Familiar Story, New Spin: Helping 8th graders find themselves in a classic narrative

Familiar Story, New Spin: Helping 8th graders find themselves in a classic narrative
Nicole Jones, Middle School Language Arts Teacher

⭐️Belonging is bravely discovering who I can be.

A child wizard journeys from under the stairs in the muggle world to Hogwarts where an epic battle ensues with Lord Voldemort. A young man leaves his family in Tatooine to become a Jedi fighter in the Rebellion army, taking on Darth Vadar. So begin the epic tales of discovery, friendship, and bravery. This is the hero’s journey.

Inspired by her prior work at an expeditionary learning school, Middle School educator Nicole Jones began concepting and designing a yearlong curriculum around the “hero’s journey” literary genre in 2021, in partnership with co-teacher Tommy Cunningham. Nicole shared, “We wanted to design an immersive multisensory project that would help our 8th grade Language Focus Area (LFA) students understand the hero’s journey—characters living ordinary lives that discover they can do extraordinary things in the face of adversity.”

Hero's Journey Graphic

“The hero’s journey has such a strong parallel to our students. They are living in this ordinary school world but feel different from their peers. They set off on their journey to Carroll—where they meet mentors (educators) and friends, face many trials that they work hard to overcome, and then journey back to high school as a changed person.”

To design the curriculum sequence, Nicole, with the help of many colleagues, started with the culminating assignment—interviewing and writing a narrative essay about a Carroll alumnus—and then crafted the learning needed to get there.

Interviewing alumni is when it got real for the students. Nicole shared, “Like the heroes in books and movies, Carroll alumni shared tales of discovery, friendship, and bravery. What an appropriate final project for our graduating 8th graders who are soon leaving this journey for their next adventure.”

⭐️ Meet our alumni stars!


Curriculum Sequence

Student working on alumni portrait for Hero's Journey project

1. Introducing the genre; reviewing articles, videos, etc.

2. Reading The Graveyard by Neil Gaiman.

3. Writing and designing a graphic novel.

4. Interviewing Carroll alumni: writing questions and conducting interviews.

5. Taking interview transcripts and adding key ideas to a graphic organizer.

6. Selecting memorable quotes from the interview.

7. Writing and re-writing the alumnus narrative story.

8. Designing an alumnus portrait story.

9. Presenting to peers, parents, and alumni.

This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection 23-24: The Belonging Issue

  • Carroll Connection 2023-24
Alumni Stars of the Hero's Journey Project

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