Saucon Valley School District Planned Course of Study

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Saucon Valley School District
Planned Course of Study

Course Title: American Literature

Grade Level: 11th Grade

Credits: One

Content Area or Department: English Language Arts

Length of Course: Semester

Author(s): Maya Kowalcyk and Barbara Psathas

Course Description:

A course in American Literature usually is structured to evolve chronologically showing how social, political, and economic events shape the voices that articulate the American identity. This American Literature course, however, will focus on the voices that comprise the American spirit. This course will engage students to follow the changes in the voices and narratives of a variety of significant authors. As students explore these authors’ and poets’ voices, they will become skilled readers of texts written in a variety of periods, disciplines, and rhetorical contexts. Moreover, students will develop their own voices in their writings. Gaining new insights into American culture, students will recognize the unique role literature plays in both shaping and reflecting culture.

Course Rationale:

American Literature CP provides students with the landscape of the American literary tradition. Students will explore how political, social, and economic events shape and give life to the voices that define us as Americans. Aligned with the Common Core standards, this course encourages the development of the progressive levels of understanding in reading, writing, and thinking skills. After students complete Composition, English Literature, and successfully master the Keystone Exam in Literature, they will choose two of the three mandatory courses: American Literature, British Literature, or World Literature. It is expected that the choice of these two courses will provide students with a foundation of understanding and the ability to practice the skills of communication necessary for higher education and/or the work force.

Table of Contents
Unit One 4
Unit Two 11
Unit Three 23
Unit Four 29
Unit Five 36
Writing and Grammar 45
Vocabulary 47

Curriculum Map (Semester Long Course)

Typical # of Weeks


Quarter X

9 weeks

Unit 1: The Anatomy of an American Voice

  • Framework

  • The Great Gatsby

Unit 2: American Voices and their Audiences

  • Persuasive writing (nonfiction)

  • The Crucible

  • The Romantics, Transcendentalists, and the Gothic Tradition

Vocabulary (taught throughout the semester)


Quarter Y

9 weeks

Unit 3: Comedy or Controversy

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • satire

Unit 4: The Voice of the American Poet

  • Anne Bradstreet/ Phillis Wheatley

  • Emerson

  • Poe

  • Dickinson and Whitman

  • Harlem Renaissance

  • The Beat Generation

Unit 5: The Personal Voice

  • The Things They Carried

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

  • Creative essay

  • College essay

Vocabulary (taught throughout the semester)


Unit Title:

Unit One: Anatomy of an American Voice

Unit Overview:

The purpose of this unit is to first provide a chronological background of American literature so that students have a general understanding of each literary movement and the relationship between each movement. Second, this unit will provide an opportunity for students to deepen their research and writing skills. Third, this unit will give the student an understanding of major stylistic devices used in literature--both in fiction and nonfiction.

Essential Questions:

What is American literature, and what are the defining characteristics of the major literary movements, beginning with Native American myth?
In what ways does voice contribute to the authority of an argument?
How does an understanding of stylistic and rhetorical devices allow for a more complete and complex understanding of a text?

Focus Standards:









Key Unit Terminology

(literary movements/time periods): Native American, Puritan, Enlightenment, Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Realism, Naturalism, Regionalism, Modern Age, Harlem Renaissance, Contemporary, and Gothic literature; diction, imagery, syntax, tone, simile, metaphor, denotation, connotation, the Lost Generation


Learning Objectives - The student will...

Assessment Opportunities

Identify and define prominent literary movements and explain the relationships between those movements.

Interpret information from multiple print and digital sources on a specific literary movement by conducting research.
Assess strengths and limitations of multiple sources and integrate into student’s own text effectively, without plagiarizing.

Compose a research outline in MLA format that organizes the information gathered, including student’s own research notes in teacher’s preferred format.
Produce a multi-media presentation on a given literary movement that explains its relationship to the time period and to previous and later movements.
Identify and give examples of key characteristics of this movement by doing a “Word Splash” on the board for each movement.
As a class, produce a timeline of American literature from each group’s research results.

Demonstrate satisfactory literal comprehension of The Great Gatsby.
Demonstrate sophisticated comprehension of figurative and connotative meanings of words and phrases author has chosen through close readings.
Analyze style elements, such as tone, diction, and imagery through close readings.
Develop and demonstrate sophisticated comprehension of how and why a writer employs syntactical features.
Analyze the socio and economic culture in America from the end of WWI through the decade of the Twenties.
Recognize and understand manifestations of the American Dream as it appears in early 20th Century.
Contextually place The Great Gatsby within the decade of the 1920s history and literature.

Compare the class struggles of early twentieth century (e.g., the Buchanans and the Wilsons).

Combine critical thinking, textual analysis, and imaginative writing skills.
Analyze the themes of hope, self-discovery, illusion, paradox, and the corruption of the American Dream.
Articulate a viewpoint and support it by using text.
Compose an effective, well-organized style analysis essay on a specific topic related to the novel.
Develop and demonstrate sophisticated vocabulary when analyzing a piece of writing.
Demonstrate the ability to effectively analyze a writing prompt in a timed setting.
Use effective transition words and phrases.

In small groups and as a class, students will use a dictionary to look up denotative meanings and discuss orally and in writing denotative and connotative/figurative meanings and how they contribute to the tone, diction and imagery in the novel.

Students will complete a short one- to two-period research scavenger hunt on the background of WWI through the Twenties and draw connections to Gatsby orally and in writing.

Other assessment opportunities include short essays on the theme of The American Dream, DIGITAL BLOGS (on Moodle or a Wiki) containing examples of Gatsby’s style, comments on the subject of class in the novel, and on the additional themes of hope, self-discovery, illusion, and paradox.
Another possible assessment is a literal comprehension test on The Great Gatsby.

Summative assessment essay analyzes a particular style element from the novel and includes textual support.

Sequence of Teaching and Learning


Lesson Topics

Lesson Activities

1 block

Overview and philosophy of American literature chronology

Students will brainstorm as a class their preconceptions of “American literature” and access prior knowledge

Students will complete a teacher-generated general scavenger hunt, in pairs, on the major characteristics of each time period in American literature


Research strategies and procedures

Students will create a multi-media group presentation to teach their assigned time period to their classmates. This will be preceded by any or all of the following activities:

Complete a short research activity in which students examine and analyze a variety of print and non-print sources for reliability


MLA format and note-taking

Guided notes on correct MLA research format for Works Cited

Students will practice paraphrasing of ideas from the text.


Library research strategies

Library time, 2-3 blocks, for database and research strategies review


Group work and presentations

Working with group members, combine each student’s research material into a single presentation.

Plan and practice presenting professionally.

Present to the class.


Introduction of Gatsby with vocabulary and Chapter 1.

Difficult vocabulary that students will encounter in Gatsby will be made familiar by students completing vocabulary activities: definitions, connotations, visual representations, original sentences, paragraphs, etc.


Gatsby Introduction: 1920’s setting and reading strategies

Introduction: Students will watch video clip or the film Midnight in Paris. Teacher will provide background of why “Gil” is in Paris in the present time and then show the excerpt in which the protagonist climbs into the car and travels with the Fitzgeralds, meets Hemingway, Gertrude stein, etc. Students should note the dress, the attitudes, the music, the dance, the lack of self-restraint, etch. in the film. Students will be introduced to the “Lost Generation.”
Read two nonfiction editorials on restraint and lack of self-restraint. Complete comparison chart.

Read the first chapter of Gatsby together to model “think aloud” strategy to students. Ask questions, make comments, make inferences based on elements of the text.



Students will complete a character chart as they read through the novel. After each reading assignment, teacher will review major character elements for students to have recorded in their charts. Possible topics of discussion:

· Nick as unreliable narrator

· Daisy as symbol of unreachable American Dream

· Tom as unintelligent bully

· “old rich” vs. “new rich”

· the Midwest vs. the East

· Myrtle and George as working class in the Valley of the Ashes

· Jordan Baker as the “new woman”

· Jay Gatsby as foolish dreamer, “new rich”



Identify and analyze textual examples of figurative language in Gatsby.

Work with partners to identify and explain metaphor, simile, imagery, paradox, diction, syntax, tone. Each pair will be assigned a certain section of a chapter in which to find an example of a stylistic element. Students will brainstorm an analysis of this element in their writing journals or on a separate sheet of paper and share their information with the class.



Complete a basic plot summary chart in small groups to review elements of plot structure and as a review of the novel. Use visual representations cut from magazines to design a poster and to bring in other learning styles. Review the terms exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.


Gatsby analysis essay

Building on prewriting analysis of figurative language in Gatsby, write an analysis essay that examines a particular stylistic element in Fitzgerald’s novel.

Thesis lesson activity. Teacher directed notes on effective thesis statements. Students will practice writing thesis statements with partners on various topics given by teacher. Then students will write their own thesis statement on their chosen essay topic according to the guidelines.


Writing introductions

Students will read samples of various types of introductions, pick a style, and then write an introduction in that format.


Timed Writing

Students may use their prewriting for their thesis statement and their introduction. At the beginning of the class, students will begin typing their essay. They will have one full block to finish.

Resources for this Unit

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Related Readings

  • Excerpt from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: A Bold and Arduous Project Arriving at Moral Perfection

  • Video: Midnight in Paris (2011)

  • Video: The Great Gatsby (1978)

Unit Title:

Unit Two: American Voices and Their Audiences

Unit Overview:

This unit will center around a variety of fiction and non-fiction works and their persuasive influence on society. Students will read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and other short texts for elements of effective persuasive speech and writing. The unit will culminate in students writing their own persuasive speech and essay. It is also hoped that Unit 2 will help students develop into discerning citizens, more aware of how they are targeted as an audience by writers/speakers employing language to persuade and/or influence them.

Essential Questions:

In what ways are individuals targeted as an audience by writers/speakers employing language to persuade and/or influence them?
How did America’s Puritan roots find expression in early influential speeches and sermons?
How do speeches continue to motivate individuals long after they have been delivered?
What are some of the essential elements that are present in some of the most effective speeches of the 20th century?

Focus Standards:









W. 11-12.10

Key Unit Terminology

Puritan, The Great Awakening, persuasive writing, ethos, logos, pathos, transcendentalism, moral law, secular law, allegory, spectral evidence, Providence, theocracy, dissemble, orthodox, foil character, Gothic terms

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