Monday, August 21, 2017

Kick off fall studies with H.G. Bissinger's 'Friday Night Lights'

Classroom Colleagues,
This is a revised post about H.G. Bissinger's iconic book about high school football, Friday Night Lights. I originally posted it a few years ago on this site, but wanted to update it because it is such a terrific way to hook students' fall football psyches into reading as it fuels many an analytic discussion about Academics vs. Athletics and other societal issues.

“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 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. But if you could find a book that will engage your students and jumpstart discussions of contemporary issues such as gender, race and class, I bet you would give a cheer. A 24-page unit plan coinciding with this book and that offers you the gift of time at the always hectic beginning of the school year might cause a sigh of relief, too.

Friday Night Lights H.G. Bissinger
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 a decade and a half of, "Just say 'Yes! to the book" enthusiasm.

A while back, my husband, Tim, and I were driving through Virginia on the clogged, as usual, Route 95. We were on our way to Hatteras Island's on 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 Odessa Texas's Permian High School's 1988 football season to focus his study. 

Friday Night Lights Gender Issues
Tim iterated a list of issues the author develops 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 sun-drunk  attention span. Soon, I found myself caught on the Football Express. This time, though, after just a few pages, instead of itching 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 could follow the Permian Panthers' football season that fall. 

The first thing Monday morning, I explained my desire to teach this book to 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 softcover class sets of Friday Night Lights-50 books in all! 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.

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 4.0 rated 24-page plan Literature - Friday Night Lights Unit Plan, from ($).Before you know it, your students and you will be under the spell of 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 Teach it Now Day Every Day. 

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