This three-week unit discusses the major themes and writing style of "Life in the Iron Mills" while also making connections to our lives today. It focuses on the question, "Is ignorance bliss?" and discusses the role and overall purpose the media, particularly investigative journalism, plays in preventing ignorance (a great segue into a unit on media censorship and a study of the corporations that own major media outlets).
**It is not necessary to teach this unit with an emphasis on media literacy, however I provide ways to make that a possibility if you so choose*
The greatest component to this unit is all thanks to Diane Sawyer. In 2010, Sawyer completed a devastating documentary called "A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains," which focuses on the Appalachian area--the same area Davis writes about in her novella! All five parts of this documentary (which is about 45 minutes long, total) can be found on YouTube, and a study of this documentary makes up part of the last week of this unit. Because of this documentary, students can see what life is like in Appalachia and understand the lives of the characters in Davis's novella. Students can actually understand why ignorance may or may not be bliss by learning about young adults and their struggles to overcome oppression.
This unit focuses on some pretty heavy material all in an effort to opens the eyes of your students and help them understand there is a world outside that which they already know.
"Life in the Iron Mills" is one of my all-time favorite stories. Its relevance has not faded with the introduction of 21st century learning. If anything, it has become more important.
"Life in the Iron Mills" by Rebecca Harding Davis can be found online via a Google search. It is no longer copyrighted, and you have permission to duplicate and hand it out to your students. In a Microsoft Word document, it is only twenty-eight pages long.
The short length should not keep you from introducing this masterpiece into your classroom. The writing is exceptional and the themes heartbreaking and relevant (especially to a 21st century classroom, believe it or not!)
This product includes:
*A course syllabus
*An Author Autobiography
*Pictures of Wheeling --the setting of the novella
*A list and brief explanation of who the characters are
*A Common Core Standard-Aligned Life in the Iron Mills packet (with reading guides, character charts, compare/contrast sheets, quotation responses, vocabulary terms, and more!) that prepares students for their final paper and test.
*"Children of the Mountains" questions to fuel discussion
*An essay assignment with five different, varied prompts
*A rubric for grading the above assignment
*A comprehensive final examination focused on Life in the Iron Mills, "Children of the Mountains," and the role media plays in preventing ignorance.
*All answer keys included
For a great interactive journal you can use to supplement your teaching, check out this link!
English Language Arts Interactive Journal *For Any Novel!*
Looking for something more specific and don’t want to pay the bundled price? Check out the links below for more specific lessons:
Life in the Iron Mills: Final Essay Assignment and Final Exam (with rubrics and answer keys)
Life in the Iron Mills: A Packet to Supplement Student Reading
UPDATE! Buy the WebQuest accompaniment now!
Life in the Iron Mills: WEBQUEST ((Project-Based Learning--Technology--Group Work))
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License