Satellite Academy - Forsyth
Credit: SS/English
Course Description: "POINT OF VIEW"

This class is designed as a Humanities (English - Social Studies) class, examining the concept of perspective / point of view through conflict situations presented in drama, literature, recent historical events and the students' personal lives. The overall objectives of the course are to help students understand how to evaluate a given situation from more than one perspective, to analyze the situation to find the point of view which they find most compelling, and to construct a logical, well-supported, organized, persuasive argument to convince others of the validity of their beliefs. Students will accomplish these objectives through reading, discussion, dramatic activities, writing and informal debate.

The class will begin by addressing personal experiences. Students will write about conflicts in their lives as they see them. They will then be encouraged to imagine how the other person in the conflict understands the situation, and they will attempt to write from that perspective. This will include students interviewing each other in pairs, writing individually and discussing as a group. Writing will be evaluated by their ability to engage the reader, establish a context for the conflict, include relevant details and dialogue, and present both versions of the story in a logical, understandable and thoughtful way.

Our first text will be a play entitled Rashomon by Fay and Michael Kanin (NY: Samuel French, 1987). In the play, a crime has occurred and each person who witnessed the crime explains it in a different way. In addition to the major questions about finding "truth," the play presents ideas about differing cultural assumptions and values, gender roles and stereotypes. Students in the class will engage in discussion and dramatic activities to enhance their understanding of the characters in the play. Students will keep a regular "Reading Log" to record key information and responses to the text as they read. Through short pieces of writing, using the text to support their opinions, students will explain how they determine what is "true." At the end of this section, students will write a formal essay to demonstrate their understanding of a major theme or message of the play. They will develop this idea through clear references to the text and their own personal experiences. The students' writings, as well as dramatic role-play, will be used to assess students'comprehension of the content of the text and its relation to the concept of perspective.

Our next major text will be A Hero Ain't Nothin'But A Sandwich, written by Alice Childress (NY: Avon Flare, 1973). This novel addresses themes of family cohesion and separation, poverty and the consequences of drug abuse. The story is written in the first person, but each chapter offers the voice of one of eight characters. The students will create a visual representation ("map" or "timeline") of the major events in the characters'lives that they feel are key to understanding the novel. Through discussion and debate, students will also be encouraged to understand the outlook of each character, explain the influences and primary motivations of each, and find a compelling solution to the primary conflict in which all of the characters are involved. Students will work individually and in groups to create oral and written presentations addressing these questions. As a final assessment, each student will have a choice to: a) write a response to this novel as a whole, offering an evaluation or interpretation of the key themes, or b) choose one of the minor characters and analyze the effect of this character on the plot as a whole.

After these two literary works, we will read a book entitled Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deveare Smith (NY: Anchor Books, 1993). This text provides factual information about the 1991 riots in Crown Heights, New York, due to major conflicts between Jewish and African-American residents. The text, originally a performance piece, uses direct dialogue from interviews in which individuals address questions of cultural identity, cultural conflict, and specific opinions about the specific Crown Heights incidents. In addition to writing regularly in reading logs, students will engage in dramatic readings and discussions, attempting to understand a complex social-historical conflict from more than one point of view. Students will also view the video in which Anna Deveare Smith takes on the role of each person interviewed. Students will write about their personal responses to and factual understandings of the Crown Heights riots. They will be expected to restate, summarize and synthesize information, relate this information to their own experience and our prior learning in the course, and begin to assess their own learning from the beginning to the end of this section of the course.

This will lead us into an examination of how the news media represented the riots when they occurred in 1991. We will discuss and write comparisons and contrasts between the personal accounts in Smith's text and the newspaper columns. From this point, we will explore the issue of "perspective" in the media. Students will compare and contrasts news articles about the same topic from different publications. They will attempt to extract underlying assumptions and persuasive tactics from the supposedly "objective" news accounts. We will engage in activities to distinguish between fact and opinion, supported and unsupported statements. Drawing on our experiences with the texts we have read, we will examine how the use of language and the sources of information influence the reader. Students will be asked to demonstrate an awareness of the presence of media in our daily lives and evaluate the roles of different kinds of media publications. Students will also begin to search for current issues in the news which are of interest to them. I will provide articles on a variety of social issues.

When students have chosen a social issue of interest to them (ranging from "Workfare" to "Death Penalty"), they will work alone, in pairs or small groups to research their topic. We will take trips to the library to find sources and discuss useful research methods. As a class, we will review the articles we read together as models to examine how best to collect and organize information, to evaluate supporting evidence, and create a clear, logical, convincing argument. This will also include lessons on note-taking and proper citation procedures.

After offering some guided work periods in class, students will be expected to continue research and preparation out of class. During this time, we will use excerpts from the Opposing Viewpoints book series, presenting brief pro- and con- articles on various social issues such as poverty and homelessness (Bender & Leone, eds., San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1990). Students will be exposed to different kinds of arguments (cause-effect, analogy, authority, etc.) and be asked to incorporate a range of strategies in their own work. When the students have completed their research, and have revised their first drafts, they will each submit a final written article to present their case and engage in oral presentations and debates. These will be judged by their ability to engage the reader and clearly develop a main idea using appropriate information to support the argument and anticipate possible challenges.

Throughout the class, students will keep on-going vocabulary lists which will consist of words I present to them -- relating to the texts, the concepts, debate procedures, etc. -- as well as words they find in the texts. These lists will be checked periodically and students will be expected to incorporate these words in their writing and presentations.

Overall student assessment will be based on the following criteria:

� Class participation - students will be expected to offer insights, ask relevant questions, listen and respond appropriately to others, make connections between new and previous knowledge, participate in role-playing, and use appropriate language for the context in which they are speaking.

� Writing - students will be judged on their effort / depth of analysis in writing response papers and essays, their ability to express themselves clearly using supportive details, to demonstrate control of mechanics (grammar, spelling, usage, etc.), to incorporate new vocabulary, and to analyze and improve their work through revision.

� Oral presentations - students will be evaluated on their appropriate use of language in oral presentations, the organization of the arguments, the use of supporting information, the range of strategies used, and their awareness of the audience.

� Research - students will be expected to take notes, organize their materials, make appropriate use of the library and other resources offered, and effectively apply their preparation work in their final presentations.