Friday, May 23, 2014

Hero's Journey Lessons Reflection, Pt. 1

It's no secret to my students that I enjoy Star Wars in almost every way.  I'm surprised these last few years at how many students have not seen the original episodes.  This year, the majority of my 3rd period English 11 P class had not seen any versions of Star Wars--which surprises me since Episode III came out in 2005 (and the Clone Wars cartoon just barely ended!)
My third period co-teacher (@jenilola)originally came up with the idea to do a Star Wars week of mini-lessons to cover the Hero's Journey--mostly since so many had not seen the movies.  She had some Hero's Journey lessons archived and we pulled those out to dust off for the end of May.  I immediately decided to steal the lessons we crafted for my other 10th grade classes.

Long story short, we ended up not having the time in the year to do Star Wars or Hero's Journey in 3rd period, and lucky for me, I've squeezed it in for my other classes.  Due to some last minute training days that will keep me out of the classroom for three straight days, I had to split up the Hero's Journey mini-lessons and it only seemed natural to split them into Act I, Act II, and Act III of the quest.

On day 1, I showed a very brief power point slide show (thanks to [I only showed Act I up to the threshold, so as to not get ahead of myself!]) of the different scenes in Lion King that correspond to the "Departure" portion of the Hero's Journey up to the first threshold.  I then passed out index cards with stories and movies where I knew the plots (and hoped the students would know at least one! -- turns out none of the 10th graders have seen Planes. ..).  I randomly passed out cards, but let them swap until they had one they knew well.  For three absent students, I later gave them the entire stack and let them pick the one they knew best, so we had some duplicates but that's ok.  The students spent about 10 minutes filling out a chart with the generic steps of Act I "Departure" with the corresponding parts of their selected plot line.

This is where the magic happened; since, when the students could not remember a part of their plot, they had some serious questions for their classmates.  "What was the 'talisman' for Po in Kung Fu Panda?" "It was the Dragon Scroll, duh!" "Wait, why?"  This followed by an explanation (with no help from me in most cases) as to why the object in question fit the archetype it was supposed to fill.

We also heard some discussion as to why Twilight did not fit so easily into this structure.  For a few extra credit points, I assigned the kids who wanted a challenge to complete Finding Nemo with the dad as the hero and one to work with Nemo as the hero.  Another student chose to do Star Wars Episode IV with C3PO as the hero (real fun and much challenge since his quest has a short cycle within Luke's hour-long departure sequence).

Despite me delivering a canned power point lecture for the first 7 minutes of class and then immediately passing out a fill-in-the-box worksheet, students had some higher level thinking and two-way conversations about their hero characters.  Of course, because we had to split the days of May up between other curriculum, we only talked about Act I and the departure of the hero, so there was not much discussion about how characters changed and why they had to take certain actions or make certain choices.

If these weren't mini lessons, I would next want to have them produce one high-quality poster (gotta love posters, plus I need something on my walls for back to school night next Fall!) for 2 or 3 of the key steps--perhaps one showing all the "guardians of the thresholds" from all the 12 different films and stories they broke apart.

Did I mention that I moved all the desks around in my room? Mostly to get them off the walls so that students could then post their Hero Journey plot points around the room.  Sadly, we ran out of time (mini lessons, a blessing and curse!) before I could have students present their Act I lists or gallery walk the room and discuss.  Never fear, however, since the desks ended up in a large circle and we had plenty of top-quality discussion before the sticky notes finally went up.