I’m trying to put together an 8 week credit recovery program for the students who failed junior English this term, and I’m bumping up into a serious creative wall.
I want for the program to be largely self-directed; that is, I only want to meet with the kids once a week and have them do the rest of the work on their own. I also want for it to be substantial; I’m resisting the urge to reign in the material because, well, if they couldn’t handle what I gave them in small doses every day for 15 weeks, what makes me think they can handle a lot on their own in 8, right? The point is that they COULD handle the work, they just chose not to and besides, the point here is for them to prove that they’re ready for senior level English; one of the main themes of that class is moving toward independent, self-directed work.
I’ve got the first week knocked; they’re going to write a personal literacy narrative in which they relate how a literacy has helped to shape how they read, write, think, or behave. It’s an assignment I do with pretty much every writing class I teach; what I want for the students to understand is that reading and writing are intimately connected and not, as so many of them think of the experiences, discrete activities. I can point to any number of books that have been instrumental to shaping how I view myself and my place in the world, and I want for my students to be self-aware enough to understand where their influences come from.
After that, though? I’m stumped. I can’t decide if I want to continue the theme of social justice that we were working on over the semester (though I am leaning heavily in that direction) or if I want to branch into something completely different – adventure literature, say, or biography. I can’t land on whether I want to teach one book in-depth, or work from a collection of short novels, stories, and film. Further, I can’t decide if I should make the summer term all about critical analysis, or if I should make it a straight writing craft course (though, to be honest, I’m likely going to keep pushing the critical analysis, as that’s going to be the primary objective in senior English in September).
I’ve got a stack of potential books on my desk; A Long Way Gone; Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Beloved by Toni Morrison (or possibly Song of Solomon), The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman are all in the running, as is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (because my plan is to work that book with juniors next year, and these students, if they complete the summer session successfully, will enter September as seniors, so they won’t have to work the book twice). I’ve not read the Beah or Gaiman books yet, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve read Conrad or Morrison, so I will have to work those right along with the kids, but I’m not opposed to that.
What do you think? How would YOU go about building a summer school term that had a heavy independent study feel to it? Thoughts? Suggestions? Please?