Escape from the Ordinary Unit

Are you getting bored teaching the same works but don’t have the resources to trade out novels? Or perhaps you are just looking to create a different unit from scratch? Look no further. The following list is compiled from a Twitter chat hosted by Talks with Teachers to brainstorm resources for teaching texts dealing with the theme of escape – perfect for a Halloween twist. These resources include major works, short stories, poems, songs, Ted Talks, films, documentaries, writing ideas, question ideas, and more. Pick and choose what you need to create your own unit.

Q1. What major works — novels and plays — feature the desire to escape?

11/22/63

1984

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Alchemist

All My Sons

The Awakening

The Bell Jar

Beloved

Brave New World

Breath Eyes Memory

Catch 22

Catcher in the Rye

Crime and Punishment

The Crucible

The Dew Breaker

A Doll’s House

East of Eden

Enrique’s Journey

Exit West

Fahrenheit 451,

Frankenstein

The Giver

The Glass Castle

The Glass Menagerie

Greasy Lake 

The Grapes of Wrath

The Great Gatsby

Hamlet

The Handmaid’s Tale

Heart of Darkness

Homegoing

The Horse Dealer’s Daughter

The House on Mango Street

Huck Finn

Into the Wild

Ivan Denisovich

Invisible Man

Jane Eyre

Kafka on the Shore

The Kite Runner

Life of Pi

A Light in August

Little Bee

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Lord of the Flies

Madame Bovary

The Metamorphosis

A Midsummer NIght’s Dream

Mudbound

 Native Son

Night

Of Mice and Men

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Oryx and Crake,

The Plague

The Poisonwood Bible

Pride and Prejudice 

Purgatorio (Dante)

The Road

A Raisin in the Sun

Romeo and Juliet

Salvage the Bones

Sing, Unburied, Sing

A Streetcar Named Desire

Slaughterhouse Five

Song of Solomon

Sula

The Sun Also Rises

The Things They Carried

Their Eyes Were Watching God

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Tracks

True Diary

The Underground Railroad

Wuthering Heights

Q2. What shorter works — short stories or poems — display the theme of desire to escape?

A&P

All Summer in a Day

Barn Burning

The Boys

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Birthday Party

A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethun

The Centaur

The Chrysanthemums

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Desiree’s Baby

Dubliners

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MInd

Eternity Blues

The Ethics of Living Jim Crow

Everyday Use

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Half-hanged Mary

Hills LIke Elephants

The Hollow Men,

Home Burial

How I Met My Husband

I Never Heard the Word “Escape”

The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Lake Isle of Innisfree

Life’s Work

Longest Hour in History

Looking for the Gulf Motel

The Lottery

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock

The Machine Stops

 

 The Man Who Lived Underground

Master Harold

Maybe Dats Your Pwoblem Too

The Mill

The Most Dangerous Game

Mother Fletcher’s Gift

My Son the Man

Perfect Day for Bananafish

Playground Elegy

Popular Mechanics

Portrait of an Alcoholic

The Possessive

A Rose For Emily

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Siren Song

Song of Myself

Sonny’s Blues

The Storm

The Sound of Thunder

The Story of an Hour

To the Ladies

Suicide’s Note

There is No Frigate Like a Book

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied (poem)

Tired with all these, for a restful death I cry (sonnet)

Quarantine (poem)

A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings

Ulysses

Wants

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

Where are you going, Where have you been

The Yellow Wallpaper

Zelig

Q2: Clips from movies, Ted-ed videos, documentaries, etc.? What visual media strongly display the desire to escape?

Alice in Wonderland

Allentown (Billy Joel)

Almost Famous

Atari (Journey)

Awakenings

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder (Twilight Zone)

Blackbird (Beatles)

The Book Thief

Born to Run (Springsteen)

The Danger of a Single Story (TED Talk)

Do the Right Thing

Escape from New York

Fences

Field of Dreams

Fire Away (Chris Stapleton)

Forrest Gump

Girl Interrupted

Good Will Hunting

The Great Escape

The Green Mile

Harold and Maude

I am Legend

I Want to Break Free (Queen)

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Independence Day (Martina McBride)

Into the Wild

Karma Police (Radiohead)

A League of Their Own

Les Miserables

Living for the City (Stevie Wonder)

The Lonely (Twilight Zone)

 

Lose Yourself (Eminem)

Man in the High Castle

The Matrix

Miami 2017 (Billy Joel)

Mississippi, Goddam (Nina Simone)

Moonlight

A Moment of Clarity (Jay Z)

The Name of the Rose

O, Brother Where Art Thou

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Chief)

Peter Pan

The Phantom of the Opera

Photos that Bear Witness to Modern Slavery (TEDTalk)

The Red Balloon (short film)

Refugee stories

S-Town (podcast)

Serial (podcast)

The Shawshank Redemption

Stranger than Fiction

Stroke of Insight (TED Talk)

Taken

Thoreau and Civil Disobedience

The Truman Show

Under Pressure (David Bowie)

A Walk in the Clouds

Wall-E

The Way Way Back

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Why a Good Book is a Secret Door (TED Talk)

The Wizard of Oz

Q4: Which non-fiction articles, essays, and blog posts touch upon the theme of the desire to escape?

1776

American Dreamless (essays)

Between the World and Me

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers

The Chase (Dillard)

The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu

Fish Cheeks

The Glass Castle

Greening the Ghetto (TED Talk)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

In Cold Blood

 

 

In Order to Live

The Meanings of a Word

My Family’s Slave

One Thousand Days in a Balloon

Sleepers

Stranger in the Village (Baldwin)

Superman and Me (Alexi)

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Question

Walden

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Zeitoun

Q5. What are some of the essential questions we can ask to help students understand the complexities of the desire to escape?

What does it mean to be human?

What is escape? Discussing all the aspects of the idea of escape will make great conversation

What forces can overpower the desire to escape?

What might people want to literally escape from?

What are some other things people might want to figuratively escape?
What are some driving factors that motivate people to escape from their situations?

Brainstorm words you associate with the word “escape”

What happens to a person when escape is forced upon them?

What are the internal and external forces that create a desire to escape?

Why do humans desire to escape from themselves?

What coping strategies do we use for temporary escape?

Questions that center around the ability of the human connection, and how language can be a form of escape.

How do people deal with adversity, stereotypes, and close-minded communities?

When might escaping from a situation backfire?

Do we escape to, or escape from?
What if what we need to escape from is inside us?
Physical? Psychological? Spiritual? Life? Death?

Does escape help or hinder? Does it solve?

What are obstacles to escape?

How do today’s stereotypes have an impact and how do we escape these?

How does a person escape one’s past?

Why do we escape?

What are things we cannot escape, but wish we could?

Does successful escape achieve the desired result?

Are there things that cannot be escaped?

s escape always the best choice?

Is there a nobler choice?

What are some ways that people may become literally or metaphorically trapped?

What makes escaping these situations difficult?

Can someone escape the past?

Is the desire to escape still purposeful even if it is a known futile attempt?

Is the desire enough?

What happens after “escape”?

What conditions make us want to escape?

You can desire escape from things that are good or not want to escape from bad–why?

What groups of people have tried to escape oppression? What/who are they escaping? Why?

Can [he/she/man] return after escaping? If so, when & under what conditions?

What might warrant an escape?

What makes a person feel hopeless?

How does the old adage “Wherever you go, there you are,” factor into the concept of escape?

When is the desire to escape negative? And when might it be positive?

Does human behavior allow for one to escape while staying in the present?

Springsteen: “This is a town full of losers. I’m pulling out of here to win.” (Thunder Rd). What does it mean to “win”?

Categorize reasons why we want/need to escape. Include obstacles/character traits/rewards that help/hinder those escapes.

Q6: What writing assignments and prompts would help students appreciate the thematic significance of the desire to escape?

Personal narrative about trying to escape a person, situation, obstacle, etc.

Have them write about their own experiences of escape (whether serious or simple) and how it impacted their lives.

A personal reflection on a time the student would like to escape. Or things about their hometown that they don’t like.

Compare/contrast the effectiveness of escape within two works and the effects (psychological/emotional/relationships)

Narrative in which Holden and Chief (from Cuckoo’s Nest) debate if it is more difficult to escape the combine or the asylum.

Interview someone who has tried to escape something (domestic abuse, addiction, obsession, etc) and write article or essay.

Have Ss write their way out of an argument from a viewpoint that they are not comfortable with

Provide Ss with an escape scene and have them analyze how the scene supports or challenges 3-4 prompts that focus on escape

Quick Write: Have you ever wanted to escape? What from? Why? Did you? If so, how? If not, why?

While I have not personally tried literary escape boxes in my class, I have friends who rave about them. 

The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms – The Atlantic

Breakout Edu

What resrouces would you add to this list?

Q3: Clips from movies, Ted-ed videos, documentaries, etc.? What visual media strongly display the desire to escape?

Alice in Wonderland

Allentown (Billy Joel)

Almost Famous

Atari (Journey)

Awakenings

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder (Twilight Zone)

Blackbird (Beatles)

The Book Thief

Born to Run (Springsteen)

The Danger of a Single Story (TED Talk)

Do the Right Thing

Escape from New York

Fences

Field of Dreams

Fire Away (Chris Stapleton)

Forrest Gump

Girl Interrupted

Good Will Hunting

The Great Escape

The Green Mile

Harold and Maude

I am Legend

I Want to Break Free (Queen)

If I Ever Get Out of Here

Independence Day (Martina McBride)

Into the Wild

Karma Police (Radiohead)

A League of Their Own

Les Miserables

Living for the City (Stevie Wonder)

The Lonely (Twilight Zone)

 Lose Yourself (Eminem)

Man in the High Castle

The Matrix

Miami 2017 (Billy Joel)

Mississippi, Goddam (Nina Simone)

Moonlight

A Moment of Clarity (Jay Z)

The Name of the Rose

O, Brother Where Art Thou

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Chief)

Peter Pan

The Phantom of the Opera

Photos that Bear Witness to Modern Slavery (TEDTalk)

The Red Balloon (short film)

Refugee stories

S-Town (podcast)

Serial (podcast)

The Shawshank Redemption

Stranger than Fiction

Stroke of Insight (TED Talk)

Taken

Thoreau and Civil Disobedience

The Truman Show

Under Pressure (David Bowie)

A Walk in the Clouds

Wall-E

The Way Way Back

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Why a Good Book is a Secret Door (TED Talk)

The Wizard of Oz

Q4: Which non-fiction articles, essays, and blog posts touch upon the theme of the desire to escape?

1776

American Dreamless (essays)

Between the World and Me

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers

The Chase (Dillard)

The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu

Fish Cheeks

The Glass Castle

Greening the Ghetto (TED Talk)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

In Cold Blood

 

 

In Order to Live

The Meanings of a Word

My Family’s Slave

One Thousand Days in a Balloon

Sleepers

Stranger in the Village (Baldwin)

Superman and Me (Alexi)

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Question

Walden

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

Zeitoun

Q5. What are some of the essential questions we can ask to help students understand the complexities of the desire to escape?

What does it mean to be human?

What is escape? Discussing all the aspects of the idea of escape will make great conversation

What forces can overpower the desire to escape?

What might people want to literally escape from?

What are some other things people might want to figuratively escape?
What are some driving factors that motivate people to escape from their situations?

Brainstorm words you associate with the word “escape”

What happens to a person when escape is forced upon them?

What are the internal and external forces that create a desire to escape?

Why do humans desire to escape from themselves?

What coping strategies do we use for temporary escape?

Questions that center around the ability of the human connection, and how language can be a form of escape.

How do people deal with adversity, stereotypes, and close minded communities?

When might escaping from a situation backfire?

Do we escape to, or escape from?
What if what we need to escape from is inside us?
Physical? Psychological? Spiritual? Life? Death?

Does escape help or hinder? Does it solve?

What are obstacles to escape?

How do today’s stereotypes have an impact and how do we escape these?

How does a person escape one’s past?

Why do we escape?

What are things we cannot escape, but wish we could?

oes successful escape achieve the desired result?

Are there things that cannot be escaped?

s escape always the best choice?

Is there a nobler choice?

What are some ways that people may become literally or metaphorically trapped?

What makes escaping these situations difficult?

Can someone escape the past?

Is the desire to escape still purposeful even if it is a known futile attempt?

Is the desire enough?

What happens after “escape”?

What conditions make us want to escape?

You can desire escape from things that are good or not want to escape from bad–why?

What groups of people have tried to escape oppression? What/who are they escaping? Why?

Can [he/she/man] return after escaping? If so, when & under what conditions?

What might warrant an escape?

What makes a person feel hopeless?

How does the old adage “Wherever you go, there you are,” factor into the concept of escape?

When is the desire to escape negative? And when might it be positive?

Does human behavior allow for one to escape while staying in the present?

Springsteen: “This is a town full of losers. I’m pulling out of here to win.” (Thunder Rd). What does it mean to “win”?

Categorize reasons why we want/need to escape. Include obstacles/character traits/rewards that help/hinder those escapes.

Q6: What writing assignments and prompts would help students appreciate the thematic significance of the desire to escape?

Personal narrative about trying to escape a person, situation, obstacle, etc.

Have them write about their own experiences of escape (whether serious or simple) and how it impacted their lives.

A personal reflection on a time the student would like to escape. Or things about their hometown that they don’t like.

Compare/contrast the effectiveness of escape within two works and the effects (psychological/emotional/relationships)

Narrative in which Holden and Chief (from Cuckoo’s Nest) debate if it is more difficult to escape the combine or the asylum.

Interview someone who has tried to escape something (domestic abuse, addiction, obsession, etc) and write article or essay.

Have Ss write their way out of an argument from a viewpoint that they are not comfortable with

Provide Ss with an escape scene and have them analyze how the scene supports or challenges 3-4 prompts that focus on escape

Quick Write: Have you ever wanted to escape? What from? Why? Did you? If so, how? If not, why?

Have you heard of escape activities and learning boxes for the classroom? I have not used one but have friends who rave about them.

The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms – The Atlantic

Breakout Edu

2 thoughts on “Escape from the Ordinary Unit

  1. How about using Dante’s Purgatorio? It is an under-studied masterpiece. Dante escapes his addictions “with a little help from his friends” Beatrice, Vergil, and Saint Lucy.

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