Jessica Ferris

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A topic I find very relevant for a cultural studies approach in a upper class high school course is domestic violence. Domestic violence is more common than most people are aware of and many high school students are in abusive relationships and don’t even know it. My goals for this unit would be for students to realize the power that literature has and how they can use it to share their stories. Many students are uninterested in literature and writing but after this unit it would be my hope to show them how it can help them gain an understand other people and for others to gain a better understanding of them.

The central piece of literature would be October Snow by Jenna Brooks. October Snow is a book about a women surviving domestic violence within her marriage. The hopeful ending will hopefully bring hope to anyone in a similar situation, affirming that there is a way out. Other pieces I would like to use include a TED Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner titled “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave”. Leslie is a survivor herself and does a great job sharing her story in a way that gives others understanding of what victims go through. I also would show a part of an episode from the show part of an ABC News Special that where they staged a women being abusive to a man which opens the discussion about how women can be abusers too giving the students multiple perspectives on the issue.

In terms of controversy, I believe parents may not be thrilled that this is something we are discussing, but I don’t think anyone would try to argue that domestic violence is an acceptable thing. This is important to be aware of so when these conversations arise we teachers are prepared to take them on. This is an issue that is far more prevalent than anyone would want to admit and it would be a great tragedy for any student to miss the opportunity to learn through it. Before I present this topic to the students, the class would have to be a well established safe zone. Building a community would be my first priority through a variety of team building activities that encourages trust between the students. Some classes may not be able to handle this well so it is up to the teacher to decided class by class if it would be beneficial. It is better to not discuss this at than discuss it and have it mocked.

By the end of the unit my goal is for students to stand up against domestic violence. Their heightened awareness would hopefully keep them out of such a relationship and they would be able to spread their knowledge to their friends and be able to refer them to literature and other sources that could help them.

This unit will improve their critical thinking as they think about difficult issues. Many times it is easy to ignore the hurt and pain that is right in front of us, but this unit will bring difficult topics to the front of the mind. It would also improve their writing because this can be a very emotional topic. Though emotion is good to have in writing it needs to be used in moderation. This unit would give them the opportunity to use ethos, logos, and pathos in proper proportions and not to have it be only pathos.


The beginning of this unit would start with a simple introduction and explanation of the book and unit as a whole. Discussion guideline and expectations would be discussed to establish safety and trust within the walls of the classroom. As we read the book we would have small group and whole class discussions. Each day would end in a journal where students had either a specific prompt to respond to or the opportunity to write about whatever was most pressing to them at that moment. As class discussions evolve, I will incorporate the other videos and any other material I come across as the unit develops where it fits best. This unit will be very flexible and student centered. I would have a day-by-day plan for the whole unit so that something would be ready to go everyday, but if the students need something different I would change my plans to meet their needs.

The final project would be a creative writing, research project. Each students would choose a creative way (short story, journal, advertising campaign, etc.) to write about domestic violence. They would need to research the topic and incorporate their findings into their final project.

__Common Core Standards__.

Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.