SwTxPCA: Star Wars and ESL

Nancy Vicente, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (west part of island)
the site director of the writing project
been teaching for 20 years
academic counselor for freshmen students

In my teaching I combine things that I love: popular culture, Star Wars, reading, teaching.
part of the work I have been doing for the last two years with my ESL students
catalog “Topics in Cinema” I call it “More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine”
using Star Wars saga and hero’s journey for learning.

not usually open to taking electives in English, but the courses fill up quickly

have been teaching the class for 2 years

Why Star Wars?
mythology, history, philosophy, religion, and literature
see the application of the monomyth
able to reflect on their own learning experiences as they discover their own hero inside

understand myth-making process and monomyth stages
close critical analyss of the Star Wars films
shot-by-shot analysis of their favorite scene
write about learning exp throughout semester
dev a sense of community
understand importance of being a team member

What do we do?
watch movies in order of release
Watch documentaries about the first trilogy so stduents learn to appreciate the first movies and their impact in the movie industry. FanBoys movie… watch Space Balls, the parody by Mel Brooks
Carry out discussions about the themes that emerge from the experience of watching the films together.
Write about connections between the characters and their own lives. (families, older people)
Discuss the impact that SW continues to have.

first day of class:
buddy system/buddy time
goal with buddy system. You’re here. Where’s your buddy? “No, I’m finding them.” –if your buddy is absent, you are absent. If your buddy is late, you are late.
I give the small groups numbers. Mirrors. Who is this person in your life? Make them like sisters, brothers, whatever.
select a group captain… “eyes window of soul” stare at their eyes… pick the person who I know is insecure or is a slacker. They are the captain. They report to me from the group.

assignments (journals, connect w buddies and small groups, presentations)
they have to meet with buddy and small group outside of class
presentations are comparing other film… monomyth in Xxx

evaluation (self-assessment, group)
50% of grade is what they give each other and themselves.
self-reflection (last paper: what I have learned in this class)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
“In the cave that you fear to enter, lies the treasure that you seek.” Joseph Campbell
“Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda
“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Yoda (death… sense of loss)
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Gandhi

What I have learned:
classrooms are spaces of possibilities
dealing with individuals whose stories, memories, narratives, readings, and understandings of the world are related to wider social and cultural formations

schools produce situations that disempower students by tracking them into classes with lowered expectations, refuse to provide them with knowledge that is relevant and speaks to the context of their everyday lives

In my classroom, everyone has power and no one should be forced to learn English. English is viewed as a tool for them to acquire access to other opportunities.
“what happens in here, stays in here”

Students can take active part in their own learning/empowering/liberating process.

I am a guardian of this space… Don’t go around talking about what goes on here.

contest the banking model of education (Freire)

the students I choose as leaders, become leaders in the university and in the community

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