Language Arts Unit on Environmentalism
Intended for 9th-10th Grade
My focus regarding this unit is for students to gain experience reading, writing, and studying language construction within the scope of the English language arts discipline. I am planning several activities regarding environmentalism in students’ lives while working with and around themes presented in the text by C.E Medford, Magic America. Magic America is a coming of age novel which also interacts with themes regarding human impacts on environment. I believe this unit will allow for students to become aware and connected to their environment and see how the natural world is a bridge which can connect different cultures and populations.
This unit will incorporate numerous forms of writing including poetry, formal essay and formal letter writing, as well as casual journaling activities. I will also bring in outside sources for language analysis such as speeches. My vision for students upon completing this unit are- 1. Gain experience within the scope of English language arts reading, writing, language analysis 2. Construct items that reflect their personal concerns and beliefs. 3. Establish an understanding of Environmentalism. 4. Connect deeper with their immediate environment. 5. Recognize rhetorical practices in place surrounding places and objects in their environment. 6. Learn and Establish their own beliefs.
I believe that every discipline can and should incorporate ideas related to environmentalism. As a language arts instructors, we are blessed to teach students a subject that will influence their lives regardless of their future goals or areas of study at the secondary level. This unit will present ethical issues (our collective responsibility to care for the Earth) and develop critical thinking skills needed to address complex issues. It will also require students to look beyond their personal observations and interpret data.
The culminating project for this unit will allow students to create a presentation, which may take a form they chose from a list of selected options, to present to the class which represents a natural environment which they care about or are interested in and threats it is facing. They will also propose a sensible plan of action they think will help preserve this environment.
Magic America by C.E Medford
Thinking like a Mountain – Aldo Leopold
The Wilderness Letter – Wallace Stegner
Abcedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation – Natalie Diaz
Where I’m From – George Ella Lyon
FILM – Jumbo Wild
Ripped off Poetry
As an introduction to poetry students will complete this assignment. In class I will present different readings of poetry including that of Natalie Diaz and her abcedarian. In class students will experiment with drafting their own abcedarian’s. If it is overwhelming students can try using shorter sequences of letters rather than the whole alphabet. For homework, they will draft an entire abcedarian.
The second part of this poem requires the poems to be left anonymous ripped apart leaving only the first word of each line the students will then exchange the ripped portion with a classmate and draft a new poem with the provided beginnings to each line.
I am From
This assignment will work with the poem by George Ella Lyon. Students will craft a poem which reflects where they are from. Students come from diverse backgrounds and offer great variance in experience within their community regardless of physical proximity. This allows students to share their experience. In class, we will explore the poem and formulate a draft. Then independently students’ will create another draft. This poem is exercise is a great exercise for students who have little experience within poetry and for those with more. It will also require students to look at their environment closely, which will lead into other assignments.
Passport Assignment 1
This assignment is designed to get students outside. It asks students to go outside into the natural environment. The definition of natural environment will first be discussed in class. Each student will write down their own definition of wilderness. Students will then take time to visit a place which they have access to which they consider wild. They will be asked to, take time to describe its physical appearance. What does it look like? What happened in the place while you were there? Describe its “wildness.” Why do you think this place is wild? One strategy to answer this prompt is to consider what constitutes your personal imaginary of “wilderness,” ( from class ) and then discuss how the place you chose meets and does not meet that imaginary.
Class and Nature
After completion of the novel and exploring themes of environmentalism within it, as a class we will explore the essay by Kevin Deluca and Anne Demo. This is an advanced text for the class so students will not be expected to unpack this on their own. We will as a class explore the ideas presented mainly that of class and its relation to environmentalism. This will supplement their passport assignment. As well as relate to the anchor text. We will supplement this with Leopold’s thinking like a mountain and discuss land ethics. We will look at utilitarian, egalitarian, and ecological uses of land. And how the different views of land use relate to examples we saw in the text (utilitarian used in the novel resulting in environmental damage). Students will then find examples of different land ethics in use within the community they will present their findings to the class. This exploration can also be done in pairs.
This assignment follows the format of the first passport assignment however, it asks students to look at human impact on these environments. Drawing on the class and nature assignment which types of human impact are explored. Students will visit another place that you consider more or less “wild.” Explain why they consider this place wild. What would it look like, smell like, feel like, sound like, taste (?) like to a person who seems to celebrate everything natural? from stones living creatures?
A Call from the Wild
This assignment utilizes the secondary text by Wallace Stegner. In his letter to legislature he draws attention to the impending environmental damage and delivers a call to action to the parties in charge of protection. Students will explore virtually a natural environment they consider to be endangered. In class, we will brainstorm locations and threats. The students will continue their research and create a report on the area. Exploring the area’s history, uses, and environmental impact. The students will present to the class briefly their selections. Students will research who is currently in charge of the land. If the location has a website it may be a government agency or there may be multiple parties involved. Following this assignment, we as a class will watch the film Jumbo Wild.
The result of this unit will be a presentation to the class on their findings. Students may choose to write formal papers, they may create a short film about the area, create a website to draw attention to the area. Other options will be considered as well. Students will have to present on as mentioned the history of the area, the uses of the land, the threats to the land, and develop a plan of action to help preserve the land. They will also be required to write an address directly to the parties in charge of handling their concerns. Locating these parties will be assisted by myself. My intention is that students will genuinely seek out an area local or not which they feel a connection to personally and see a need for its defense. The goal is that students create something to be shared with a wider audience than that of the classroom, and connects them to the environment which ties all life together.
I am going to say this unit will take about 9 to ten weeks to complete. However, this is only an estimate as student engagement may call for more or less time to be spent interacting deeper with different concepts and assignments. As an educator, I believe it is important to allow for this flexibility. With that said the reading of the novel I plan on taking roughly three weeks. The novel is two hundred and fifty pages long. With my experience as a student I find reading the novel in class is most efficient. I plan on roughly going through twenty pages a day with the class. This translates into about twelve class meetings with a class that meets three times a week. (Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Day 1 – Introduction to poetry. In class, we will explore our definitions of poetry.
We will also look up examples of poetry being read out loud so students
can start learning how to read poetry.
Day 2– Assign Ripped off Poetry Assignment.
Day 3- Students will return with their drafts of abecedarian’s. To complete this
assignment students will rip their poems in half vertically leaving only the first word of each line. They will then exchange papers with a classmate and finish the lines creating a new poem. For homework, they will do this with a poem of their choice. Will turn in the following week the original poem and the draft.
Day 1- Collect the Ripped off portion of the assignment from the end of last
week. We will explore George Ella Lyon’s poem. Introduce the where I
am from assignment.
Day 2- We will look at examples of where we are from online or google
Expeditions. We will transition into looking at environment and what we
consider to be wild environments.
Day 3- Collect the I am from assignment. Ask students to share their work
compare differences and similarities. Assign Passport assignment.
Day 1-Introduction to novel Magic America, by C.E Medford.
Day 2- Read – estimate of 20 pages a day
Day 3 – Read
While reading as class students will journal thoughts each day on reading. They will also comment on supplied questions regarding themes and structure. We will trace the environmental elements through the novel as well bringing attention to it as it connects to other unit assignments.
Day 1-Read pages 60-80
Day 2- Read pages 80-100
Day 3- Read 100-120
Day 1- 120-140 Passport due on day 3
Day 2- 140-160
Day 3- 160-180 Collect Passport
Day 1- 180-200
Day 2- 200-220
Day 3- 220-end
Day 1- Assign Passport 2
Day 2- Thinking like A Mountain Text
Day 3- Thinking like a Mountain Class and Nature Assignment
Day 1- students share examples from Class and Nature Assignment
Day 2- The Wilderness Letter by Stegner will be shared in class
Day 3- Introduce Final assignment
Day 1- Collaborate and work on Final. Passport due day 3
Day 2- Collaborate and work on Final
Day 3- Collect Passport pt 2. Continue to work on final
Check in conferences with me.
Day 1- Check ins
Day 2- Presentations
Day 3 – Presentations
End unit we will watch the film Jumbo Wild. Which connects directly to what the students just created. It is a film version, designed to raise awareness about Jumbo Valley and the dangers encroaching on it. The film explores all elements of the area the students explored for their final project.
California Common Core Standards Addressed
Key Ideas and Details
- Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details. Provide and objective summary of the text.
- Analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop a theme.
Craft and Structure
5.Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it, (parallel plots) manipulate time, (pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery tension, or surprise.
Text Types and Purposes
1.Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Introduce precise claims , distinguish the claims from alternate or opposing claims, create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
- Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.
- Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the arguments presented.
- Write Informative/ explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- Introduce a topic or thesis statement; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting, graphics, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented. (articulating implications or the significance of the topic
Production and Distribution
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- Use technology, including the internet, to produce, publish, and update individual and shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration
- Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on each other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
- Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
Presentation of knowledge and Ideas
- Present information, findings and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically. Such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
Conventions of Standard English
- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking
This unit plan was truly a semester long endeavor. An observation I came to realize was that there is an immense pressure to create something of substance for students. I genuinely enjoyed the freedom to design a unit utilizing sources of my own personal interest that I felt would connect with students. This however, also served as a double-edged sword as with this freedom I found myself jumping around quite often on what I wanted my main focus to be. I arrived at an environmental stance because I believe current levels of environmental literacy are growing and it is time to implement more environmental related issues to school curriculum.
I tried to focus this unit on student production. I wanted to have students producing as much as possible. This can be difficult because at times students can see that they may be just completing things for the sake of completion. I tried to combat this by trying to have each assignment require the students to think critically about their own position or feelings on topics. I also tried to design the final cultivating experience project as something for them to share with an audience much wider than the school or classroom. By allowing students the choice to select the form of their final as well as where they want to research I hope the students will be motivated to do well on it since they personally selected it for their own reasons.