Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Problem-Based Learning Projects

"How can I get my students to think?" is a question asked by many faculty, regardless of their disciplines. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn," working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources." -- Barbara Duch, University of Delaware

  1. Much of this unit underscores the pressure that many people have felt to "fit in" and to "be an American"; it is ironic that a good portion of "an American's" qualities include being individualistic and self-reliant. Imagine that you are part of a major advertising agency. Your firm needs to decide whether "conformity" or "independence" sells better. Research advertisements from the popular magazines of the 1950s (Life, Newsweek, Time), and put together a presentation that either confirms the pressures of conformity or demonstrates a trend toward individualism.

  2. You are part of a team asked to make a presentation to the U.S. Congress. The United States has never established a "national language," and today the country is recognized as being more multicultural than ever before. Still, every few years, politicians attempt to make English the "standard" legal language of the country. Prepare a presentation to be offered at a congressional subcommittee hearing that addresses this issue. Argue either for establishing English as the national language or for recommending that such a proposal be voted down.

  3. The year is 1961 and you have been sent to cover the Greensboro sit-ins as a reporter. Write a magazine article in which you describe the protests. Why were the demonstrators so upset? What were their arguments? What were the arguments of the store owners and the townspeople who disagreed with the protests? Now imagine that you must present both sides of the issue to different audiences. Rewrite the article so that you can sell it to a northern liberal pro- civil rights magazine; then rewrite the article so that you can sell it to a conservative small-town magazine with mostly southern white readers. What will you need to emphasize and de-emphasize? Are you able to present all the facts in both versions of the article? Why or why not?

  4. Debate has broken out among city council members because one of the oldest trees in the county, just inside the city limits, needs to be cut down for a developer to put in a parking lot. However, a contingent of African Americans want the tree preserved because it marks the location of a lynching that occurred there in the early 1940s. Research mid-century lynchings in the United States. Then write an essay that takes a stand on whether or not the tree should be kept. Be sure to draw on your research and to consider other points of view.

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