Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Argument for the Sake of Understanding

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr. Darcy’s climactic letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest epistolary examples in any novel. To a similar degree, it’s agreed that there is too much fighting, “owning,” and trolling in today’s discourse, and not enough engaging, explaining, and seeking to understand.

But I’m not here to shake my fist at “kids these days” (or the adults from whom they learn these habits).

I’m here to help.

So, using Mr. Darcy’s famous letter, I crafted a carefully scaffolded series of lessons designed to guide students how to:

  • Comprehend and analyze Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, specifically highlighting the steps he takes to respect his audience, and diffuse the tension between them.
  • Compare and contrast the structural fundamentals of Mr. Darcy’s letter with other letters, paying particular attention to what works (and what doesn’t) in civil communication.
  • Use these fundamentals to write their own exemplary letter.

In today’s ELA classrooms, it seems imperative to teach Mr. Darcy’s letter in itself, and also as a model of argumentation for the sake of understanding, for proudly explaining oneself without prejudice, for—as the kids would say—“squashing things.”

Whether they’re communicating with pen and paper, or—more likely—from the keyboard of a glowing screen, it’s our aim that your students will apply these lessons to their own missives. And just maybe, one by one, we’ll see the quality of our nation’s discourse improve with time.

Technical notes:

  • I designed this to be useful whether or not you’re studying Pride and Prejudice. If you’re not reading the book, you will have to spend a little time providing context to your students. The plans include 5 different context-building options, ranging from 5 minutes long, to watching the first part of the film. It’s up to you, how long you want to spend on this.
  • For those of you using Google Classroom, we’ve provided Google doc versions of all the handouts and worksheets. And if you don’t use Google Classroom, this can still be useful, as it enables you to edit the content to suit your needs.

Enjoy! And as always, please let us know if you have questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. We love hearing from you, and we would much rather you share criticisms with us so we can improve, than have you be unhappy.

Click here to preview the lesson plans.

The Mindshift Podcast About My Class!

After months of giddy anticipation, my class finally got to hear Mindshift’s podcast about our work with podcasts. It’s a podcast about using podcasts — and it’s us! And it’s so good.

First of all, I have to give all the thanks, credit, and props to Ki Sung, who produced the podcast. She was (is) a true inspiration and role model for both me and my students. She’s the senior editor of Mindshift, but she took the time to fly down, interview my students, talk to them about her own podcasts and her career in general, and then she personally produced the episode.  

We admired her work even before she visited. We had already studied an episode of her “Stories Teachers Share” podcast (“The Epic April Fool’s Day Prank”), and it was one of my students’ all-time favorites.

So after appreciating her work as a narrator and producer, it was a special treat for my students to simply have her in our classroom, where they could ask her questions about podcasting, her recording equipment (which was awesome), and her career as an editor. And then, of course, it was simply mind-blowing for them to be the subject of her next episode.

Now the podcast episode itself is sure to inspire my class. It’s so well produced and she’s such a good narrator. I want to say that she makes us sound better than we are, but that’s not entirely honest—I think it’s more accurate to say that she presents us how we are when we’re at our best. And that’s a special artistic skill.

And finally, it was great to hear what my former students said (I wasn’t there when she interviewed them). I took a little pride—and felt a lot of joy—hearing them personally articulate how they improved their literacy skills.

In any case, give it a listen if you want to hear what it’s like in my classroom. In the meantime, my class is going to get started writing a podcast about the podcast about our podcast class.


Lesson Plans for Podcast Creation!

Back in March, I co-facilitated a session (with on using podcasts in the classroom at SXSWedu. The workshop attendees were immediately enthusiastic about incorporating podcasts in their classrooms (there are many great reasons to do so), and asked for explicit lesson plans,  worksheets, and useful templates—the demand for which completely caught me off-guard (silly, I know). So I did some research and discovered that there wasn’t much out there in terms of structured, turn-key lesson plans; given that we’ve already created hundreds of pages of plans for listening to podcasts (see our Serial plans as a great example), Melissa and I set to work creating this unit.

So, it took all summer, but Melissa and I just finalized our first unit of podcast creation lesson plans. This unit, through careful scaffolding and deliberate confidence building, guides your students from being novice podcast listeners to amateur podcast creators in the span of 10 exercises over 2-3 weeks. Almost all of these plans are focused on teaching listening, reading, and writing skills as students are expected to analyze podcasts and apply their learning to their own projects.

As always, we’re proud that this collection of resources can help right now—there are plenty of explicit plans, printable worksheets, and time-saving suggestions, and an overall unit plan that any teacher could happily launch as early as tomorrow. But (as always) the plans are quite open to modification, allowing for flexibility in anyone’s classroom. Without much effort, a teacher can easily swap in different podcasts, or shorten this unit into a single week, or extend this into an entire semester-long project.

Our goal in this unit was to create a low-commitment yet comprehensive on-ramp to incorporating the diverse realm of podcasts into your own curriculum, and we’re really happy with the result.

The unit includes:

  • An introduction to the basics of podcasts.
  • Exposure to a variety of exceptional podcasts.
  • Deeper analysis activities for three different episodes from This American LifeSerial, and Radiolab.
  • A “copy change” activity, a template, and scaffolding suggestions to help students slowly work towards writing their own script.
  • A protocol for peer review.
  • Reflection questions.
  • Suggestions and recommendations for recording, editing, and publishing.

All in all, the unit covers every single Common Core anchor standard, with the exception of “argumentative writing” (which could easily be covered if you asked them to make a persuasive appeal in one of their episodes).

In any case, here’s the link again. And while we feel really good about this as it stands now, we’re always very receptive to improvements and suggestions, so please email me at mrgodsey-at-gmail-dot-com with suggestions or—even better—links to your class’s podcast.

Podcasts in the ELA Classroom

A Recap of our Podcast Presentation and others at SXSWedu

I want to share some things about our presentation at SXSWedu before they slip my mind.

  1. It was so great to work with Listenwise and KUT. First of all, Monica Brady-Myerov and Emily Donahue were so easy to work with (that probably shouldn’t be my first priority but it is). Along with Chelsea Murphy (also with Listenwise), they were all so friendly and professional and respectful and organized and interesting–I want to work with them always.
  2. Our presentation on using podcasts in the classroom was everything we hoped it would be. The large room was packed (there was a line of people outside that they wouldn’t let in), the audience was great, the people of SXSW made sure everything looked and sounded perfect, and once I was done talking, I got to be inspired and enlightened by Monica and Emily.



Monica and Emily had all kinds of advice about creating a story and then publishing it professionally, but one real quick takeaway was their suggestion to use Soundtrap, which is a like a web-based GarageBand. This means my students can use it with their Chromebooks in class without any additional software, and they can also collaborate on the same project from multiple computers. How easy is it? We gave the audience some time to experiment on their own, and here’s what two participants published in just 10 minutes:

They’re not ready to sell advertising space for this podcast or anything, but I was really inspired by how quickly they did it and how relatively good they sounded (we were in a loud conference room).

The next step: Getting my students to produce their own podcasts. I’ll keep updating the blog as we go…


Also at SXSW:

I was fascinated by Christopher Emdin’s keynote speech, which is fortunately available on YouTube. It’s titled: “We got it from here: Thanks for your Service.” and it’s worth watching if you have an hour. I think I’m one of the “frenemies” he describes, but I was really moved by a few of his perspectives. If I were to start a “real” podcast, I would want him as my first guest.

I participated in an interesting workshop on “A Creative Approach to Emotional Intelligence” where the facilitators blended some old-school wisdom with some new-school innovation.

I also loved listening to Monica O. Montgomery tell her story: After teaching her young students how to creatively respond to the scary news stories in their lives (for example, she had them write cards to Trayvon Martin’s family), she was fired. But instead of making a stink, she made museum: The Museum of Impact. I was moved by her personal story, and also reminded of the amazing spectrum of cultures we have in this country (Fired for sending cards! Not in my district.)

I had lunch with a VP of a software company, where we brainstormed some really exciting ideas on how we can make the assessment process at our school (and maybe district) much more efficient.

Because I’m a nerd who fantasizes about being an expert on ESSA, I naturally enjoyed “Advocating for Students: ESSA Implementation” by Marco Petruzzi (CEO of Green Dot) and Scott Sargrad. My soul wants to start blogging about ESSA whether you want me to or not, and Scott would be my second podcast guest.

I also got some hands-on experience in the “playground,” where I used virtual reality goggles (or whatever they’re called) for a real civics lesson, played with 3-D printers, and real-life models of innovative classrooms.

There were so many other presentations I wanted to see — I hope I get to go back next year and stay an extra day. And I’m inspired to read and write more about ESSA and Emdin. But for now, it’s back to the classroom to see what we can create on our own…






The Unit Plan for the Entire First Season of Serial

A teacher asked me if I had a schedule for teaching entire season of Serial, and I was surprised to find out that I hadn’t done that already. So here it is. 

First, some notes and answers to frequently asked questions:

  1. There are 29 days of instruction in the Serial (Season 1) Lesson Plan Bundle. You can add to this with your own lessons and discussions.
  2. You can also shorten the unit in a variety of ways. Many teachers don’t use the vocabulary units, or they use their program. You can also assign some of these episodes (or parts of them) for homework. One of the great things about using Serial is that the students can always listen at home if you don’t finish in class (it’s not like they have to take a book home). And finally, you can always shorten or skip some of the lessons, especially in Episode 1.
  3. Speaking of which, these exercises and corresponding schedules are meant as ideas and possibilities. It’s not a rigid calendar.  For example, I’ve done all the exercises in Episode 1 at some point, but I’ve never done all ten of them for one class (it’s just too much).
  4. The following unit plan is assuming 70 minute classes.
  5. If you’re new to the game, this is where you can find the lesson plans.


Day 1

Vocabulary can be done the previous night, for homework. At some point today or tomorrow, go over vocabulary.

Complete Exercise 2 (Memory Game) before the students listen to Episode 1. Duration: About 25-40 minutes.

Begin listening to Episode 1

Day 2

Listen to more of Episode 1 until the 20:00 mark, at which point you can do Exercise 3 (Connotation). Episode 3 can also wait until the end of the episode, however.

At the 28:00 mark, you can pause and do Exercise 4 (“Lie Detector”).

Day 3

Finish listening to Episode 1.

Choose one exercise from #5-10. (“Theme/Motif”; “Purpose and Point of View”; “Reading vs Listening”; “Asia’s Letters”; “Timeline”; “Sarah vs Shakespeare”). They each take about 30 minutes.

Day 4

Choose two more exercises from #5-10. They each take about 30 minutes.

Day 5

You can choose two more exercises from #5-10, but your students are probably anxious to move on to Episode 3.


Day 1

Play Episode 2, complete Exercise 2a in class. (Vocabulary can be done the night before for homework.). At some point today or tomorrow, go over vocabulary.

Day 2

Take quiz (Exercise 4), and then get them in groups for Exercise 2b. Do the corresponding presentations. With enough time, create the “crazy chart” as a class (Exercise 4).

Day 3

Create/finish the “crazy chart” if they haven’t yet. Listen to Episode 3, and complete Exercise 2 (Vocabulary can be done the night before for homework).

Day 4

Play Episode 4, and do Exercise 2. Go over vocabulary at some point.

Day 5

There are no specific plans in this packet, but you have time here for a summative vocabulary test, listening comprehension test, or a writing assignment based on a writing prompt of your choice. Personally, I moved on to Episode 5. If my lesson plans for future episodes aren’t available yet, they will be soon.


Day 1

Listen to the first 28:00 of Episode 5, then do the mapping portion of Exercise 2. (Vocabulary could be done previous night for homework.)

Day 2

Finish up mapping “the drive” if necessary, and finish Exercise 2 (analysis of Jay’s story and evaluating it for how logical and truthful it is.

Day 3

Listen to Episode 6 while doing Exercise 2 (evaluating the evidence against Adnan).

Day 4

Go over vocabulary (that they did for homework) and do Exercise 6 (a writing/ thinking exercise). [Both vocab and Exercise 6 can be done in class or as homework].Assign Episode 7 for homework.

Day 5

Quiz on Episode 7 (or collect the study sheets). Discussion on the episode. Writing assignment (Exercise 2).

Unit 4

Day 1

Listen to Episode 8, while taking notes on Jay.Assign vocabulary homework.

Day 2

Collect vocabulary. Finish Episode 8 (if necessary) and do the exercises on the handouts.

Day 3

Listen to Episode 9 (45 minutes) and have them respond to one of the writing prompts provided.Assign vocabulary homework.

Day 4

Take the listening quiz, go over vocabulary, and address one or two writing prompts provided.Assign homework.

Day 5

(Optional) If you have access to a computer lab, guide their research process instead of assigning it as homework. If there is time left in the class when they’re done, start the presentations.

Day 5

Start presentations (about half of them). Listen to first half of Episode 10.Assign vocabulary homework.

Day 6

Collect vocabulary. Finish presentations. Finish Episode 10.Take quiz. Start writing prompt, which they can finish for homework or during the next class.

Day 7

Finish their writing, if they didn’t do it for homework. Discuss their answers as a class, and/or work on peer-editing if the paper is a formal essay. With time, start Episode 11.


Day 1

Listen to Episode 11, while taking notes on psychotic possibilities. Collect vocabulary from night before. Do Exercise 2 in class.

Day 2

Replay the end of Episode 11 and assign Exercise 3.

Day 3

Introduce a mini-lesson on satire, show Serial satire, and then do Exercise 4.With time remaining, start on Exercise 5.

Day 4

Do Exercise 5.With enough time, start on vocabulary for Episode 12 or start Exercise 2 of Episode 12.

Day 5

Collect vocabulary homework, start Exercise 2 of Episode 12 (if you haven’t already), and then listen to Episode 12 (55 minutes). Listening to half of it is fine, but don’t get caught with 5-10 minutes of the story left when the bell rings.

Day 6

Finish Episode 12 if necessary, and finish Exercise 2 and discuss.With enough time, do Exercise 3.

Day 7

Finish Exercise 3 if necessary. Start the final papers, cumulative assessments, and final projects that you choose.