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English elective courses at Brooklyn Center High School offer a unique perspective and a focus on analysis

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

There are still opportunities to read and learn from the classics of high school literature, but staff at Brooklyn Center High School are looking for other ways to teach students about literature and analysis through a different lens. Students at BCHS now have the option to participate in new English Language Arts classes that go beyond the standard grade-level curriculum with a focus on unique course materials from comic books to rap lyrics.

Teachers and staff looked into different areas of student interest as well as the expertise and passions of current teachers to explore new course offerings that could be offered as an alternative to the traditional grade-level option. Teachers and curriculum coordinators were excited to work towards offering very student-centered options and included students throughout the process of identifying possible options. 

Ultimately, three new courses were offered in the Fall of 2021 and saw great participation and excitement from students.

  • Comic Books and Society featured assigned reading from comic books, manga, and graphic novels. Students learned about the history of comics, and the meaning expressed by the writing and illustrations and analyzed elements of the books. The final project saw students creating their own comics as well as other forms of critical, research, or creative projects. 
  • Storytelling, Politics, Advertising and the Law took a look at the ways storytelling has been used to uphold or dismantle various systems in politics, the criminal justice system, and advertising. Students examined high-profile criminal trials, political campaigns, and advertising campaigns and analyzed the messaging involved. 
  • Me Against the World: Hip Hop, Identity, and Revolution examined identities in Rap music and how it has been used to radicalize perspectives and establish a strong voice in society. The class focused on an equitable world through the perspective of music and analyzed lyrics that challenged systems of oppression.

Teacher Robert Bernardi taught Comic Books and Society, which was developed because of the student interest around comic books. 

“I see these classes as an opportunity for students to explore their interests more deeply,” said Bernardi. “For students already interested in comics, this course allowed them to practice language arts skills while capitalizing on this interest. We are able to use these interests to better reach and teach students.”

Students have responded well to these courses with an excitement and energy towards learning thanks to the focus on their own interests. 

Additional courses are being offered for the Spring 2022 term and curriculum staff aim to be able to offer a wide range of these types of electives in the future. In addition to another term of the Hip Hop Revolution course, other new elective options for Spring 2022 include:

 

  • Indigenous Voices in Minnesota will look at the story of Minnesota’s Indigenous people and share the story of the rich Indigenous Literary Tradition present in Minnesota, as well as provide a contextual understanding of some of the basic concepts around Indigenous Rights, history, literary theory, and Minnesota’s Indigenous cultures, especially how they are represented in literature and other media. 

 

  • Dreaming of Future Worlds: Science Fiction and our Future will explore how writers of the past predicted the technological society we live in today and possible worlds in the future. Students will learn how Science Fiction can be read on different levels and offer powerful social commentary and warnings on important issues such as race, power, Artificial Intelligence, and planetary colonization. 
  • Speak Up & Speak Out will allow students to learn how to be an effective speaker through different tricks, tools, and models and how to make people listen to their ideas and stories. The class will explore a variety of speaking types (narrative, inspirational, persuasive, debate etc) for practical situations to grow confidence in speaking skills.

“We are always trying to make our grade level survey courses relevant and engaging, but these elective courses really take that to the next level,” said Secondary Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator Ellen Morehouse. “We have a small but extremely dedicated staff who are excited to try new things while focusing on the success of our students.”