Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Light up your nonfiction studies this fall with H.G. Bissinger's book - Friday Night Lights.

“I can't wait for high school football to start
'Cause Friday Night Lights will get to play a part.
This is the book that students will cheer
When teachers choose it to begin the school year.”
 (adapted from the song, “I’ve Been Waiting All Day For Sunday Night” sung by Carrie Underwood
and set to the tune "I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett.)

Okay, okay, my colleagues. I hear your sighs and know you are rolling your eyes. 

I realize that some of you left your buildings a mere week or two ago.

I realize that most of you are thinking vacation plans and not lesson plans.

I realize that most of you are not ready to witness the zombie-like shuffle of teenagers at 7:20 A.M.

But...but, I know many of you would love to find a page-turning nonfiction read that could roll right into the first literature study of your autumn term. And, I think that when you find a book that will engage your students and match their fall football fervor, you would be very thrilled to obtain some ready to use lessons that would allow you to continue to relax for the rest of your summer.

Friday Night Lights H.G. Bissinger
from en.wikipedia.org
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger is the perfect match. Let me explain how my scoffing at a book about high school football turned into 14 years of, "Just say 'Yes! to the book" enthusiasm.

One July Saturday in the late '90's, my husband, Tim, and I were driving through Virginia on a clogged Route 95. We were on our way to Hatteras Island's Kinnakeet Shores, a resort area in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

To keep me from groaning about the lines of traffic, Tim began to enthuse over a book about Texas high school football.  Trying to hook my teacher brain, he explained that this book was not just a paean to football, but was a social commentary on how so many towns allow high school football to dominate their whole lives. The author, H.G. Bissinger chose Permian High School's 1988 football season (Odessa, Texas) to focus his study. 

Friday Night Lights Gender Issues
Tim iterated a list of issues developed in the book, such as the special treatment of athletes, athletics over academics, racism,  gender, class, entitlement, etc.  He offered anecdotes about how the black football players were considered equal on the field but separate off of it, and how some of the girls felt that  their sole purpose was to take care of their football players with gifts of food and  pigskin-themed decorated homes. He regaled me with stories about little kids who wore jerseys with their favorite high school and not pro team player, and how athletes weren't expected to accomplish much at all academically.

Yada, Yada, Yada. I was not impressed and fell asleep.

Friday Night Lights Conflict activity
Fast forward to a week later, our last day on the beach. As I lounged on the deck eyeing the ocean for dolphins, my husband's and son's animated conversation about the book, which my son had devoured in two days, wiggled its way into my attention span. Once again, I soon found myself caught on the Football Express. This time, after just a few pages, instead of wanted to get off, I bought a reading round-trip ticket.

Starting right then, and during the 6-hour drive home the next day, I read. After filling the washer with salt and sand encrusted clothes, I read.  As my husband slept and my dog snored, I read.

By the next day, I had finished H.G. Bissinger's iconic classic and was ready to subscribe to the Odessa American newspaper so I, too, could follow the Permian Panthers football season. 

The first thing Monday morning, I explained my desire to teach this book  to an the local HR manager for a national chain bookstore. She contacted whoever she needed to, and within the hour, I was the ecstatic recipient of two class sets of Friday Night Lights-in softcover. Next, I swung by the high school and begged, pleaded and generally pestered the principal until he gave me the thumbs up to teach it that fall.

Friday Night Lights H.G. Bissinger - Unit Plan
The rest of the summer, I developed my Literature - Friday Night Lights Unit Plan. This complete unit plan includes: Common Core standards which you can easily adapt to your state's benchmarks, the grade level and time frame, assessments, and detailed daily plans as well as writing journal openers, essay topics, chapter by chapter discussion questions, a project, a review sheet and a test. Ten analyzing the elements of literature activities go hand in hand with the lessons and follow Bloom's Taxonomy.

Reading this book along with viewing the movie is sure to generate some terrific analytic discussions.

Make a touchdown with your students this fall and Download this 24-page plan Literature - Friday Night Lights Unit Plan, from 

As the July sun continues to warm your body and relax your soul, immerse yourself in the book that spawned a movie and a television series, and then check out the unit plan. Before you know it, you'll catch Bissinger's football fever and will be singing,

“I can't wait for this fall's school term to start
When Friday Night Lights will win my students' hearts.
This is the book that they will certainly cheer,
'Cause it speaks in such depth to all that they hold dear.”

Enjoy a relaxing summer and a Teach It Now Fall,






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Comprehension Activity - Literature Review