Unit Proposal: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Unit
I currently teach English Skills 12 to students with varying learning disabilities or challenges. Their weakest areas are in reading and research, along with text analysis. Their oral presentation skills are weak as well, so the focus of this unit will be to encourage them to speak in small groups of fellow students. Therefore, this year I chose to focus on one text for a unit that will hopefully provide them the opportunity to reflect as well as improve their skills in the above areas. These are ideas I have contemplated for this unit, but I still may add or take away ideas as things develop over the next month or so.
The text that we are reading in class is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” I have already introduced a number of activities, including a TPCASST template for analyzing songs and the poems discussed in the book. Students were to chose a song at home and then analyze it, and present their work in class. ‘Perks’ is unique in that the author who wrote the book also wrote the screenplay and directed it. In doing so, substantive changes were made between the book and the movie. It is from this perspective that I have chosen to approach this unit, to show students why writers and filmmakers make certain choices and how this can influence the tone of each.
-Using Voicethread Podcasts and possible visual media that will be uploaded for students to access, students will respond to podcasts provided by me outside of the classroom and then discussed in class on the content of the book. They in turn will be asked to make their own podcasts to share in class.
-Documents that are created will be posted online on blogs (which the students have already created) with final projects to be posted on a glogster.com (see below for more details).
-Text analysis: Using the Internet, students will chose a scene from the both the book and film version of ‘Perks’ and analyze the scenes from the actual script [http://screenplayexplorer.com/?tag=the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-movie-script]. They will then approach their analysis of the scene using a text type of their choice (opinion, biography, review) to break down how the filmmaker decided to change scenes in his book from that in the movie version.
-Have students work collaboratively to write lyrics reflecting the main protagonist’s experiences throughout the book or their own
-Have students work on a documentary of life in HS at RIS (where I teach). They would then share this with fellow classmates.
-Using Google Charts have students analyze the characters in the book in real time as we discuss their place in the plot as well as their motivations
-Use programs such as Comic Lite to create a comic strip of a scene from the book
-Final presentation will consist of an (a) incorporating all work done in class into a Glog, (b) a film analysis of the film version and the book with a shared via a visual presentation such as glogster.com. (Visual elements from the film either created by the students or associated with the film itself or their reaction to the film will be incorporated into the Glog. This may include Student’s own poster for the ‘film’ or book design, or a brochure promoting the content of the book. As part of this final assignment, students will be asked to write a short essay that will be posted along with other information about the book and film. Students will incorporate the following into their Glog and write about how they have responded to the film: Some potential approaches for the film might include the following:
-Straight research essay: on the making of the film version of ‘Perks’. Students would research the making of the movie and write about how the film was produced, and how it was received.
-Comparative essay: In this case, students would compare two films of the same genre [films about teenagers] or from the same period of time (that take place in the 1990s) and compare the two from a critical perspective. This would include considerations the effectiveness of each film in telling their stories, and then deciding which one was more effective depicting the life of a teenager or consider the story from their own school-life perspective.
-An essay comparing the book version with the film: students would write an essay looking at the book and film version and analyze both, and decide which one they found to be more effective.
I think this Unit allows the students to approach the text from a number of different angles, and allows them to use technology and creativity as they seek to define the novel and its themes for multiple levels of understanding. The Unit is ambitious, and some of the planned activities may not be doable within the given time frame; however, I am confident that there is enough to keep the students involved in the book so that they will read the book and analyze it from a number of different levels. I must admit I am fairly comfortable with a lot of the technology that has been discussed in the Unit, though Voicethread will be a new experience for me. I have used Todaysmeet and BigMarker to varying degrees of success, but I will be interested in seeing how it works, especially within the context of covering one book and movie from a number of different angles. My hope is that my students will develop a greater understanding of the themes and ideas presented in the book, and improve their analytical skills while becoming more comfortable with the research and writing process, something they have a demonstrated weakness in.