Essay Topics and Theses

Unit 2: Rebellion!

Anchor Text: The House of the Scorpion

  • Purpose:

The House of the Scorpion is a young-adult science fiction novel written in 2002 by Nancy Farmer. This text is highly engaging to the Osborne High School student because it is heavily influenced by Hispanic culture. It also raises many issues that are relevant or interesting to tenth graders, such as drug trade, substance abuse and addiction, cloning, arranged marriages, stereotypes and prejudices, and even delves into deeper topics such as socialism, the corruptibility of government, and a parent’s responsibility or duty to care for his or her child. This book will be included in our “Rebellion” unit.

  • Lexile: 660

Supplementary Texts:

  • “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
    • Purpose:  This rebellious short text was written in 1729 by Jonathan Swift and is an iconic iconoclast. Students will read this text as an example of satire and of peaceful rebellion. This is relevant and engaging to students because of its grotesque and outrageous subject matter, and because of the dry and serious way in which it is presented.
    • Lexile: 1520
  • “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Purpose: “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written in 1963 by Martin Luther King, Jr. and is a relevant nonfiction historical example of non-violent rebellion and being persecuted for standing up for your beliefs. This is relevant and engaging to students because they can relate to the civil rights movement and they are familiar with the more recent history.
    • Lexile: 1160
  • “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    • Purpose: “Paul Revere’s Ride” was written in 1860 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It is an example of American colonists standing up for their rights and rebelling against the king of England. This poem can be used to showcase an important historical event while also teaching the various literary elements of poetry such as rhyme scheme, meter, rhythm, etc.
    • Lexile: 940
  • Pancho Villa Wanted Poster
    • Purpose: The Pancho Villa Wanted Poster is an example of a modern revolutionary that some students might already be familiar with. Pancho Villa was a prominent figure during the Mexican Revolution, and his reputation as a womanizer and drug user will be engaging to the 10th grade student.
  • Guernica, a painting by Pablo Picasso
    • Purpose: This painting was created in 1937 by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. The painting was done in the cubist style and was intended to show the horrors of war. Picasso painted the massive piece as a response to the bombing of Guernica, Spain, by the Spanish Nationalist Forces during the Spanish Civil War.
  • “Social Media Sparked, Accelerated Egypt’s Revolutionary Fire” from, by Sam Gustin, February 11, 2011
    • Purpose: This article explains how Twitter and Facebook took Egypt from a state of discontent into an all-out revolution. The article has a higher vocabulary, but the syntax is simple and should be fairly easy for students to read. The article is engaging to students because it involves current events which they might be familiar with, and it also relates to social media. This would give the opportunity for performance tasks such as revolutionary “tweets” and Facebook pages for historical rebels.
    • Lexile: 1280

Strategy Toolbox:

  • Pre-reading Activities:
    • KWL chart
    • Background information/notes on communism, cloning, drug wars, and other issues raised by the novel.
    • Vocabulary – both literary (static, dynamic, etc.) and “big words” from the book.
    • Value line (“Do you think drugs should be legalized and regulated?” etc.)
  • During reading Activities:
    • Incredible Shrinking Summary
    • Character progression maps
    • Thinking maps to show character attributes, etc.
    • Group performance activities – act out pivotal scenes, etc.
    • Essay prewriting/brainstorming (brace map brainstorm, etc.)
  • Post-reading Activities:
    • 8min Rushwrite first draft of essay
    • Essay drafting and peer-editing
    • Essay revisions and polishing
    • In-class debate about rebellion and theme

Writing Prompt:

                Persuasive Writing / Argumentation: Have you ever gotten into an argument that you felt like you could not win? In this unit, we are learning about the art of persuasive writing. You will each choose a topic from the list provided (which we will go over in class) and choose a side to argue. All these topics are about things that are currently illegal or against the rules, and these are all things you might like to change (such as the drinking age, legalization of drugs, and so on). In a well-developed essay of 750 words (or more), you will address the following issues in order to argue your point:

  • What side are you on? You should choose one side to argue for your topic and stick to it. Don’t change sides!
  • Your essay should contain the three persuasive appeals we learned about in class – logos, pathos, and ethos.
  • You should explain a counterargument and then address it. You’ll need to anticipate the opposing viewpoint and then explain why you are still correct.
  • Your essay should include real-life examples and stories, expert opinions and statistics, etc. Do NOT simply state your opinion.
  • Your essay should be 750 words or more and written in MLA format.

You should address all of the above in your essay. You will be graded based on the argument rubric that we are using throughout this semester.  Our grammatical focus for this unit is capitalization, so I will be looking for it! If you need to see a copy of this rubric, you can find it online at the class blog.

Example topics (students will be given a list of 50 to choose from):

  1. Should the dress code be removed?
  2. Should students be allowed to have their cell phones at school?
  3. Should teachers be allowed to assign homework?
  4. Should the drinking age be lowered?

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