While my co-teacher and I knew we wanted to end the Persepolis unit with a personal essay, we had both still been brainstorming for possible prompts. My colleague came up with a wonderful prompt based on the last line of Satrapi‘s introduction: “One can forgive but one should never forget,” but I was still searching.
A confluence of events led me to my decision. First, I have been fascinated by the Common Core discussions, and feel very lucky to be able to use them as inspiration, not required to fall lockstep in line with them. One of the appealing standards is to emphasize with students how to write for specific audiences, and to give them authentic opportunities to do so. This has been best practices in writing instruction for some time, and I’ve dabbled in it before without finding the best way to permanently integrate it into my curriculum. Second, I was in my classroom recently while another teacher was conducting an 11th grade class on public speaking, and she played several recordings of This I Believe speeches for them to analyze. She had also asked them to bring in personal essays they’d written in previous years, and many seemed truly excited about bringing in their own “This I Believe” essays, written as freshmen for their World History unit on the major religions of the world. Knowing that assignment is no longer a part of the 9th grade history curriculum, I had the brainstorm that made up my mind: I’ll be using that framework for my students writing their own personal essays. I think it’s especially appropriate for Persepolis, as the book wrestles with so many philosophical questions as the narrator has to figure out where she stands in a shifting ideological landscape.
Luckily, the TIB website has some great resources for educators, including posters, brochures, and more information on how to use the website and guide students toward submission. With all of this material, plus giving students reading from one of our required texts, Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Nonfiction, I think we’ll have plenty to draw on for inspiration. I’ll also have students listen to featured selections, as well as search for different themes to see how different essayists approached similar subjects.
Unless students have objections for privacy reasons, I’ll be requiring them to submit their essays on the TIB website, offering an authentic audience and helping them keep in mind that this will be a public document. I’ve got a plan in mind for the spring, which I tested for the first time last year, that will give my students another chance to do creative writing for an authentic audience. I think this will be a wonderful capstone to our unit, and I can’t wait to see what my students produce.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (izzygawalton.wordpress.com)
- Beginning Persepolis (jackieregales.com)
- Book Review: “Persepolis”- Marjane Satrapi (lifeofafemalebibliophile.wordpress.com)
- Gender Roles and Sexuality in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Embroideries’ (unfinished) (3/1/12) (nrussellcarter.wordpress.com)