For Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
  • Thomas Edison's Inventions in the 1900s and Today: From "New" to You!

    Edison vitascope

    This lesson plan introduces students to Thomas Edison’s life and inventions. It asks students to compare and contrast life around 1900 with their own lives and helps students understand the connections between the technological advancements of the early twentieth century and contemporary society and culture.

  • Was There an Industrial Revolution? New Workplace, New Technology, New Consumers

    Image Courtesy of American Memory.

    In this lesson, students explore the First Industrial Revolution in early nineteenth-century America. Through simulation activities and the examination of primary historical materials, students learn how changes in the workplace and less expensive goods led to the transformation of American life.

  • Walt Whitman to Langston Hughes: Poems for a Democracy

    Walt Whitman.

    Walt Whitman sought to create a new and distinctly American form of poetry. His efforts had a profound influence on subsequent generations of American poets. In this lesson, students will explore the historical context of Whitman's concept of "democratic poetry" by reading his poetry and prose and by examining daguerreotypes taken circa 1850. Next, students will compare the poetic concepts and techniques behind Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" and Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," and will have an opportunity to apply similar concepts and techniques in creating a poem from their own experience.

  • Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe

    Walt Whitman.

    Clues to Walt Whitman's effort to create a new and distinctly American form of verse may be found in his Notebooks, now available online from the American Memory Collection. In an entry to be examined in this lesson, Whitman indicated that he wanted his poetry to explore important ideas of a universal scope (as in the European tradition), but in authentic American situations and settings using specific details with direct appeal to the senses.

  • Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and the Unreliable Biographers

    Engraving by Robert Anderson based on 1848 daguerreotype.

    We are naturally curious about the lives (and deaths) of authors, especially those, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce, who have left us with so many intriguing mysteries. But does biographical knowledge add to our understanding of their works? And if so, how do we distinguish between the accurate detail and the rumor, between truth and slander? In this lesson, students become literary sleuths, attempting to separate biographical reality from myth. They also become careful critics, taking a stand on whether extra-literary materials such as biographies and letters should influence the way readers understand a writer's texts.

  • Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and the Unreliable Narrator

    Edgar Allen Poe.

    Help your students consider a variety of narrative stances in Edgar Allen Poe's short story, "Tell Tale Heart," and Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

  • Dust Bowl Days

    Eighteen-year-old mother from Oklahoma, now a California migrant.

    Students will be introduced to this dramatic era in our nation's history through photographs, songs and interviews with people who lived through the Dust Bowl.

  • Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context

    Depiction of Huckleberry Finn on 1917 sheet music cover

    By studying Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn, and its critics with a focus on cultural context, students will develop essential analytical tools for navigating this text and for exploring controversies that surround this quintessential American novel.

  • Not Everyone Lived in Castles During the Middle Ages

    Detail from the Calendar page for June, the “Book of Hours” ( Les Tres  Riches Heures du Duc de Berry)

    In this lesson, students will learn about the lifestyle of the wealthy elite and then expand their view of medieval society by exploring the lives of the peasants, craftsmen, and monks.

  • Evaluating Eyewitness Reports

    Eyewitness

    Practice working with primary documents by comparing accounts of the Chicago Fire and testing the credibility of a Civil War diary.