Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" (3 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

Kate Chopin's The Awakening is a frank look at a woman's life at the turn of the 19th century. Published in 1899, Chopin's novella shocked critics and audiences alike, who showed little sympathy for the author or her central protagonist, Edna Pontellier. A master of craft, Chopin wrote a forceful novel about a woman who questioned not only her role in society, but the standards of society itself.

In this curriculum unit, students will explore how Chopin stages the possible roles for women in Edna's time and culture through the examples of other characters in the novella. By showing what Edna's options are, Chopin also exhibits why those roles failed to satisfy Edna's desires. As students pursue this central theme, they will also learn about Chopin, her life, and the culture and literary traditions in which she wrote. Many late 19th century writers reacted against an earlier wave of sentimental writings, focusing instead on an approach more akin to “realism”—studies of daily affairs and commonplace events. Part of Chopin's realism relies on regionalism or local color writing, a style of writing that emphasizes regional differences in terms of language, dialect, religion, cultural expectations, class societies, and so on. Readers follow Edna—a Protestant from Kentucky—in her encounters with Catholic Creole society in Louisiana. Edna's role as “outsider” allows for a comparison between two different Southern cultures and her awakening in part results from the clash of the two world views.

Guiding Questions

  • How does The Awakening speak to the roles of women and the conventions of literature at the end of the 19th century?
  • How does Kate Chopin use other characters in The Awakening in order to cast Edna Pontellier's desires—and social limitations—in sharp relief?

Learning Objectives

  • Learn Kate Chopin's place in literary history
  • Define literary realism and discuss it as a style in American literature
  • Reflect on how culture and setting plays an important role in a novel, especially in local color and regional literature
  • Analyze Edna Pontellier's character development specifically in relation to other characters in the novella and generally in relation to women's roles in 19th-century America

Preparation Instructions

Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.

Download, print, and copy for students the PDF, used in Lesson 3.

Electronic Texts

E-texts of The Awakening are freely available at the following locations:

Realism

The websites used in Lesson 2 provide a greater amount of detail -- and complication -- of literary realism of the 19th century, but the following two definitions serve as good starting points.

In its literary usage, the term realism is often defined as a method or form in fiction that provides a "slice of life," an "accurate representation of reality."
— from the Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, ed. Joseph Childers and Gary Hentzi

Literary realism is a 19th century conception related to industrial capitalism. In general, it means the use of the imagination to represent things as common sense supposes they are.
—from Bloomsbury Guide to Literature, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies

Literary realism is a variable, complex, and often argued about concept. No one work is a perfect example of 'realism'—Lesson 2 allows students to read through some basic attributes of realist literature in order to use that context to examine The Awakening. Practitioners of a realist style in the American tradition include William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, and Henry James.

Local Color and Regionalism

These two literary terms are often used interchangeably, and certainly they have many similarities. For the purposes of this lesson, students should not need to differentiate between the two, but for the teacher's clarity the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, excerpted in the EDSITEment-reviewed website Documenting the American South, distinguishes them as follows:

Although the terms regionalism and local color are sometimes used interchangeably, regionalism generally has broader connotations. Whereas local color is often applied to a specific literary mode that flourished in the late 19th century, regionalism implies a recognition from the colonial period to the present of differences among specific areas of the country. Additionally, regionalism refers to an intellectual movement encompassing regional consciousness beginning in the 1930s.

In The Awakening, as well as her short stories, Chopin frequently focused on the Creole culture of Louisiana. Unique regional features included a heritage that drew from French and Spanish ancestry, a complex caste system, the settings of urban New Orleans and rural vacation retreats like Grand Isle (located on the Gulf Coast). Chopin's use of a culturally foreign protagonist—Edna was a protestant from Kentucky, rather than a French-speaking Catholic Creole like her husband—casts cultural differences into even sharper relief. Specific textual examples of Edna's encounter with Creole culture can be found in Lesson 2.

Unfamiliar Words and French Phrases

Chopin's The Awakening is set in Louisiana—in the resort town of Grand Isle, as well as New Orleans. Often, the characters slip into French phrases, or Chopin uses words that might be unfamiliar to students—such as Creole or quadroon. Students should be encouraged to use either a print or online dictionary while reading—the Internet Public Library has several available, including Dictionary.com, which provides both English and French dictionaries.

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > People > Women
Skills
  • Creative writing
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural analysis
  • Developing a hypothesis
  • Discussion
  • Essay writing
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Expository writing
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Literary analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Visual analysis
  • Writing skills
Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5
Curriculum Unit

What Happens in the White House? (3 Lessons)

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The Unit

Overview

"At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe,  Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.

"At the White House, President Truman Announces Japan's Surrender." Abbie Rowe, Washington, DC, August 14, 1945.

Credit: Image courtesy of the National Archives.

The “President's House,” built under George Washington's personal supervision, was the finest residence in the land and possibly the largest. In a nation of wooden houses, it was built of stone and ornamented with understated stone flourishes. It did not fit everyone's concept for the home of the leader of the young democracy. Abigail Adams found it cold; Thomas Jefferson thought it too big and impractical. He added gardens, a cooking stove, and storage.

Whatever one's opinion of the original design, our nation is now inseparably associated with the White House. There, the essential business of the land is conducted every day. There, our history has been made and reflected.

In this unit, students take a close look at the White House in recent times and throughout our history.

Note: This lesson may be taught either as a stand-alone lesson or as a complement to the EDSITEment curriculum unit From the White House of Yesterday to the White House of Today.

Guiding Questions

  • What functions does our presidential residence serve?
  • How has the White House been touched by the great events of our nation's history?

Learning Objectives

  • List activities that take place at the White House.
  • Create a chronology of important events that have occurred at or directly affected the White House.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the lesson plans. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • Download the Master PDF. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of any handouts you plan to use in class.
  • Download and make one copy each of the archival images for the activities. Many images have been selected to facilitate flexibility. Use as many or as few as appropriate. Assign them to groups as best suits your class. Keep some aside, for example, for groups that finish more quickly, or use all of them to make groups as small as possible.
  • Prepare a place in the classroom for a History of the White House Timeline, on which you will post the images. You or your students with technical expertise may wish to create an html document with links to relevant images.
  • Extensive background information on every aspect of the White House is available from the White House Historical Association, a link from the EDSITEment resource Explore DC.

The Lessons

The Basics

Grade Level

3-5

Subject Areas
  • Art and Culture > Medium > Architecture
  • History and Social Studies
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Art History
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > Place > The Americas
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. History
Skills
  • Analysis
  • Cultural analysis
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Oral Communication
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Summarizing
  • Synthesis
  • Using primary sources
Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
Curriculum Unit

Civil War: A "Terrible Swift Sword" (3 Lessons)

Created July 17, 2010

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The Unit

Overview

Whether it be called the Civil War, the War between the States, the War of the Rebellion, or the War for Southern Independence, the events of the years 1861-1865 were the most traumatic in the nation's history. The secession of the southern states, and President Lincoln's decision to prevent them forcibly from leaving the Union, triggered a conflict that would see fighting on battlefields as far apart as Pennsylvania and Texas, Missouri and Florida, and would leave nearly a million Americans on both sides dead or wounded. Indeed, casualties in the Civil War exceeded those of every other war in which the United States has ever participated, combined.

But the sheer costs of the war were matched by its importance. It was fought over two basic questions-whether it was legal under the U.S. Constitution for a state to leave the constitution, and whether the practice of chattel slavery was consistent with the nation's founding principles. The Union victory established that the answer to both questions was no.

This curriculum unit will introduce students to several important questions pertaining to the war. In the first, they will examine original documents and statistics in an attempt to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each side at the start of the conflict. The second addresses the two turning points of the war-the concurrent battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg-as well as the morality of the Union's use of "total war" tactics against the population of the South. Finally, in the third lesson students will examine a series of case studies in Abraham Lincoln's wartime leadership; by using primary sources they will be asked to assess whether, based on his performance during his first term of office, he deserved a second.

Guiding Questions

  • Which side possessed the overall advantage at the start of the Civil War?
  • How did the Union win the war?
  • Did Lincoln's performance as a wartime president during his first term of office justify his reelection in 1864?

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of the North and South using various primary source documents.
  • Analyze the economic advantages possessed by both sides on the eve of the Civil War.
  • Compare and contrast each side's strategic objectives for the war.
  • Explain Great Britain's interests in the Civil War, and how they might have affected the balance of forces between the two sides.
  • Explain why the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg were the turning points of the war.
  • Evaluate the role of Sherman's "total war" tactics in bringing about a Union victory.
  • Argue whether it was necessary for Abraham Lincoln to suspend habeas corpus.
  • Assess whether the Emancipation Proclamation was sound wartime policy.
  • Explain why the decision to arm slaves was so controversial in the North.
  • Evaluate Lincoln's refusal to conclude a compromise peace with the Confederacy.
  • Identify the major issues in the 1864 presidential election, and make an overall judgment as to whether Lincoln deserved a second term.

Preparation Instructions

Review each lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and links from EDSITEment-reviewed websites. Download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. Alternatively, excerpted versions of these documents are available as part of the downloadable PDF, such as this one for Lesson Plan One.

Download the Text Documents for each lesson, available as PDFs, such as this one for Lesson Plan One. This file contains excerpted versions of the documents used in the first and second activities, as well as questions for students to answer. Print out and make an appropriate number of copies of the handouts you plan to use in class.

Working with Primary Sources

If your students lack experience in dealing with primary sources, you might use one or more preliminary exercises to help them develop these skills. The Learning Page at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress includes a set of such activities. Another useful resource is the Digital Classroom of the National Archives, which features a set of Document Analysis Worksheets. Finally, History Matters offers pages on "Making Sense of Maps" and "Making Sense of Oral History" which give helpful advice to teachers in getting their students to use such sources effectively.

The Lessons

  • Lesson 1: On the Eve of War: North vs. South

    Created July 17, 2010
    A Confederate artillery battery at Charleston, South Carolina

    This lesson will examine the economic, military and diplomatic strengths and weaknesses of the North and South on the eve of the Civil War. In making these comparisons students will use maps and read original documents to decide which side, if any, had an overall advantage at the start of the war.

  • Lesson 2: The Battles of the Civil War

    Created July 17, 2010
    "A Harvest of Death."

    Through the use of maps and original documents, this lesson will focus on the key battles of the Civil War, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and show how the battles contributed to its outcome. It will also examine the "total war" strategy of General Sherman, and the role of naval warfare in bringing about a Union victory.

  • Lesson 3: Abraham Lincoln and Wartime Politics

    Created July 17, 2010
    The re-election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in 1864

    This lesson will look at the partisan political issues which emerged in the election of 1864 around Abraham Lincoln's role as a wartime president. Through an examination of primary documents, students will focus on Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, the Emancipation Proclamation, his decision to arm the freed slaves, his refusal to accept a compromise peace with the South, and the election of 1864.

The Basics

Grade Level

9-12

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > People > Women
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Globalization
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Immigration/Migration
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Politics and Citizenship
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Reform
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > War and Foreign Policy
Skills
  • Compare and contrast
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Debate
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Internet skills
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Online research
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using primary sources
  • Visual analysis
  • Vocabulary
  • Writing skills
  • 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.

  • Japanese Poetry: Tanka? You're Welcome!

    Japanese garden with pond. photo by Harry M. Rhoads

    This unit on the Japanese poetic form tanka encourages students to explore the structure and content of the form and to arrive at a definition of the tanka’s structure in English. Students will read and analyze the tanka form and compare it to English structures of poetry, and will finally compose their own tankas.

  • The Royal Art of Benin

    Benin Kingdom people, Nigeria, mask

    This lesson plan introduces students to art of the West African kingdom of Benin, which flourished from the 12th or 13th to the end of the 19th centuries in what is now southern Nigeria. Students learn about how the royal power of the king of Benin was communicated through brass plaques and use symbolism to create their own paper plaques.

  • Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle Has Landed

    Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec God of War.

    This lesson introduces students to the Aztec Empire and people and to the legend of their founding of Tenochtitlan, the city that later became the capital of Mexico.

  • Portrait of a Hero

    Benjamin  Franklin.

    Heroes abound throughout history and in our everyday lives. After completing the activities, students will be able to understand the meaning of the words hero and heroic.

  • Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

    Animals of the Chinese Zodiac image

    In this lesson plan, students will learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. In the process, they will learn about Chinese culture, as well as improve reading, writing, and researching skills.

  • La Familia

    La Fmilia: Homemade dolls

    This lesson on Spanish language and culture focuses on the family and keeps the lessons simple and age-appropriate. Students will learn about Spanish families and gain a preliminary knowledge of the Spanish language, learning the Spanish names for various family members.