“Passion and Authority” — Real-World Textual Analysis from 8th Graders

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This unit emerged from the recognition that in the so-called “Real World”—that is, the digital online landscape that most of us spend at least some significant percentage of our waking lives immersed in—real analytical writing goes beyond the typical English class thematic essay on To Kill a Mockingbird. Of course, 8th graders write literary analysis as well, and fantastic critical writing about literature is wonderful and valuable and is published all the time. But analysis goes well beyond that. In fact, it’s everywhere: it’s about the music of Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce; it’s about Breaking Bad and Big Little Lies; LeBron James and Megan Rapinoe; video games, apps, and software… The list is endless.

So given the chance to find and study other “texts” in the world that they know well, our 8th graders dove in and tackled topics from a broad range of fields: music, technology, literature, film, sport, gaming, and more. They found personal and engaging ways to analyze:

  • The Legend of Zelda
  • NBA Dunk Contests
  • Plus-Size Modeling 
  • La La Land
  • Tik Tok
  • Minecraft
  • Billie Eilish
  • The Cinematography of Peaky Blinders
  • Roger Federer
  • and so much more

I invite you to peruse our online “magazine,” Eye of the Falcon, where you’ll find articles by students writing with passion and authority. The selections published here will hopefully get across at least a partial view of the scope of the sophisticated topics adolescents are drawn to when given a choice. I found their work to be insightful, meaningful, and very well done (and fun!), especially given the sometimes isolating restrictions of Distance Learning.

Paul Fisher

Middle School Language Arts/Social Studies