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Students and ninth-graders especially are in search of something to use to make sense of the world. I start the year with the students establishing goals for themselves both academically and personally. Then, we move into a unit that overviews the uses of genre. This unit on the hero’s journey is to extend their ideas of the novel and what it can do as a work of fiction using Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Like Santiago, the novel’s main character, the students journey to understanding by reading the story. Understanding: The novel genre can be used for different purposes; it can be both a mirror by which you can understand yourself as well as a window through which you can learn about the world. Essential Question: What can you learn from a novel? The hero’s journey in this unit is only an introduction to the richness of Joseph Campbell’s ideas of a hero story structure common to all cultures, which will be picked up again later in the year with The Oddyssey. Understanding: The hero’s journey is a process with essential steps leading to a goal (i.e. a realization, a product, a treasure, an understanding, etc.). Essential Question: What is a process? In order to be successful in any journey but especially the hero’s, one must observe and reflect on what one has learned; this unit strives to further develop the students’ skills of observation and reflection. These tools also address the year-long question in my class of “How do people make sense of the world and of themselves?” Understanding: Observation and self-reflection are essential tools for the hero’s journey, for reading, and for life. Essential Question: What can you learn from observation and self-reflection? This unit culminates in a performance task that asks the students to address the understandings of the unit by persuading their peers who have not read The Alchemist to follow or not to follow their personal legends using a variety of media.
Morgan, Kristen, "Hero’s Journey, The Alchemist" (2008). Understanding by Design: Complete Collection. Paper 54.
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