HS ELA Lesson Spurs Innovation

High School ELA Lesson Spurs Innovation

High school teacher Greg Kguloian recently built a lesson for his English language arts class around the storyline of Robert Cormier’s 1979 young adult novel “After the First Death,” which dealt with the fictional terrorist hijacking of a summer camp bus.

Earlier in the school year, to connect with this lesson, Kguloian’s students had researched back issues of “Newsday” from Sept. 9, 2001 through Sept. 9, 2018, a 17-year survey of events from 9/11 onward, as well as other newspapers and “Time” magazine articles. The experience helped them gain an appreciation for printed news rather than relying solely on digital media.

“My kids found the use of tangible primary source documents interesting, and it made the lesson more memorable by tying the fiction in with nonfiction,” said Kguloian.  “We also used our 9/11 teachable moment to help them connect with this tale of a young terrorist to offer a comprehensive perspective of this dynamic topic.”

Students then conducted additional research and wrote reports about what they learned. They also created mock newscasts about the terrorist event from the novel, as if the story was taking place in real time. Kguloian then encouraged the students to write, act and produce their own version of “After the First Death” as a mini-movie, filmed in the school’s courtyard.

Kguloian said, “My pupils asked, ‘Is there a movie for this book?’ I replied, ‘Only if you can make one up.’”

Several of his students decided to soldier on beyond their storyboard and are in the process of creating their own indie film on their own time, titled “Dog Day After Spoon” as a parody of “Dog Day Afternoon”.

“They told me that they are doing their own version of the story to build off of the lesson that I worked so hard to convey, to take a story that we read in our class and innovate from it, said Kguloian. “My kids have done exactly what I hoped they would. They have taken something valuable away from our class and made it their own. Now they are the innovators.”