Barile '90 G'93 Taps "The Walking Dead" for Student-Centered Learning

Longtime Revere High School English teacher Nancy Barile '90 G'93 is using the popular AMC show "The Walking Dead" to bring student-centered learning to her classroom.

Using this method, lessons are not one-size-fits all, but rather structured around students' needs and interests, as well as the different paces and teaching styles that suit each as an individual.

"Give them more control over the manner in which they're taught and how their work is assessed and you'll produce more involved, successful students," wrote Nick Chiles in his recent Boston Globe Magazine feature on Barile. "In history, students might pick historical characters and analyze major events of their era from the character's perspective. Math students might flip the class, watching videos explaining the concept beforehand, then use the teacher as a coach during class time—if they need help."

Most days in Nancy Barile's English course at Revere High School, a visitor might begin to wonder when the real class is going to start. Discussions focus on plot points, character development, and persuasive writing, yes, but the text at their center isn't Hamlet or Catcher in the Rye. It's the television series The Walking Dead. Three years ago a student who wasn't completing his work dared Barile to watch the zombie show, saying he'd study if she did. Another teacher might have balked, but Barile had helped organize a punk rock scene growing up in Philadelphia and brings that "why not try it?" ethos to her teaching. She watched the series and then built an entire curriculum around it (content rated TV-MA means the course is only open to juniors and seniors). "The show has everything-sociology, psychology, interpersonal relations, ethics," says Barile, who is in her 24th year of teaching. "We watch the show and dissect it."

Check out the full feature in Boston Globe Magazine.

Nancy Barile and some of her students. Photo by Webb Chappell for the Boston Globe

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