Pop Culture Unit (11th grade)

When I taught high school English I framed my 11th grade Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course as a year-long “discussion” about the relationship between the individual and society. Because our year was broken up into three terms, I divided each term’s themes and questions to toggle between individualism and existing in a community, merging the two in our final term. I have outlined the year in the chart below.

While I would also have absolutely taught this curricular sequence to my non-AP students, the flexibility of the AP curriculum allowed me to hand-select my themes, essential questions, assessments, readings, and in-class activities. The scope and sequence of this curriculum and the choices my students pushed and helped me make is perhaps one of my proudest “products” of my teaching.

I’d like to feature here the pop culture unit that consumed our February. February was a difficult month in a difficult term for us: each teacher’s unit schedules seemed to coalesce and students found that their testing schedules aligned for each of their core classes—most students ended up having a major unit assessment at the end of December (before we left for break), January, and February. I couldn’t figure out a way to readjust our schedule to not align with this testing crunch, so we did work in class and I attempted to generate high interest in this unit by having students analyze films, most of which they hadn’t seen but were rhetorically rich and nuanced. We had a lot of fun with this unit as students critically connected their pop culture with the development of themselves.

While I am proud of the unit and excited about the student engagement and learning it solicited, I would still like to make some adjustments to it. Instead of being so prescriptive about what we read and watched and analyzed throughout the unit, I’d like to explore a more inquiry-based way of student engagement, presenting problems to consider throughout the unit rather than just at the end. I’d also like to include more room for student process work and workshop with each other and me throughout the unit.

For each unit listed below, I produced a course pack for my students that contained:

  • a cover page with the unit’s theme, essential question, and unit rationale;
  • a list of objectives students had mastered and ones we would engage in for the unit;
  • a unit calendar;
  • a description of the summative unit assessment;
  • a scoring rubric for the summative assessment;
  • a description of formative assessments throughout the unit, due dates, and rubric/s;
  • all the texts we would read throughout the course of the unit.

I am including a link here to everything but the last bullet point so that you may see a bit more of my teaching.

termthemeessential questions


On the Road to MyselfWho Am I and What Am I About?

Unit 1: Awake and AwareWhat habits of mind in reading, writing, thinking, and discussing do I need to develop for this course? How do I develop these skills to be successful in this class?

Unit 2: Convince MeHow are we convinced?

Unit 3: LanguageHow does the language we use reveal who we are?

Unit 4: Technology and the environmentHow do our changing surroundings redefine our responsibilities as human beings?


Reflecting on My InfluencesHow do others affect and influence me?

Unit 1: (The Illusion of?) Gender
How do the views of the status quo limit myself and others?

Unit 2: Race and Empathy
Who killed Michael Brown? Why did his shooting go down?

Unit 3: Pop Culture

How does pop culture reflect and contribute to our society’s values?


(March — May)

Myself + Others: Becoming a Global CitizenWhat is my responsibility to affect and influence others?

Unit 1: Social Critique: The Role of the Artist
What is the role of the artist in providing commentary on his/her world?

Unit 2: The Role of Education
What should be changed about our school and how can I help to change it?

Unit 3: Test Prep
How do I own this test?

Unit 4: Unit the Last
What is the relationship between the individual and the community?

In the drop down menu for this page you’ll find feature units from my teaching: