Survey of American Literature: The Origins and Evolution of the American Dream (English 11)



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Survey of American Literature:

The Origins and Evolution of the American Dream

(English 11)

Jessica Cullen, Mike Hurst, Alicia Robinson, Bill Stebbins


__________________________

Full Year General Education Requirement, College Preparatory 1 credit



Prerequisite: successful completion of English 10 (Survey of British Literature)


Course Description
Survey of American Literature: The Origins and Evolution of the American Dream is a full year course for juniors. Students will read excerpts from American literature focusing on the evolution of the American dream and its implications for futures members of American society. Students will learn that the American dream is not concrete or universally accessible. They will learn the different limitations this ideal has on individuals as well as distinct communities within greater society. This course with cover the major periods of American literary history, beginning with the colonial experience and ending with an analysis of the postmodern era’s relevance to both traditional and contemporary Native American works. Students will engage in traditional literary analysis, research, and creative writing activities that convey a further understanding of the complexities inherent in the American dream. In class, students will participate in whole-group and small-group discussions to facilitate a more comprehensive relationship with the texts. They will also be involved in extensive peer-conferencing and review along with teacher conferences in order to develop and enhance their writing skills. The students’ learning activities and assessments will implicitly develop the skills and understanding the students will need to succeed on the standardized testing they will take at the end of the year. These learning activities and assessments include multiple literary analysis papers with drafts, creative writing pieces such as short stories and poetry, social activist writings, and oral presentations in the form of poetry slams.


Course Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions


  1. Great literature addresses universal human desires, needs, problems or fears which transcend time or culture. (Content Standards 1, 2)

    1. How does literature reflect the evolution of the American Dream across literary movements?

    2. What is the mutual relationship between an individual’s desires, needs, problems or fears and their conception of the American Dream?

  2. Through the study of literature from various cultures, historical eras and genres, we gain a better understanding of others different from ourselves. (Content Standards 1, 2)

    1. What similarities does the American Dream have across social groups and time periods?

    2. What common limitations does the American Dream impose upon diverse groups of people?

  3. Reflective and analytic writing are effective ways to connect to literary characters affected by the American Dream and are a means for us to understand the implications the American Dream has on our lives by allowing us to explore our own experiences. (Content Standards 1, 3, & 4)

    1. How does writing enable us to discover and understand an overarching conception of an American Dream in our lives?

    2. How is writing a way for authors of literary works and their characters to wrestle with the tensions between the ideal of the American Dream and its real life accessibility?

  4. Expressing experiences is a fundamental way of better understanding our culture and documenting its change over time. (Content Standards 1, 2)

    1. What is your understanding of American culture in the context of the American Dream?

    2. In what way is the changing American Dream a response to the limitations it imposed on previous generations of people?

  5. The formal study of literature involves critical and evaluative skills that may have many practical applications. (Content Standards 1, 2)

    1. What motivates people to read literary works?

    2. How does a reader construct meaning from text?

    3. In what other applications besides the formal study of literature do we use skills involved in literary analysis?

  6. Through guided research we investigate the antecedents that influence the authors who write about their own histories and their versions of the American dream. (Content Standards 2, 4)

    1. How do world wide historical events influence the American dream for those who are and are not American citizens?

    2. How do the effects of Globalization export the American dream around the world?


INSTRUCTIONAL UNITS

Colonial America 17th-18th century

Transcendentalism

Slavery


Harlem Renaissance

Lost Generation/Modernism

Beat Generation

Post-Modern

Native American


Unit Title: The Birth of the American Dream in Colonial America (17th-18th Centuries)


Grade Level: 11

Designed By: Jessica Cullen



Time Frame (4-6 weeks suggested): 4 weeks

Theme/Big Idea: The first conceptions of the American Dream as rooted in texts from the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods, the historical context that influenced those conceptions, the limitations certain groups of people faced in achieving those dreams, and how the dreams that followed were in response to those limitations.


Materials and resources:

Books, Essays, Sermons:

“A Model of Christian Charity” by: Gov. John Winthrop

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by: Jonathan Edwards

The Scarlet Letter by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Way to Wealth” by: Benjamin Franklin


Selections from:

Letters from an American Farmer by: J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur

The Constitution of the United States (the Preamble)



The Norton Anthology of American Literature
Course Enduring Understanding(s) and Essential Question(s):


  1. Through the study of literature from various cultures, historical eras and genres, we gain a better understanding of others different from ourselves. (Content Standards 1,2)

    1. What similarities does the American Dream have across social groups and time periods?

      1. What similarities are there between the conceptions of the American Dream in Colonial, Revolutionary, and Puritan texts?

    2. What common limitations does the American Dream impose upon diverse groups of people?

      1. Is the American conception of freedom in the constitutional sense truly accessible to all people?

      2. What groups of people would be limited by a capitalistic view of the American Dream? In what ways would it limit them?

      3. How are people limited by the religious conception of the American Dream held by many Puritans during the Great Awakening?




  1. Reflective and analytic writing are effective ways to connect to the lives of literary characters affected by the American Dream. They also are a means for us to understand the implications of the American Dream on our lives by allowing us to explore our own experiences.

    1. How does writing enable us to discover and understand an overarching conception of an American Dream in our lives?

      1. In your own life, what is your conception of the American Dream and in what ways does it affect and shape your life?

      2. How do your limitations or access to the American Dream in your own life connect to those experienced by characters in Colonial, Revolutionary, and Puritan literature?




  1. Expressing experiences is a fundamental way of better understanding our culture and documenting its changes over time.

    1. What is your understanding of American culture in the context of the American Dream?

      1. Is there an overarching American Dream in our culture today? What is that dream?

      2. How is the American Dream different in the numerous subcultures in our society today?

    2. In what way is the changing American Dream a response to the limitations it imposed on previous generations of people?

      1. How has the American Dream(s) we have today come to be?

      2. To what extent have past events influenced what we value in the present?




  1. The formal study of literature involves critical and evaluative skills that may have many practical applications. (Content Standards 1,2)

    1. What motivates people to read literary works?

          1. What is the importance of reading texts to come to a deeper understanding of the American Dream’s evolution?

    2. How does a reader construct meaning from text?

          1. How do we analyze literature and connect to it in a way that makes it applicable to our lives?

    3. In what other applications besides the formal study of literature do we use skills involved in literary analysis?

          1. In replicating different genres of work through creative writing assignments, how do we demonstrate similar critical thinking skills to those involved in literary analysis?


Learning Outcomes:
Knowledge: Students will acquire knowledge of…

  • Colonial American History as a context for the original conception of the American Dream.

  • The basic precepts of the Puritan Religion and their effect on the culture and mindset of the early colonial settlers.

  • The Great Awakening as an influential movement that contributed to a religious understanding of the American Dream.


Skills: Students will demonstrate the ability to…

  • recognize and identify early conceptions of the American Dream as they are deeply embedded in one of the founding documents of our government.

  • think critically about the accessibility and reality of the American Dream our early governmental documents put forth from a modern standpoint.

  • recognize and identify early conceptions of the American Dream as rooted in the Puritan religion.

  • discuss and reflect upon the ways in which religion shapes people’s perspectives and goals.

  • understand and analyze the word choice and metaphors in a sermon as a form of persuasive oral literature.

  • analyze and interpret the use of symbolism and metaphor in The Scarlet Letter as a way to understand the limitations the Puritan version of the American Dream had on individuals.

  • recognize, define, and analyze the use of aphorisms in Benjamin Franklin’s essay “Way to Wealth” as a way of understanding his capitalistic conception of the American Dream.

  • compare and contrast modern versions of the American Dream to its origins in Colonial, Revolutionary, and Puritan literature.

  • reflect upon the presence of an American Dream in their own lives today and its effects upon their goals and aspirations.

  • understand the limitations the different early conceptions of the American Dream had on different groups of people, and how similar limitations are present in today’s society.



CT- Connecticut Curricular Goals and Standards:

Subject: English Language Arts (NEW 2006)
*STANDARD : Standard 1: Reading and Responding. Students read, comprehend and respond in individual, literal, critical and evaluative ways to literary, informational and persuasive texts in multimedia formats. How do we understand what we read?

  • Component: 1.2 Students interpret, analyze and evaluate text in order to extend understanding and appreciation.

  • Indicator: b. interpret information that is implied in a text.

  • Indicator : d. make, support and defend judgments about texts.

  • Indicator : f. identify and discuss the underlying theme or main idea in texts.



*STANDARD : Standard 2: Exploring and Responding to Literature.
Students read and respond to classical and contemporary texts from many cultures and literary periods. How does literature enrich our lives?
- Component : 2.3 Students recognize and appreciate that contemporary and classical

literature has shaped human thought.



- Indicator : b. compare/contrast and evaluate ideas, themes and/or issues

across classical and contemporary texts.




- Indicator : c. create responses to texts and examine each work’s contributions

to an understanding of human experience across cultures.



- Indicator : a. analyze and evaluate the basic beliefs, perspectives and

assumptions underlying an author’s work.

- Indicator: b. discuss how the experiences of an author influence the text.

- Indicator: e. interpret, analyze, and evaluate the influence of culture,

history, and ethnicity on themes and issues in literature.












*STANDARD: Standard 4: Applying English Language Conventions.

Students apply the conventions of Standard English in oral, written, and visual communication. How do we use the English language appropriately to speak and write?



  • Component: 4.3 Students use Standard English for composing and revising written

  • text.

- Indicator: b. demonstrate proficient use of proper mechanics, usage, and

spelling skills.



- Indicator: c. use resources for proofreading and editing.








  1. Performance-Based Assessments:

  2. Journal writing – reader response and reflection to the text




  1. 2-3 page literary analysis paper with drafts on a topic of the students’ choice that relates to the societal limitations of a particular version of the American Dream.

  2. Opportunities to build student portfolio:

    1. Utilizing some of the conventions of a sermon as a form of persuasive oral literature, write a sermon that expresses what Edwards might want to say to our society if he were alive today.

    2. Create a collage of current aphorisms, images, and text that expresses your conception of the American Dream in today’s society and its implications on your life.

    3. Write a creative piece (short story, poem, etc.) that reflects the implications of a particular conception of the American Dream on your character or characters’ lives.

  3. Write an essay or give an oral presentation that gives your opinion of what an individual needs to do in order to lead a fulfilling life in today’s society.

  4. Reading quizzes




Learning Activities: Include Opportunities for Technology Integration and for Differentiation.

  • Students will be required to keep a journal in response to the readings assigned for class in which they respond to key quotes, ideas, and symbols in the literature and give their interpretation and analysis, or use personal connections to highlight key components of the text. The journaling will mostly be for homework, but will include some in class journaling.

  • Whole group discussions of the significance of themes, symbols, and conventions of the assigned literature.

  • Small group discussion used either as a precursor, follow-up, or substitute for whole group discussions to facilitate the exploration and critical analysis of main ideas in the assigned readings.

  • In-class work on developing theses and backing it up with analysis of quotations.

  • Peer-conferencing and editing of their literary analysis papers.

  • Teacher conferences of their peer analysis papers.

  • In class presentations of their creative writing assignments.



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