Literary Seminar immerses students in challenging texts

The grade 11 and 12 Literary Seminar English course took a little bit of a different approach to learning. Using elements of the design thinking process, students were presented with one guiding question that drove their reading and thinking for the entire semester. Having to grapple with the question, “What is our place in the universe?” was no easy task. During the semester students were immersed in numerous texts: novels, memoirs, graphic novels, autobiographies/biographies, poetry, philosophy, images, articles and film that gave multiple perspectives on purpose and meaning in life.

One of the assignments during the semester was to study the life of someone who had to find meaning and purpose amongst the challenges of family, religion, culture, and/or struggle. Students read a biography/autobiography, articles, and watched online videos. With this information they created a first-person digital story. In order to create effective digital stories, students were immersed in the digital story world, looking at a number of exemplars and assessing them against the rubric.

Digital story by Kei Monroe, Grade 12

Students then had to follow a step by step plan: researching, planning the purpose and dramatic question for the story, writing the script, and with feedback, reworking it, creating a visual story board that matched their script with images and music, and then producing the video in iMovie. To celebrate the projects, students provided feedback to five of their peers and each student met with the teacher to discuss what improvements could be made if there was time for multiple iterations.

With the completion of the digital stories, students then had the opportunity to synthesize their learning from the entire semester. The course final project required them to develop their own theory of human nature in the form of a paper, prototyped after chapters in the text The Twelve Theories of Human Nature.

Digital story by Cyril Sun, Grade 11

The course was certainly challenging, not only in terms of the thinking required, but the sheer number of texts read. In 2015 the English department will be offering the course again, with some changes in texts and assignments based on student feedback. (Carrie Bennett, HS English)