I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” as a four-year-old in 1980. I grew up loving George Lucas’ saga and am thrilled to not only be sharing it with my students but also with my fellow educators. I have a beautiful, supportive wife, two incredible kids and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I’m a huge fan of pop culture—especially literature, comics and movies.
I regularly collaborate with Dan Zehr, Blue Leader of the Rogues, an English teacher in the Chicago area, and the co-host of the “Coffee with Kenobi” podcast on which I was able to share my Star Wars teaching practices and thoughts on the saga’s viewing order (episode 9). I am a regular contributor to that show and write reviews of “Star Wars Rebels” for the “Coffee with Kenobi” website.
Additionally, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my method of teaching Star Wars on the podcasts “Star Wars Kidscast” and on “Full of Sith” where I was able to share my process, lesson plans and student reactions.
My Star Wars Teaching Story begins in 2009. I had just completed my first year of teaching and I was in a reflective phase, trying to think of ways to increase student engagement at the end of the year. It was during this time that I caught a rerun of the History Channel documentary THE LEGACY REVEALED--a fantastic exploration of the mythological components of the Star Wars saga. Although I knew the films backwards and forwards, this documentary sparked something in me to study the symbolism George Lucas had imbued them with and share the insights with my students.
It was also during this time that I really became fascinated with Joseph Campbell and his "Hero's Journey" concept. The more research I did, the more I found that many of my favorite stories employed these motifs. I decided to make that the crux of my teaching of Star Wars. In order to do this, I put together a PowerPoint presentation that consolidated Campbell's concept down to 12 stages and demonstrated how these stages could be tracked through not only "A New Hope," but also through "The Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," and "The Matrix." I later replaced the latter with "Avatar" as it was more current, but the process remained the same.
With a working knowledge of "The Hero's Journey," my students and I would then analyze an abridged version of "The Hobbit" before launching into a close examination of Episode 4. When we finally got to viewing the film, students began tracking not only Luke's heroic journey, but would make note of color schemes, camera work, music cues and motifs, dialogue/body language, and general characterizations. It was a fully holistic analysis of the film 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.
Many of my past students come back to my classroom to express their gratitude and excitement about the future of Star Wars (and also to ask when I'll be showing it again). Many of these students were formerly reluctant viewers and it is testament to the story-telling power of George Lucas that they have been "converted" so easily.
As I continue to share this experience, I'm finding more and more that the Star Wars fan community is an incredibly collaborative and supportive environment. I'm honored for the part that I've been able to play in that so far and I eagerly anticipate what the future holds.
**All information and documents/resources shared with permission.