What Does It Mean To Be an American?

What does it mean to be an American? We’ll explore this question by reading works by a diverse group of Americans, each giving a different perspective on the “American” experience. Fall semester will focus on writers from the 1800s. Spring semester will focus on writers from the 1900s.

Readings: 
Walt Whitman, selections from LEAVES OF GRASS
Mark Twain, ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Black Elk and John Neihardt, selections from BLACK ELK SPEAKS
John Steinbeck, THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”
Independent reading/book groups: choice of readings either by immigrant writers or about immigrant characters, including An Na, Jamaica Kincaid, Lawrence Yep, Edwige Dandicat, Adeline Yen Ma.
Media Used: 
Woody Guthrie, selected songs
youtube.com for Woody Guthrie songs and songs from the Vietnam War era
Film: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Film: The Grapes of Wrath
Significant Assignments: 

Vocabulary: Study a new root word each week. Brainstorm words using root, and write sentences with the root word.

Develop an understanding of open and closed questions.

Research historical context of each book we read.

Practice skills of annotation, outlining, compare & contrast

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Create a collage of images from a Walt Whitmen poem. Add text describing literary elements and major theme of the poem.

Create a class map of the Mississipi River with the locations of events in each chapter of Huckleberry Finn

Create a TV Show about the events on the Mississippi River (“Mississippi River News”). A student host interviews other students who pretend to be characters from Huck Finn.

Study a Woody Guthrie song, and create an illustrated poster depicting summary and theme of song.

Study a song from the Vietnam War era and present it to the class.

Develop presentation and spoken English skills through various activities.

Sample PBATs: 
Comparataive lit essay based on poetry of Walt Whitman.
Analytical essay based on THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN.
Develop thesis and analytic essay based on character, conflict, biblical references, or gender roles in THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
Comparative lit essay based on THE GRAPES OF WRATH and “The Things They Carried.”