminating projects…one senior was analyzing addictive behavior in order to develop systems to counteract addictive behaviors…and so on…thought my seniors could jump in by picking a thesis…research and write. Or, they could define the work of an actual college senior as a speech…

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  16. Very interesting, Lynnly. I used to teach an Advanced Composition course to seniors and can definitely see how a culminating project/research paper would hold great value. Alas, with my seniors, the paper would need to be due by December. In the spring term, it felt like my entire class morphed into Jeff Spicoli. Sigh…

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  17. We have a Science Fiction course and a Conspiracy Theory class. I would love to teach an author study class as well…Maybe even an entire course on Multi-Cultural literature?

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  18. I’m in! Sounds great, Nikki.

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