Design for semester-long Conceptual Unit

Brief Rational: This unit was inspired following a discussion I observed at Ballard high school, during which I was flabberghasted with how many students did not understand the importance of reading—more specifically the importance of storytelling. I was struck remembering a passage I’d read in college from Silko’s Ceremony: “I will tell you something about stories . . . They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.” And with this quote in mind, I have created a conceptual unit with a thematic focus on storytelling and point of view. During the course of this unit, it is my hope that students discover pervasive powers of story and the unique relationship between storyteller and reader. I want students to understand the significance of both their own personal stories and voice, as well as the chorus of others who contribute to the universal human story. My hope is that students will develop deep convictions about the types of people they want to be and the types of stories they want to write.

Thematic Focus: Overarching Concept—Storytelling
• Strategy: What is the purpose of Storytelling?
• Guiding Questions:
–“Who is the speaker in each text, and how does the speaker’s perspective contribute to the way in which the story is told?” Smagorinsky pg. 47
–“To what extent is the speaker trustworthy and reliable?” Smagorinsky pg. 47
–What literary tools or elements are present in each text and how do these support the themes in each text?
–How is truth subjective? (Stylistic/Thematic content truth VS. Facts)
–What are the effects of Storytelling?

Stance: Self-determination. This self-determination stance is inspired by Jerome Bruner who writes: “We need a surer sense of what to teach to whom and how to go about teaching it in such a way that it will make those taught more effective, less alienated, and better human beings” (Bruner, 1996, p. 118). It is my goal that during our time together, through reading, writing, analysis and self-reflection, my students will develop a better sense of who they are, what their purpose is, and how they are connected and able to contribute to the people and world around them.

Unit Goals: Common Core
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
• CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Unit Texts:
• Kindred by Octavia Butler
• The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
• Series of short stories
• Series of poems
• The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Incorporation of Grammar: I will incorporate mini grammar lesson throughout this unit as we study each text and analyze the different literary methods and devices each author employs. Additionally as students compose papers reflections throughout the course including this final literary analysis, we will examine the effectiveness of different styles and the effects of syntax and punctuation choices. Conventions, including grammar will be a focus, during the revision processes as well. If there are repeated errors throughout papers, I will address confusion with a corresponding mini lesson. If a few students continue to make significant errors, I will gather the few together and provide further direct instruction and practice.

Assessment—Literary Analysis: The purpose of this unit was to provide the opportunities and resources necessary for you to begin exploring the significance of stories. Considering the many texts and activities we have engaged with in order to better understand the purpose and power of storytelling, synthesize the meaning, purpose and effect of storytelling. In your essay, please be sure to:

-craft a clearly written (2-part) thesis identifying at least one purpose(s) of storytelling and how two authors communicate this purpose.

-analyze 4 (2 for each author) methods (literary techniques or devices) the authors employ throughout the texts in order to support what you believe to be a/the purpose of story

-properly cite sources using MLA formatting and provide commentary for each quote (at least 4)

-write at least 4 body paragraphs

-include a thoughtful and summative conclusion addressing the purpose of storytelling and how this purpose is accomplished

-adhere to conventions, grammar, spelling and punctuation

-type, use 12pt Times New Roman font and double-space

-write 4, interesting, and insightful pages

-give evidence of having written and revised at least one draft of your paper

TO Consider While Writing:
1. consider the elements of story
2. consider the reader/writer(speaker) relationship
3. consider additional purposes of storytelling—why yours matters

• In order to provide students with an understanding of how they will be evaluated, I will handout a copy of the rubric along with the prompt. As a class, we will discuss both the assessment and the evaluation criteria and I will answer any clarifying questions posed before students begin the assignment.

• The teacher should refer to the Common Core State Standards and the skills necessary to complete the final assessment to guide his or her teaching throughout the unit.

• Teacher must teach students:
o The elements of story
o Varying examples of story
o Varying perspectives on the purpose of storytelling
o Literary elements/effects or connection to purpose
o Literary techniques/effects or connection to purpose
o Syntax and grammar mini lessons
o Elements of literary analysis
o Elements of synthesis
o Elements of peer editing
o MLA formatting

• The teacher will refer to the prompt, parameters and rubric to guide his or her grading of the assessment.

• My goals for this unit began with wanting students to consider the power and purpose of storytelling. To prepare, we read a variety of novels, poems and short stories and engage in a variety of different activities that culminate with literary analysis in which a student identifies what they believe to be a significant purpose of story and synthesize evidence from at least two authors to support their claims. Goals included teaching students how to write an exploratory text analyzing a complex or multi-faceted idea, in this case, the purpose and effect of storytelling, as well as identify and examining the effectiveness of authors’ choices regarding literary devices or techniques. My writing prompt/assessment directly and clearly directs students to write a paper addressing all components.

Rubric:EDU 6361 Writing Unit Rubric–Literary Analysis-Storytelling


Bruner, J.S. (1966). Some elements of discovery. In L.S. Shulman & E.R. Keislar (Eds.), Learning by discovery: A critical appraisal. Chicago: Rand McNally College Publishing Company, p. 118.

Silko, L. (2006). Ceremony. New York: Penguin Books.

Smagorinsky, Peter. (2008), Teaching English by Design: How to Create and Carry Out Instructional Units. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann. ISBN-13: 978-0-325-00980-3. ISBN: 10:0-325-00980-5.

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