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

Studying the SERIAL Podcast in Nairobi, Kenya

We got an awesome email recently from a teacher in Nairobi, Kenya, who uses our Serial podcast lesson plans with his 8th grade students, and it left us feeling humbled and energized. He really captured the data-gathering aspect of some of the Serial (Season 1) exercises, and we hope the following pictures and his descriptions help you visualize how these exercise can look and work in your own classroom (photos lightly edited for privacy).

“I was trying to capture as much data as possible around one main idea: the changes in each student’s feelings about Adnan’s guilt/innocence episode to episode. I’m sure it can be improved, but this is what I put together for this first run at it. Basically, the vertical axis is a 0-100 guilty scale (0-totally innocent, 100-definitely guilty). The horizontal is the 12 episodes. After listening to each one, they are to ask themselves if their feelings have changed. (So last week, Adnan’s guilt ticked up a little bit after we learn that Adnan changed his story to the cops, and today, after listening to Episode 4 and hearing a bunch of Jay’s sketchy inconsistencies, a lot of them reduced the chances that Adnan did it.)”

“As you can see, we’re using colored little stickers. I also did different colors for male-female, to see if we would spot any gender-related clustering. Finally, I had them draw their initials or a little symbol on each sticker. The chart is mostly showing whole-class trending – with side-by-side comparison between all three classes – so I’m not really tracking this person-by-person. But I thought I might want this later if I wanted to ask them to connect their dots. It would probably totally overwhelm the charts and become a giant mess, but I suppose I could also give them a pre-printed personal grid at the end and ask them to use the master chart to plot out their own journey.”

“I had to adapt the second question for my middle schoolers. Most don’t have much dating experience, so knowing actual people who have done that thing would get pretty low numbers. More interesting, I thought, was to modify the question to “How many people (up to 10) do you know who you think WOULD do this?”

We LOVE (all caps, LOVE) hearing from other teachers and students about how they engage with the lesson plans we’ve produced. It’s one thing to enjoy the “ah-ha” moments with your own students, but a whole other thing to hear about these moments happening across the country, and around the globe. We’re grateful this teacher took the time to write, and we’d love to hear from you too. You can always email us, or find us on Twitter at @mrgodsey.

Real or “Fake News”? Teaching Discernment of Credibility in Journalism


With all the talk of “fake news,” we thought it’d be helpful to create a resource that practically helps students (of any age!) learn how to discern credible sources from sources lacking credibility. Using non-controversial examples (i.e. nothing remotely political), we’ve created a three-day “Fake News” unit, which empowers students with the vocabulary and sensibility to discern legitimate journalism from “fake news” (and the gradient of content between the two).

Subscribers to our email list received this three-day unit for free. If you’d like to receive future lesson plans free of charge, sign up here.

You can take a look at the preview of the unit, or buy it for yourself, here.