Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking skills and nonfiction, says teacher Michael Godsey. Serial, a This American Life spinoff, has reinvigorated the class, he says.
(Is Serial host Sarah Koenig a reliable narrator? Is she reporting the story as it unfolds in a straightforward manner or instead dropping hints and red herrings the way a wily mystery novelist would?)
Fifteen years ago, Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore County, was murdered. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted and is still in prison. He says he didn’t do it.
In a way, Serial is about as Shakespearean as a story can get: You’ve got young lovers whose families don’t approve of their relationship. There’s a backstabbing friend. And it’s all built around the investigation of a mysterious death, though in this case it’s veteran reporter Sarah Koenig doing the poking around, not an increasingly unstable Prince Hamlet. Serial unspools its story in the same conversational language students use every day but still gives Godsey a chance to talk about the same things he can get at with Shakespeare: characters, reliable narrators, story structure, foreshadowing.
Students are “citing direct evidence that leads to explicit meaning” and “inferring conclusions based on previous evidence,” writes Godsey on his blog.
But they’re not reading Shakespeare. In fact, since it’s a podcast, they’re not reading anything.
Serial has been funded for a second season.