Monday, May 7, 2012

Dystopia is in the near future...

What your future is going to be dystopian?? No ... that's just the new unit we are starting in ELA... "Other Skies and Dystopian Literature". We are not only going to read some pretty awesome books, we are also going to make some connections to our current world today and how we manage resources and look at the rights of people and the distribution of wealth around the world... And here you thought we were just exploring fiction!

Here is an introduction to our new unit...

Big question – What can we learn about our world by reading dystopian literature?
Many ideas from NY Times Lesson Plans Site have been used and expanded upon. Reference:

What inspired or influenced the authors of our dystopian novels when writing their books? What is the background of the novels? Are they about, how humanity survives… Government or Political Structure… The role of “Big Brother” watching you… The use of resources or amount of resources….
What is it about the world of the future that should be perfect, yet is not??? What is the controlling force that gets in the way of freedom? How is our world "foreshadowing" the world of the future? Is there a connection between the world of the dystopian novel and an element of these worlds? 

Before we even begin, check out the links below to author interviews, book trailers and fan blogs... Even if you are not assigned the book that captures your interest... you can always read that particular novel after our Literature Circles! Remember you are not LIMITED to reading just one book. BIG BROTHER will not stop you in you quest to read and enjoy books!

Divergent – Veronica Roth
Matched – Ally Condie
Maze Runner – James Dashner
The Eleventh Plague – Jeff Hirsch

WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S THE HYPE WITH DYSTOPIA??? HERE ARE SOME DEBATES, ARTICLES AND ESSAYS ON THE TOPIC FOR TEENS AND THEIR PARENTS!! Seriously, read some of the links below and discuss the issues with your parents... get's you thinking!

WHY DOES DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE CAPTIVATE TEENS? Questions and Answers for Teens and Their Parents…. A selection of Debates, Articles and Essays…
Why are dystopian novels so compelling or engaging for young readers? Everyone is wondering, maybe those who wonder, haven’t read any of the books, so they prefer to wonder…. Anyways the following essay, “Teenage Wastelands” explores some well known dystopian books and reasons for their popularity. I love the fact that the guy who wrote, the non-fiction-turned-fiction novel, A Million Little Pieces, also wrote I am Number Four… Hilarious!!

The debate, “When Authors Take Risks That’s Not Kid Stuff” really captures my attention and in a couple of the debaters arguments, actually makes my blood boil (imagine that!). Seriously! Check out, “Adults Should Read Adult Books”… This guy, Joel Stein, really ticks me off, as he makes fun of adults who read young adult's books, yet admits he has never read any of them. (Grrr!!!) What a know-it-all, elitist jerk! A good book is a good book! It’s good to read a book for entertainment’s sake and one that is thought provoking. Thank Goodness, there are thought provoking novels for teens! Maybe this is a soft spot for me as a teacher who started reading young adult fiction to find out what to recommend for kids, then found herself enjoying teen fiction just as much as adult fiction…. Anyways, check out the debate, it’s thought provoking and interesting. I need to think about other things before I get too riled up! And for the record, I am not ashamed that I read the Twilight series! (Yes I even said it in print!) Here’s the debate…See what get’s Ms. SM steamed about literary debates…

Will teen books like The Hunger Games make teens glorify violence? Is The Hunger Games just a book about "kids killing kids"? Is this new craze for dystopian genre which explores "more adult-like" political topics a new thing? Or are political topics in children’s literature something that even Lewis Carroll explored in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland back in the late 1800’s? In the following article, “No More Adventures in Wonderland”, the author examines how serious and sometimes violent concepts in children’s writing is not a new thing, and sometimes just a better vehicle for exploring serious issues and getting the message out there. Is it important to "bubble wrap" and keep kids in the dark, or educate and encourage kids to think about these issues through discussion? Just check out the article...

 Check out the debate that further explores the issue, “The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction” from different writers, including the authors of Shipbreaker, Uglies,  and Shiver

The Great Dystopian Debate…
Why do you think teens are drawn to dystopian literature? Read the debaters points from above, and think about who is right… or why do you think they are right? Get ready for an intense class discussion on the topic, prepare to justify who you agree with most? Why? What is your opinion?

Tests this Week then Toga Day

Tuesday, May 8th - Social Test - Culture Unit (allowed a study sheet)
Wednesday, May 9th - ELA Greek Mythology Test (allowed a study sheet)
Thursday, May 10th - French Quiz (study adjectives, avoir and etre conjugations) - "Knowledge Wall"
Thursday, May 10th - Unit 8 Integers Test grade 8 (allowed a study sheet)
Friday, May 11th - Greek "Feast-Potluck and Toga Day"
Greek Potluck and Toga Day
9:00 Come dressed in toga outfits or as a Greek Mythological Character
9:30 Share myths in small groups (ensure that your myth is on kidblog for comments)
11:30 Greek Feast and Potluck (bring any food item to share at the potluck... Remember it's lunch, so bring some "lunch" type food, not just chips and dip.)
2:30 Share the Student composed myths (or finish sharing) and participate in a ...
Socratic Questioning Lesson - I know you are thinking, "How can an old guy like Socrates teach us to think better? I mean come on, he was from Athens and lived during the time of the Ancient Greeks! What can we learn from him???" Oh lots... actually his method of questioning will become "food for thought for our Dystopian Unit".... Oh the connections you will make to learning....

For more on Socratic Questioning.... You young Greek Philosophers, check out the following sites...

Next week or week and a half...
Religion Test on Sacraments... we will finish this lesson with the videos from Busted Halo (If you have no idea what I'm talking about... Read this blog!!!  )

By the way, we will slightly overlap the Dystopia unit with Greek Mythology this week... just because you are excited to start, as Rolan stated in class one day,
"I've never been so excited to get depressed by the future!" Well said Rolan, I know these Dystopian books are a tad dark and gritty... but they sure make you think about the connections to our present!! I'm pumped to start too!