For Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Sophocles' Antigone: Ancient Greek Theatre, Live From Antiquity!

    Antiquity thumb

    Return to ancient Athens for the world premier of Antigone, a play by Sophocles.

  • 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.

  • To Kill A Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys Trial: Profiles in Courage

    The Scottsboro Boys with their lawyer and guards (UPI photo, March, 1933).

    Students study select court transcripts and other primary source material from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African-American youths of rape.

  • Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird": Profiles in Courage

    To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee and Mary Badham

    This lesson plan asks students to read To Kill A Mockingbird carefully with an eye for all instances and manifestations of courage, but particularly those of moral courage.

  • A Story of Epic Proportions: What makes a Poem an Epic?

    Priam, King of Troy

    Some of the most well known, and most important, works of literature in the world are examples of epic poetry. This lesson will introduce students to the epic poem form and to its roots in oral tradition.

  • 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.

  • After the American Revolution: Free African Americans in the North

    Photograph of Sojourner Truth

    About one-third of Patriot soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill were African Americans. Census data also reveal that there were slaves and free Blacks living in the North in 1790 and later years. What were the experiences of African-American individuals in the North in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War?

  • Leonardo da Vinci: Creative Genius

    Leonardo Vitruvian

    Leonardo da Vinci—one of history’s most imaginative geniuses—was certainly born at the right time and in the right place. In this lesson plan, the students will explore Leonardo da Vinci and the age in which he lived and consider the meaning of the Greek quotation, “Man is the measure of all things” and why it particularly applies to the Renaissance and to Leonardo.