Here is the link to my Memories Matter Online Unit, but you will need to sign up for Canvas in order to access it, sorry, but you can delete your account after viewing it.
Unit Overview and Background
Memories Matter is an 8th grade English online asynchronous unit, with the exception of one synchronous session. Approximately 20 students are enrolled. These students are either enrolled in a virtual school or are home school students. So all students enrolled are familiar and comfortable with technology and have basic technology skills and the appropriate equipment and software to complete the unit. Developmentally the students are adolescents, which means they are egocentric, ready for abstract thinking, and need structure for long-term planning. In my unit I attempt to use these developmental characteristics to my advantage by making assignments have a connection to the students’ lives and guiding the students to think about abstract concepts that are not black or white, but deal with the grey area such as sameness, ideals, and morals. The unit is designed to guide students to the final project and to practice necessary reading and writing skills according the Alaska English language Arts Standards. Students will engage in a lot of personal writing by keeping a reading journal and writing two memoirs. Students will also conduct research and investigate two past memories by interviewing family and friends, looking at photos, and examining their own memory. Through discussion students will explore grey area ideas and concepts about the importance of memories and recorded history. This will lead them to think carefully, critically, and reflectively about the importance of memory and recorded history in their own lives, which culminates in the final metacognitive reflection.
It is the hope that by using a main piece of literature in this unit, The Giver by Lois Lowry, that it will help engage students in the roles of readers and writers, which will then lead to the role of author. With the asynchronous nature of the unit it is also designed to help students develop independence, which is important at this age as readers and writers. I as the instructor will act more as a guide as students explore the unit. As students explore the theme of telling the story through the lens of memory and recorded history in The Giver it will give the students a focus while reading and most importantly a purpose. As Wilhelm (2008) states storytelling is “a primary way of knowing and organizing our personal knowledge of ourselves and the world. Storying defines humanity, makes us human, empowers us in being who we are, and makes it possible for us to conceive of being more than we are’ (p. 52-53). By having the students become storytellers they will practice their reading and writing skills while developing a better understanding of the world they live in and their place in it.
Unit Learning Objectives
- Students will be able to think critically about the importance of memories in the book The Giver, recorded history in their own lives, and in larger historical contexts through reflective writing.
- Students will be able to think and reflect about their own values and beliefs concerning sameness, diversity, uniqueness, culture, history, power, and societal issues.
- Students will be able to infer the meaning of vocabulary words in context.
- Students will be able to practice their reading fluency by reading passage aloud.
- Student will be able to create a memoir using a variety of sources (memories, interviews, photos).
- Students will be able to conduct personal research by interviewing friends and relatives.
Assessments and Learning Activities
The above objectives are met through a variety of assessments and learning activities. Most of the assessment in the unit is formative. Rubrics, checklists, and participation are all used to assess the students’ progress in meeting the unit’s main objectives. The summative assessment is the final project, which is a set of assignments that culminate in a final metacognitive reflection. To help guide students to this final project McTighe and Wiggins (2004) Understanding by Design framework was used and the GRASPS (Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, Product/Purpose, and Standards for Success) template was consulted. The path through the unit may not be perfect, but my inexperience as an online educator must be taken into account. Fink (2013) encourages that reflection be a part of the learning process and that the learning activities guide the students to this reflective end to flex their metacognition muscles.
This leads to the learning activities, which are directly linked to the objectives as well as the Alaska English language Arts Standards for 8th grade. Each assignment clearly states the objectives in a student friendly way and align with the above-mentioned objectives. For example, the reading journal assignments encourage students to meet the first two objectives. The goal of the reading journal is to help students read purposefully, think critically, and write reflectively. Where as the vocabulary quizzes and passage readings focus on the concrete skills the students need to continue to develop throughout their education. The unit has a balance between the concrete and the abstract. The goal is to help students become better readers, writers, and authors while thinking critically and reflectively, but it is also practicing necessary basic skill like vocabulary and reading aloud fluency. This is also in line with the developmental characteristics of 8th grade students. The discussions, peer reviews, and the single synchronous session are learning activities to help the students explore their egocentric thinking while exposing them to others perspectives to help widen their view of the world and to grow as readers, writers, and authors. After completing these various learning activities that prep the students for the final project there is a whole section designated for the final project to guide students more clearly to the end of the unit where students get to create as authors and reflect on their learning through out the entire unit. Literature is a powerful tool, but what is more empowering is applying what was learned from it and then creating your own personal literature. Hopefully this unit accomplishes this goal.
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wilhelm, J. D. (2008). You Gotta BE the Book: Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents. New York: Teachers College Press.