For Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
  • 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."

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • "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.

  • 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.

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

    Antiquity thumb

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

  • Midnight Ride of Paul Revere: Fact, Fiction, and Artistic License

    The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Grant Wood

    This lesson encourages close study of Wood's painting, American Revolution primary sources, and Longfellow's poem to understand the significance of this historical ride in America's struggle for freedom. By reading primary sources, students learn how Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride became an American story of patriotism.

  • 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?

  • 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.