Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fleshing Out Unit Five

My Humanities class started our fifth unit of the year this past Tuesday.  This was the unit that I'd spent the least amount of time on during my intensive summer planning, and was therefore the least-fleshed out, and consequently, the unit I was most worried about.  I knew it was going to be about the American Dream, and that several enduring understandings needed to be included, regarding such topics as comparative economic and political systems, various reactions to immigration, the ways in which authors use literary devices and the relationship between literature and society.
At first glance, these understandings seemed fractured, disconnected from one another and I wondered if maybe I would have been better off including them in other units.  

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that each understanding fit in with the larger course theme of humanity's quest for meaning.  Really, that was what this unit was all about, all along and I simply had not recognized it until then.

With that in mind, I created these essential questions and divided the unit up into five modules:
Where do humans seek meaning?
Can cultures coexist without clashing?
Is national pride a dangerous thing?
How does a good communicator convey meaning?

Module One: The American Dream and Immigration
This module explores the lure of the American Dream, asking what the American Dream promises, and then whether or not the reality lives up to the dream.  In the process, this module examines the plight of various immigrant groups and the tension between blending into the melting pot, or remaining distinct.

Module Two: Meaning in Nature
This module explores the connection that so many writers have had to the natural world, considering why humans might look to nature for significance and why rooting one's significance in nature is ultimately insufficient.

Module Three: Meaning in Self
This module explores the temptation to make oneself the ultimate end, wrestling with the seductive idea that life is about the meaning we give it with the time that we have and why this, too, is ultimately insufficient.

Module Four: Meaning in Nation
This module explores the temptation to imbue one's nation with ultimate significance, looking at the relationship between patriotism and nationalism and addressing the dangers inherent in nationalism.

Ongoing Module: The Green Light
This module revolves around the reading of The Great Gatsby, and in addition to making connections with the ongoing theme of the quest for meaning, analyzes the ways in which Fitzgerald used symbols to bring this point across in his story.

The major assessment will, of course, be a unit essay evaluating the ways in which history and literature reveal humanity's quest for meaning in light of a Biblical worldview.  Most everything else will serve as a formative piece of that puzzle, or will target understandings not covered in the essay.  

From this starting point, the unit has been incredibly easy to plan, and has turned out to be the most even balance between history and literature that I have struck to date.  This past week was fun and there's not a day of this unit that I am not looking forward to.  

All of this is a reminder of the power of a unifying theme, supported by solid essential questions which can frame the unit--a lesson I already knew, but needed the reminder on!

No comments:

Post a Comment