Closer Readings Commentary

New Resources for ELA Classrooms

EDSITEment has developed a couple new ELA Literature resources around ELA Common Core State Standards Exemplars. We hope you will enjoy them!

Launchpad: O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”: A Common Core Exemplar

After Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe, William Sydney Porter may be the most widely-read author in the world. You can find out why he bears the title, “Master of the Short Story,” on Ohioana Authors, which provides more on the colorful background on the author who wrote under the pen name O. Henry.

“The Gift of the Magi” is one of O. Henry’s most popular and beloved short stories. It has been rendered into film adaptations that are rolled out during the Christmas season. This classic tale of giving with O. Henry’s signature “twist-ending” has long been a model for later writers. Literary legend has it this story was penned by the author in the second booth from the front of Healy's Tavern on Irving Place in New York City. This story was initially published in The New York Sunday World under another title "Gifts of the Magi" on December 10, 1905. It was first published in book form in 1906, in The Four Million.

EDSITEment has developed a new student resource, Launchpad: “A Gift of the Magi”: A Common Core exemplar” with excerpts from the original text to guide English Language Arts students through an independent close reading of this short story. The resource includes selected websites for students to glean necessary background information on references within the text.

Dramatic and Theatrical Aspects in Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town": A Common Core Exemplar

Unitarian church

For almost a century, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has provided audiences with an exceptionally moving theatrical experience despite its minimal sets and only a handful of props—indeed, the play begins with the Stage Manager on an empty stage, dragging a few chairs and tables into their places while the theater audience is still taking their seats. The power of this play emanates from its simplicity: allusions to spectacle (what the audience sees and hears) without distracting production; elegant characterization and character development; and essential human conflicts and contrasts that animate the stage.

The activities in this lesson require students to be active observers, sensitive to the playwright’s subtle use of these dramatic and theatrical devices to shape his drama. Students will focus on the sights and sounds of the play to discover their impact on mood and theme; they will scrutinize Wilder’s character development to understand the many individual dramas that constitute the overarching drama; and they will investigate conflicts and contrasts whose resolutions or lack thereof have made the play meaningful to so many readers and audiences.