This 2-4 day unit serves as a review, a reminder, or a ratcheting-up of high school students’ literary analysis skills, and it is designed for early in the school year.* The novelty here is that students are asked to analyze an episode of the TV drama, The West Wing, a potentially more engaging story form than written text, yet one that is fresh and challenging because so few students have encountered this particular drama before. As a stand-alone lesson, it provides an opportunity to hone analytical skills, applying them to an alternative “text” before embarking on more in-depth reading and literary analysis.
* This unit can also be used anytime as a precursor to Hamlet (see separate lesson listing "Of Prince & Presidents" and "The Great Debate: Hamlet vs. Jed") or Macbeth (see separate lesson listing "Lady Macbeth Meets Her Match").
The TV episode is 43 minutes long and could be viewed in one class period if time permits. However, I recommend allocating two viewing periods to allow for preview/set-up (utilizing attached handouts) and clarifying questions at the end of viewing. A good unit might look like:
Preview goals & handouts
Watch first half of episode
Field remaining questions
Watch rest of episode
Students continue to fill out viewing notes (finish handout overnight)
Students get into small groups & share their viewing insights
Small groups share with whole class
Recap value of identifying lit elements & how interpretive skills apply to more than printed text
Day 4: (Optional Add-on)
Students complete all, or portions, of “What’s Theme Mean?” handout & discuss
NOTE: To shorten, this could be squeezed into a 1-day viewing + homework or a 2-day viewing + homework/mini-discussion. It’s more fun to linger, however, because students will make great discoveries, leading to rich and enjoyable discussions and insights into future applications.
NOTE: This can also be stretched into a larger unit in conjunction with any subsequent literary work, including the aforementioned Hamlet & Macbeth (see above note & links) and/or THEME discussions.