Zombies in School?

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Zombies in School?

Felix Aponte, Staff Writer

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Jordan Toledo walked into class with no homework in hand and a simple explanation: he had had no motivation to do it. This wasn’t going to work for the teacher who wanted her students to succeed rather than fail. After trying to convince him, Ms. Barile eventually made a deal with him. Jordan would do his work if Ms. Barile watched the tv show, The Walking Dead. This deal led to Jordan’s idea about a class on the zombie series. The elective, “Digesting the Walking Dead,” was born.

The elective is centered around a “strong talk environment,” explains, Ms. Barile. Students follow a discussion routine that guides them to think more analytically about the show. A typical class starts with small group discussions which are aimed to connect themes of the show with students’ experiences. Students then watch an episode and afterwards discuss the show. As Ms. Barile explains, such a routine ensures that “students can truly reflect on what they saw and dig deeper into meaning.”

There is also a writing component to the class, that allows students to better relate to the show and explore big ideas. For example, one of the writing prompts asks to students to answer: What three friends students would take with them into a post-apocalyptic world?

The class gives students the opportunity to talk about topics that they wouldn’t normally expect to find in an English class. As Ms. Barile notes, “We analyze just about everything in the show,”

Students are engaged in a wide array of writing, including presentations, synthesis essays, and historical and sociological analyses. Ms. Barile explains that this  skill to “write in new and different ways” is “extremely valuable” to students as they prepare for college.

It’s been three years since the class first started running and each semester the class is crowded with up to 30 or more students. The elective  has such a large draw thanks to its powerful combination of the show’s controversial topics and Ms. Barile’s exceptional instruction.

As for the other schools that lack such a class, Ms. Barile said that she would be more than happy to share this curriculum with other schools. As schools strive to create classes that better relate to today’s teens, such a course is a reminder that when students are interested in content, they will fully take part in the work that comes along with it.