I've done it. Decided to bring back the social issues research paper to the Senior English curriculum. After a 6-year absence, I dug out the dusty binder that holds the important paperwork, bought some new writing guides, and began scouring the newspaper and magazine headlines for current topics. Last week I introduced the project to the kids. And without too much agony, we've begun. This week we'll finalize topic choices and then start the individual lessons on thesis writing, note card format, outlining, and so forth.
And we'll read Animal Farm too!
I've toyed with this idea for a while now and finally decided now is as good a year as any. And in my geeky English teacher way, I'm excited about it mostly because I feel like sometimes my upperclassmen students really don't learn any new stuff during the course of my class. Sure they read some great literature that is "new" to them, but as for skills, they pretty much have them already. I spend lots of time correcting grammar and writing technique, but I envy the teachers that have brand new material for their students. For example, my second grader is learning to add double-digit numbers for the first time and is learning the nuances of phonics and reading skills. How cool that her teacher gets to share that brand new information. And it makes my heart smile to see her catching on and "teaching" me these new ideas.
We went to the Henry Ford Museum yesterday and my kids are enthralled with the bus Rosa Parks sat in. They insist we sit in her seat and listen to the story. My daughter chose books about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the gift shop to learn more about the ideas of slavery and segregation. Tough topics, but wonderful to see her wanting to learn.
I guess I want some of that for my students. Teaching skills such as taking good notes, formatting note cards, writing a sentence outline, and putting together a scholarly paper are things that they may not use but once or twice ever again, but at least they will have the knowledge. Perhaps its a bit selfish to want, as a teacher, something new to do but it can't be a horrible motivation. And watching their brains wrap around a social issue, formulate an opinion, and find facts to support their argument rather than simply spewing generalizations is fascinating also.
So we've begun. Topic choices will be made this week and then the lectures and lessons begin. Should be an interesting ride.