Let Sleeping Teenagers Lie

By Lori Campbell

When I consulted our Associate Superintendent of Business for the Kern High School District, Dr. Mike Zulfa, about the plans for how our district would comply with SB 328, he wrote, “So I am blaming you for all of this disruption! 😊” You see, I am the one who wrote the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum module: “Teenage Sleepers: Arguing for Your Right to Sleep In.” 

Module Background

In the early stages of ERWC 3.0 development, I had proposed the module after watching the TED Talk with sleep expert Dr. Wendy Troxel, “Sleepy Teens: A Public Health Epidemic.” Troxel argues that the hormonal changes in teens cause them to reach REM sleep later than in adults and are not fully out of the sleep cycle until 90 minutes after adults are normally “awake.” She along with the PAC Start Schools Later fought for legislation that requires schools to start later in the morning for both middle-schoolers and high school students. I thought this would be a great topic of discussion for English 11 courses. It addressed all the points of an engaging module: all students could identify with the topic, there were definitely two contested sides of the issue, and students could actually participate in the political discussion. This module also introduces students to the construction of arguments. I never expected it to work so well! 

The Start Schools Later bill was first passed in the California legislature in 2018, but then (to my great relief) Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it citing that individual districts should decide what to do with the information. In fact, our district already provided online instruction as an option for students who had a difficult time functioning before 9:00 am. Students began their day at in-person schools during third period and took two of their classes online through the Kern Learn program–an independent studies program that offers UC-approved A-G coursework at the same rigor as the in-person classes on our school sites. The majority of assignments our students submit are completed between the hours of 5:00 pm and 3:00 am. They are pretty good, too! 

A Changing Context

Well, someone decided to try again when Governor Gavin Newsom was elected, and we all know what happened next. 

With the signing of SB 328 on October 19, 2019 (the month after the 3.0 modules were officially launched) middle school districts and high school districts in the state of California were given three years to figure out a plan to start their instruction no earlier than 8:00 am and 8:30 am respectively. And we also know what happened after that. COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine and teach-from-home nightmare placed this legislation at the back of the implementation line. Coming out of the stupor in winter of 2021, districts realized they really hadn’t thought about what was needed to completely shift the school day to 90 minutes later. I know that the Board of Trustees and KHSD Superintendent, Dr. Bryan Schaefer, petitioned the governor vehemently to at least delay the implementation of the new schedules but to no avail. 

Modifying the Module

In the meantime, I wanted to look at my module and see what could be salvaged. Just like all good ERWC module topics, this subject is still timely. As furious as I was with Governor Newsom for creating this chaos, I finally realized that the implementation of this plan would still allow students to find their civic voices. In our second week of late-start implementation, the students are grumbling about as loudly as the teachers and parents. Football games are STARTING at 8:30 at night. Buses without air conditioning are transporting students home at the hottest hours in Bakersfield with highs of 103-108. Parents are having to shift their days completely if they need to pick up their students later in the day. Teachers who turn into instant moms and dads when they arrive home are more exhausted and have less time to prepare dinner. It’s a hot mess in Kern County. I can only imagine what it is like in your neck of the California woods. 

The changes we are going through add a new dimension to this module, and we will be entering a period of data gathering. After a year or two, we will be in the position to look at the results: have attendance rates improved? Has the mental health of teens overall improved? Are students more successful in middle-schools and high schools? I think there is still plenty to argue with this module. I have revised some texts, the prompt, and some of the activities to reflect the passage of SB 328. This includes adding the bill itself to the module allowing teachers the opportunity to add the format of a foundational document to their instruction. This Google Doc provides the modifications that I have made. I would love to have feedback from teachers and their students. I think with all of us caught in the maelstrom, we may actually be able to work together to determine the benefits (or detriments) of SB 328. While I deny all culpability in the passage of this bill (I wrote letters to both governors telling them this was a bad idea!), I still believe we can teach our students about their civic voices and how to use them. This is exactly what ERWC is all about.

Lori Campbell is the English department chair for Kern High School District’s Kern Learn Program. This is a complete distance learning program that provides students the option to take their A-G required courses online. She has taught ERWC both face-to-face and through distance learning for 10 years. She holds her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Wanna Teach Hawkeye? Get the Books Now!

By Meline Akashian

There are two main audiences for this post:

  • 12th grade ERWC teachers who want to teach the “Hawkeye: Working Class Hero” module but have been told by their district librarians that the books could not be found, like, anywhere in the world.
  • 12th grade ERWC teachers who say, “There’s a Hawkeye module?” or even “What’s a Hawkeye module?”

“Hawkeye: Working Class Hero” is an ERWC 3.0 module for twelfth grade that got a late release; it did not appear on early module lists, so some ERWC teachers probably don’t know it exists. The module is based (suspend your judgment) on two comic books, issues from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye series.

But for a year or more, many ERWC teachers who knew about the module and wanted to use it found it impossible to score class sets of the module’s core text, Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon Vol.1 (ISBN: 978-0785165620). This has to do with comics publishing patterns and Covid-19 paper shortages. But once it got on ERWC HQ’s radar that school districts were unable to buy these books, our resident superhero, Gwen Stephens, started making calls.

So cutting straight to the good news, Marvel is sending My Life as a Weapon Vol. 1 back to print. They say the book will be available by May, but even as I write this, on Amazon you can finally buy the book again. If you want to teach Hawkeye next year, let your powers-that-be know immediately so they can order the books. In many districts, district librarians (or whoever orders class sets) compile book orders for the upcoming school year in Spring – like, right now.

If you’ve never considered teaching the Hawkeye module, I hope you’ll take a look.

In the planning stages, we thought about basing this module around Issue #11, in which the entire narrative is told from the perspective of Hawkeye’s dog. We thought about basing the module around Issue #19 (in which our hero Clint Barton permanently loses most of his hearing), written entirely in American Sign Language. Just to say, the series’ creators play with perspective, and there is plenty to talk about with this Hawkeye series.

Nowadays, Hawkeye has his own movie and a new Disney+ show, but when Derek Heid and I started writing this module, Clint Barton was the unsung and relatively unknown Avenger, just a normal human being with really good aim. Fraction and Aja took an unexpected new perspective on that, too. What would it be like for Clint Barton, a regular guy, to hold his own in company with supers like Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man? (Spoiler: He gets hurt. A lot.) And the personality traits that allow him to be Hawkeye the Avenger – how would they play out in his day-to-day life? (Spoiler: He’s kind of a– well, you’ll see.)

Taking on those questions, the “Hawkeye: Working Class Hero” module asks students to examine how the creators subvert archetype and genre conventions to tell a new story. Among other things, you can look forward to students using Burke’s Pentad as a new strategy for analyzing rhetorical situation and characterization; learning disciplinary language and new strategies for analyzing images; and applying their analysis of genre and audience to a culminating presentation assignment. So if you’re worried that spending class-time on a couple of comic books is a disservice to your students, please trust me – your students’ brains will be busy.

Will you avoid this module because you and/or your students aren’t comics people? Please don’t. In the end, we wrote the module around the first two issues from the series, because this is how Issue #1 opens: “Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, became the greatest sharpshooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he is not being an Avenger. That’s all you need to know.” The sample answers in the module will help you when you need it, but honestly, part of the point of this module is to leverage your students’ visual literacy skills. Trust them.

The text message you see here is from my friend Cara. She is not a comics/graphic novel person, but she is an experienced ERWC teacher who happens to have her year-long course pathway published as a sample on the ERWC website. So if you’re interested to see how she fit the Hawkeye module into her year, take a look. It’s worth noting, she placed Hawkeye right in front of Hamlet because the work with Burke’s pentad (analyzing rhetorical situation to understand characters and their motivations) will transfer directly from one to the next.

Are you interested in using this module yet? Take a page from our guy Hawkeye: make the leap. But if that’s where you’re at, don’t forget, now is a good time to start the book order process. Marvel is sending the books back to press now, but, once they sell out this print run, we can’t be certain they’ll do the same again.

Meline Akashian is an experienced ERWC teacher with grades 7-12 and former Riverside County Teacher of the Year. She has co-written modules for ERWC and is a member of the ERWC Steering Committee.

Mini-Modules: Teaching for Transfer

Mini-Modules. What are they? How do they differ from full length centered on issues? And why are my students saying that these were the most fun out of all the modules I taught this past year?

All these questions are answered in this episode of The Teaching ERWC Podcast, where I talk with Nelson Graff of California State University, Monterey Bay. We clear up the purpose of Mini-Modules, how they can help us ERWC teachers stay accountable to teaching transferrable skills to our students, and why they are designed to be fun and memorable.

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Picking Pathways

By Lori Campbell

My husband prefers to order fast food by numbers. He refuses to go to restaurants such as Chipotle because he has to make too many choices. I had the same reaction to the list of possible modules available in ERWC 3.0. In this column, we have the book modules, in the next we find the dramas, and now for the protein–we find 12 juicy issue modules. Don’t forget the mini-modules to support the best balance to put before our seniors. It can be daunting if we don’t already know our students’ needs and preferences. However, the choices mean that we can serve a curriculum that is custom built to provide opportunities for engagement, critical thinking skills, and, most importantly, the confidence to enter the world of adults. 

I appreciate the choice of  modules that are similarly available for the 11th grade year. I can spend that year introducing the basic skills that can bridge the wide gap between the 9/10 standards and the 11/12 standards. I am also able to extend the reach of the mini-modules so that we can build on the foundational skills when they become seniors. That 12th grade year imposes certain challenges for both teachers and students in the forms of applying to colleges, applying for financial aid, enjoying senior activities, and, in some cases, “senioritis.” I believe that senior year, and particularly the second semester, requires the most thought as teachers plan for these “soon-to-be” adults.  

I begin second semester with “Big Brother and the Authoritarian Surveillance State: 1984.” This is where I place the highest rigor because senioritis really hasn’t hit yet. FAFSAs have been completed. Hopefully, even the most procrastinating seniors have sent in college applications by this time. This is a remarkable season of maturity. It’s a decompression period for most seniors who can sit still for a time and focus on the important issues of the novel and its application to modern society. 

Then by the end of February, the pressure builds for my seniors. At this point, I want to provide my students material that gives them the opportunity to reflect on the society they are about to enter as adults and their positions in that community.  I next pair “Introducing Kairos” with “On Leaving|On Staying Behind.” The rhetorical concept of kairos, or situational time, also helps students recognize their current states. We can talk about why they might be feeling so unhinged and whether the certain decisions they make now really have a lasting impact on their lives.

Then the content of Diana Garcia’s poems on emigration provide students with a new perspective when they look at the daughter making her own decision to leave home. They find strength in this, and when it is time to write pieces about their own decisions, they feel a little better about them. The module provides several choices of a creative nature for the culminating writing task. Seniors appreciate this new opportunity because it is not “one more essay.” Writing poems that express their own social concern taps into a different part of their brain that they don’t often get the chance to use.

Finally, I pair “Introducing Stasis Theory” with “Language, Culture, and Gender.” This is the perfect combination to help seniors enter that adult world with a plan. I also love the latter module because I can use this as a final exam for students since there are several texts. I ask seniors to apply the strategies they have learned for the past two years, including descriptive outlines, rhetorical precis, annotation, and annotated bibliography to analyze the articles. They must be able to use these tools to grasp the claims and rhetorical strategies of any text they are given now or in the future. They are free to choose the order in which they read and analyze the texts and which tool best fits for them. They discuss the value of each of the ways to analyze a text and why a certain one works for them. The hope is they will carry those tools into college. In addition, the culminating task of this module helps students recognize the importance of their compassion, their voices, and their skills in examining multiple perspectives. Finally, students wrap up the senior year with the Final Reflection portfolio to show them they are indeed ready for the next academic step they take.

In the 10 years I have taught ERWC, I believe part of what we need to impart is confidence, and between March and May in a senior’s life, that gets lost along with the student’s assignments. That final pathway should put the finishing touches on skills, but, more importantly, convince students that they are worthy of the diploma they are about to receive. I believe selecting the modules that can boost their confidence and not pressure them more than necessary will ease the tension. Once these young people adjust to the pressure placed on them by “adulthood,” they will be able to explore the  wonders of their new world beyond high school. 

Work Cited

“Senioritis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/senioritis. Accessed 29 Jan. 2021.

Lori Campbell is the English department chair for Kern High School District’s Kern Learn Program. This is a complete distance learning program that provides students the option to take their A-G required courses online. She has taught ERWC both face-to-face and through distance learning for 10 years. She holds her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Choosing Your Own ERWC Adventure

By Jennifer Fletcher

As an 80s kid, I well remember the joys of reading Edward Packard’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. There was something thrilling–and slightly subversive–about being in control of the narrative. Choice confers power. It’s one thing to be the person just following the script, quite another to be a co-constructor of meaning.

This is what I love about ERWC: through the choices they make about learning goals and experiences, teachers and students act as co-designers of the implemented curriculum. One of the exciting changes to ERWC is that teachers now have the opportunity to create their own customized pathways from a wide selection of modules. ERWC 3.0 is the DIY ERWC. The new curriculum includes over sixty full-length modules for grades eleven and twelve, fourteen mini-modules, and nine full-length modules for grades nine and ten. Teachers now choose five to six full-length modules and five mini-modules (including two portfolio modules) to create a yearlong course.

If you are building your own ERWC 3.0 course for the first time, you might want to experiment with different combinations of modules before deciding on an instructional sequence. Each pathway has its own flavor and rhythm. Try starting by pairing full-length modules with mini-modules that foster rhetorical thinking. “Introducing the Rhetorical Situation,” “Introducing Ethos, Pathos, and Logos,” and “Introducing Genre as Rhetoric” make a great starter kit.

As you design your yearlong experience, you’ll also find that different pathways are driven by different areas of emphasis. Some, for instance, might have a special emphasis on particular literacy skills, such as argumentation or genre analysis, while others might focus on a theme, such as social justice, adolescence, or the environment. It will be up to you to create a cohesive, progressive course suited to your students’ needs and interests.

Keep in mind that you will probably need to add or remove scaffolding depending on your module sequence. Your students should need less support as the year progresses. That means that you might be able to drop more activities from the later modules, provided your students are already doing things like surveying and annotating texts on their own. If, however, you find that students still need lots of support for reading and writing rhetorically, you’ll want to continue modeling and practicing these skills in class.

ERWC 3.0 offers a “choose your own adventure” approach to curriculum and instruction. The pathway you choose should take you and your students on a meaningful intellectual journey.

A final bit of advice and encouragement as you embark on this adventure:

  • The repeated turns through the ERWC arc are strategic and intentional. Allow time for the spiraling; extended practice leads to automaticity.
  • Know that you and your students will experience productive struggle. Resist the urge to slip back to your comfort zone. Productive struggle is the path to mastery.
  • Remember that the curriculum runs on inquiry and discussion. Expand opportunities for students to interact with their peers and do their own thinking.
  • Read the Teacher Versions, Module Overviews, and Module Plans. They’re your guides to instructional decision making.
  • If you’re taking a student-centered, inquiry-based, rhetorical approach to texts, you’re doing ERWC!

Jennifer Fletcher is a Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay and a former high school teacher. She serves as the Chair of the ERWC Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenJFletcher.