With a working knowledge of "The Hero's Journey," my students and I then analyze an abridged version of The Hobbit before launching into a close examination of Episode 4. Once the actual viewing of the movies begins, there is a daily protocol to ensure that students are engaged and learning is taking place. Class begins with an open-ended discussion to either access prior knowledge or prompt the students to consider their own philosophy of life. Students then use specially-designed tracking sheets and are tasked with monitoring specific elements of the films such as Luke's heroic journey, color schemes, camera work, music cues and motifs, dialogue/body language, and general characterizations. At the conclusion of the film for the day, both simple comprehension and higher-level questions are presented to the students and then discussed. It is a fully holistic analysis of the films and a huge success with the students.
Over the years, I've worked my way up to including all 6 films and now utilize a viewing order of 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 which presents the Prequels as a flashback and allows the viewer to not only track Luke's journey but to see the parallels in his father Anakin's journey as well. Throughout the entire experience, students are taking notes and are expected to engage in small group and whole class discussions.
By sharing my experience on social media, I’ve become part of a larger community of educators who use Star Wars in the classroom; in fact, I recently officially joined “The Rogues” of Star Wars in the Classroom—a website dedicated to helping instructors use the films in their curriculum. I also regularly collaborate with Dan Zehr, an English teacher in the Chicago area who first heard my story via voicemail on a podcast called “Full of Sith” and is the co-host of another podcast called “Coffee with Kenobi.” I was also able to share my Star Wars teaching practices on episode 9 of “Coffee with Kenobi” and I have since became a regular contributor to that show and will be writing reviews of the upcoming Star Wars Rebels animated program for the “Coffee with Kenobi” website.
Through Dan, I was also able to arrange to have Ian Doescher, author of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars speak to my classes via FaceTime. Additionally, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my teaching of “Star Wars” on the “Star Wars Kidscast” podcast and on “Full of Sith” where I was able to share my process, lesson plans and student reactions.
As we move ever closer to Episode 7 and REBELS, I've even been able to share news in real time with my students. For instance, yesterday's announcement of Lupita Nyong'o and Gendonline Christie being added the Episode 7 cast happened during class and I was to pass on the good news to my students--and it was especially exciting for several of the girls who are continually asking about more females in the saga. We're all very excited about the future of Star Wars. I'd like to think I've done my part to make that "we" a little bit bigger.