• Metaphorical Gold: Mining the Gold Rush for Stories

    Bound for the Klondike gold fields. Chilkoot Pass, Alaska.

    Explore the Alaskan Gold Rush by "mining" EDSITEment resources for primary texts and period photographs. Just as writer Jack London discovered "metaphorical gold" in the Yukon, students can search several online databases for period details that will enhance their own narratives based on the Gold Rush era.

  • Esperanza Rising: Learning Not to Be Afraid to Start Over

    Mexican woman farm laborer picking tomatoes in a California field, 1938.

    In this lesson students will look behind the story at the historical, social, and cultural circumstances that help account for the great contrasts and contradictions that Esperanza experiences when she moves to California. The lesson also invites students to contemplate some of the changes Esperanza undergoes as she grows from a pampered child into a resourceful and responsible young woman.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Courage

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane presents war through the eyes —and thoughts —of one soldier. The narrative’s altered point of view and stylistic innovations enable a heightened sense of realism while setting the work apart from war stories written essentially as tributes or propaganda.

  • Pioneer Values in Willa Cather's "My Antonia"

    Portrait of Willa Cather from the Carl Van Vechten collection,

    Students learn about the social and historical context of Willa Cather’s My Antonia and work in groups to explore Cather's commentary on fortitude, hard work, faithfulness, and other values that we associate with pioneer life.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Realism

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    The Red Badge of Courage’s success reflects the birth of a modern sensibility; today we feel something is true when it looks like the sort of thing we see in newspapers or on television news.

  • 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.

  • The "Secret Society" and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

    "Jazz Baby," 1919. From Historic American Sheet Music, 1850–1920

    In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, "class struggle" is portrayed as an intensely personal affair, as much a tension within the mind of a single character as a conflict between characters. Students' own experience of the struggle to belong can provide a starting point for an exploration of the mixed emotions--jealousy, admiration, desire, resentment--that characterize main character Nick Caraway's attitude towards the "secret society" of wealthy Easterners. Other lesson activities also include a close study of the text and an examination of Fitzgerald's letters and other statements.

  • Jack London's The Call of the Wild: "Nature Faker"?

    Photo of the dog that inspired Jack London's Buck. Copyright Richard Bond and  Helen Abott.

    A critic of writer Jack London called his animal protagonists “men in fur,” suggesting that his literary creations flaunted the facts of natural history.  London responded to such criticism by maintaining that his own creations were based on sound science and in fact represented “…a protest against the ‘humanizing’ of animals, of which it seemed to me several ‘animal writers’ had been profoundly guilty.”  How well does London succeed in avoiding such “humanizing” in his portrayal of Buck, the hero of his novel, The Call of the Wild? 

  • Lesson 5: Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Concluding the Novel

    Portrait of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten.

    In this lesson, students discuss interpretations of Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying as they examine the themes of hope and loss.