Saucon Valley School District Planned Course of Study

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Saucon Valley School District
Planned Course of Study

Course Title: Honors 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 is usually 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:

Honors American Literature provides students with the depth and breadth of the American literary canon and encourages higher level reading, writing, and thinking skills. This course may be taken at the successful completion of Honors Composition and Honors English Literature. The objectives of the course are aligned to the Common Core and will serve to reinforce and extend the skills that students have mastered in the previous courses. Additionally, students will explore AP-level texts and will hone their reading and writing skills for Honors Analytical Writing and AP English Literature and Composition.

Table of Contents

Unit One 4

Unit Two 16
Unit Three 29
Unit Four 37
Unit Five 44
Writing and Grammar 54
Vocabulary 55

Curriculum Map

Typical # of Weeks


Quarter X

9 weeks

Unit 1: The Anatomy of an American Voice

Unit 2: American Voices and their Audiences

  • Persuasive writing (nonfiction)

  • The Crucible

  • Romantic, Transcendentalist, and Gothic literature

  • Freudian and Jungian literary theory

  • The Detective Genre

Vocabulary (taught throughout the entire semester)

Grammar and Usage (throughout the entire semester)


Quarter Y

9 weeks

Unit 3: Comedy or Controversy

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • slave narratives

  • satire

  • ramifications of personal freedom vs. popular thought

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 entire semester)

Grammar and Usage (taught throughout the


Unit Title:

Unit One: Anatomy of an American Voice

Unit Overview:

Because students have completed a summer reading and writing assignment on The Great Gatsby, the unit will show how a close, second reading of a text enables a more profound understanding of key ideas and details, craft, structure, and the author’s purpose. Students will explore how authors use diction, syntax, and structure to reach their audiences. Students will first examine how American political, social, and economic events shape the literature of the time or how the literature affects the evolving culture. By examining the framework of American Literature students will gain a sense of perspective on the chronology and discern how events shape “voices” and “voices” shape events. Secondly, this unit will provide an opportunity for students to deepen their research and writing skills. Thirdly, this unit will give the student an understanding of major stylistic devices used in literature that are truly American.

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 Periods: Native American, Puritan, Enlightenment, Romanticism, Gothic, Transcendentalism, Realism, Naturalism, Regionalism, Modern Age, Harlem Renaissance, Contemporary Literature; diction, imagery, syntax, tone, simile, metaphor, denotation, connotation, the Lost Generation,


Learning Objectives - The student will...

Assessment Opportunities

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 a variety of syntax styles.
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 1920’s 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

Demonstrate the ability to effectively analyze a writing prompt in a timed setting.

Use effective transition words and phrases.

Successfully complete comprehension quizzes and test; complete four components of summer prerequisite assignment.

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.

Using the selected passages from the assignment, students identify diction, syntax, imagery, tone.
Using the research completed on the summer assignment, small groups present their findings (on a specific topic) to the class.
AP short write: apply the theme of the American Dream to the novel. Develop a strong thesis with a position.
Answer question: why is Fitzgerald disillusioned by life in the 1920s?

Diagram characteristics of the rich (both nouveau riche and old money) and the poor. Cite examples from throughout the book.

Select passages (from assignment) and create questions that another student will answer.
Analytic in-class essay using support from the text.

Respond to an AP prompt from the “open questions” in a timed writing.

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.

The Scarlet Letter
Analyze the complexities of the novel through the close reading of significant passages.
Recognize the difference between a narrator and an author
Explore the impact of an author's personal history on his or her creative life, particularly in the context of American society.

Analyze how Hawthorne commigles Romantic traits with Puritan doctrine,

Trace how the meaning of the major symbols evolves.
Compare the element of the two settings and the author’s purpose in juxtaposing them.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Identify and describe power and control dynamics between characters and relate these to Hurston’s use of imagery.

Analyze the cyclical structure of Hurston’s plot and the novel’s character development to identify incidents of relationship abuse in the literature.

Articulate the relationship between the following: the author Hawthorne as a Romantic, his relative in the Salem Witch Trials, and the significance of the Puritan doctrine.

Read “The Custom House” and summarize. Articulate Hawthorne’s motive for writing the novel; explain the relationship between the prison door, Anne Hutchinson, and the rose bush.
Create a Venn diagram; show Hawthorne’s Romantic precepts that Hawthorne creates, Puritan precepts, and determine if they merge.

Complete imagery chart of symbols.

Respond to AP open prompt on the juxtaposition of settings.
Create imagery chart that traces significant images throughout the novel.

In small groups, create a graphic showing the plot structure of the novel.

Sequence of Teaching and Learning

Number of lessons / blocks

Lesson Topic(s)

Lesson Activities


The decade of the 1920s and Fitzgerald’s identity with the Lost Generation

Students will have completed the four summer components on Gatsby.

Students will complete the following:

  • View segment of Midnight in Paris in which the narrator meets Fitzgerald and Zelda and voices why they are Americans gathered in Paris.

  • Students will research “The Lost Generation” and Gertrude Stein.

  • Brainstorm topics concerning the 1920s from their research. Students will form small groups and present short oral reportson such topics as: bootlegging, the Jazz Age, dancing, attitude of the nation after WWI, the prospects of the American Dream, the economic changes, the status of women, etc.


Introduction to “close read” of The Great Gatsby

As a whole class, teacher will direct a close read of a particular, significant passage. Teacher will lead students from the literal to the figurative meanings with questions. Students will eventually arrive at a significant motif or theme.
Students will choose three of the nine passages that they selected for the assignment. They will then write a series of five questions analyzing that quotation. Students will form small groups and answer one another’s questions. Finally, they will synthesize three themes that the compiling of passages suggests.


Application to American “voices”

Students will present their artifacts (summer assignment) to the class using the guidelines on the rubric.


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 nonprint sources for reliability


MLA format and note-taking

Guided notes on correct MLA research format for Works Cited

Cornell note-taking lesson in which students, in small groups, read a news article, take notes in “Cornell” style, summarize the information from their notes, and present the summarized portion to the class. This skill can be carried over into their research of the time period. Cornell notes sheets will be collected.


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.


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.


Introduce The Scarlet Letter

Read “The Custom House” and take notes.


Since students have read the novel, they choose a character and complete a Biopoem.


The Shunning

Apply theme of public shame:

NPR audio story:


The framework of the novel

In small groups, students will examine the elements and report to the class:

  • characters

  • plot and structure

  • conflict

  • settings

  • point of view

  • themes


The Romantic vs. the Puritan

Discussion Question: Why does Hawthorne, a self-proclaimed Romantic, write a story that denigrates Puritanism?


Hawthorne’s use of symbols

The students will use technology to demonstrate an understanding of the literary elements such as symbolism. Students will also gain an understanding of summarizing statements.

  • Step 1. Students will take photos of specified items from the novel. (See Handout)

  • Step 2. Students will choose and upload photos into a program of choice and create their own digital story of the items.

  • Step 3. Students will give an explanation of each photo and what it represents by placing summarizing captions on each photo.

  • Step 4. Students will further enhance their presentations by recording narration for each photo.

  • Step 5. Students will present their multi-media presentation to the class.



Students will trace how characters, conflicts, and settings evolve as symbols, and these symbols then function as allegory.


Puritanism: its far-reaching effects

Students will debate the question: how significant of a role does Puritanism play in modern day society?


Application to modern day

  • Students will find a person in today's society who has been "shunned". They should do their own research online,

  • They will assign a letter that represents the person’s actions and why he/she is being shunned.

  • They are to create an elaborate picture of the letter that the person would have to wear if in Puritan times.. As Hester had to wear
    the "A" to represent ADULTERY, Mike Tyson may have to wear a "B" for BITER! Or Dennis Rodman may have to wear a "D" for being DIFFERENT!

Their Eyes Were Watching God


Introduction and Chapter 1 of Their Eyes Were Watching God

Go online and read a short introduction of Hurston at Discuss Hurston as a class and do a “Word Splash” on the board with descriptions of her.
To begin reading, listen to Ruby Dee read the opening section of the novel at Discuss

  • What views of men and women are presented?

  • What do these paragraphs tell the reader about the author’s feelings (tone) toward each character or group?

  • Why are the Sitters so negative?

  • What predictions can you make about this text based on the different views of the characters: Sitters versus Janie?

Finish reading chapters 1 and 2 for homework.

1 block

Analyzing for Style

Re-read the first nine paragraphs of chapter 1 and analyze, as a class, stylistic elements that Hurston uses in her novel. Then, assign students (in pairs or individually) a specific chapter in which to do the same analysis. Students should be prepared to present their analyses to the class when discussion for that chapter arises.
Elements to include in analysis include

  • Black English, including rhythm and word choice (such as Janie’s conversation with Nanny in Chapter 2)

  • Oral features, or heard speech (discussion of yellow mule in Chapter 6)

  • Colorful figurative language, in particular metaphors and imagery (pear tree and blossoms in Chapter 2)

  • Personification (description of storm in Chapter 18)

  • Biblical images and references (such as “Old as Methusalem” in Chapter 7 or the “Virgin Mary image” comparison in Chapter 6)

1 block

Chapter 2: Janie vs. Nanny

Have students goto this link to read a brief background on the Harlem Renaissance:
Create a family tree for Janie. How have power, control, abuse, violence affected Janie and her ancestors? Write a paragraph responding to this at the bottom of the tree.
On a separate sheet of paper, create a dual-entry journal for the relationship between Janie and Nanny. Write your “evidence” of what you saw in the text on the left side and your “interpretation” of what you think it means on the right. Include at least 3-5 examples from the text to interpret.
Discuss why it is significant that Hurston begins her novel with a pear tree.

2 blocks

Chapter 3 - 9: Logan and Joe’s treatment of Janie

Continue to create a double-entry journal while reading chapter 3. Some questions to consider:

  • How do Logan’s views of women and white people affect his treatment of Janie? How do these views affect Janie and Logan’s marriage?

  • How does Joe’s views of men’s and women’s roles affect his behavior towards Janie? Are Joe’s actions a display of real love?

  • How do the Sitters reinforce societal norms about power and control?

Write a two-page (minimum) reflection comparing Logan’s and Joe’s treatment of Janie. Include an introduction and conclusion and specific examples from the text to support your response. In your response, also consider how the men’s treatment of Janie connects to current media depictions of women.

1 block


Explore the symbols of the pear tree, the street lamp and the mule by having students work in small groups to discuss and write about the following:

  • What does the pear tree symbolize? When does Janie remember or forget the pear tree? What is she searching for? Do you think she’ll find it?

  • What does the street lamp in Eatonville communicate about the ideals of the townspeople? Does it exemplify a control over nature that empowers the community? Why does Mrs. Bogle sing, “Jesus, the light of the world,” when the lamp is lit?

  • In Chapter 6, Bonner’s yellow mule stimulates the people to “mule talk.” How does this deepen the meaning of the mule, both literally and symbolically? How does Hurston capture the musical, imaginative talk of the townspeople in this scene?

2-3 blocks

Chapters 9 - 20: Tea Cake and Janie

Continue to keep a double-entry journal to record interpretations about the relationship between Virgible Woods (Tea Cake) and Janie. Continue to focus in on the themes of family, love and relationships, and the roles of men and women.
Write a reflection on Tea Cake’s treatment of Janie.

.5 blocks

The Storm

Show students photographs of the Hurricane of 1928 in Lake Okeechobee at this site Discuss the scene from the novel where Janie and Tea Cake escape from the Hurricane. What are the key events that occur? What do these events show the reader about Janie and Tea Cake’s relationship?

1 block

Themes and Final Essay

Hold a class discussion on some of the major themes of the novel: a woman’s voice, race, and religion. Use the following questions to spur discussion, writing student responses on the board:

  • A woman’s voice: How does Janie’s voice develop? During which important moments of her life is Janie silent? How does she choose when to speak out or when to remain quiet? How does Pheoby respond at the end of Janie’s story? What is Janie’s final advice to her best friend?

  • Race: How does the novel use “folk voice” and complex characters? What role does Jim Crow play in the novel (see Ch. 19)? Why are white people omitted until the last chapters? How might this reflect Hurston’s literary goals?

  • Religion: Both voodoo and Catholicism influenced Hurston. What would you say is Hurston’s idea of religion in the novel? What might be the meaning of the novel’s title? In what way do the characters see and hear God? Does he answer their questioning? In chapter 17 Janie muses about the pious Mrs. Turner’s idols and altars. The narrator says, “Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.” What does this mean?

Have each student choose a theme to pursue and elaborate on in his or her final essay for this unit.

Turn in a freewrite and a “working thesis” on your interpretation of this theme in the novel at the beginning of the next class.

3-4 blocks

Theme Essay with Critical Analysis

At the beginning of class, share prewrites and thesis statements with the class. Randomly choose thesis statements to put on overhead and workshop as a class. Decide whether the statement is indeed a thesis and arguable or a fact and not arguable.
Students should identify their specific points and compose an outline. Once they have their outline developed, they will research to find at least three outside sources that support their interpretation of the novel.
Include research time in the library for this assignment.

Resources for this Unit

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

  • Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

  • Related Readings (Scarlet Letter)

  • “Anne Hutchinson: Brief Life of Harvard’s ‘Midwife’: 1595-1643” (Rev. Peter J. Gomes)

  • "Each and All"—poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • The Scarlet Letter—oil painting by T. H. Matteson


  • Hurricane photos at

  • Hurston background at

  • Audio beginning of Their Eyes Were Watching God at

Unit Title:

Unit Two: American Voices and Their Audiences

Unit Overview:

This unit will center around a variety of fiction and nonfiction 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. Students will also analyze and compare connections between Hawthorne’s short stories and his novel The Scarlet Letter. The unit will culminate in students writing their own persuasive speech and essay. Students will be able to recognize the precepts and themes in this unit’s fiction and nonfiction and compare these topics with the political, economic and social events of their respective periods.

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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