American Studies

Topics include American literature set in the historical periods from the Civil War to WWII. Throughout the course, the focus is to answer the following questions: What is freedom? What is democracy? What is the role of the government? What is the United States' role in the world? What is your role as a community member?

Students have an opportunity to explore these questions through many class and individual projects and papers. Students write literary essays and a historical fiction short story. Through projects, class discussions and individual research, students investigate how U.S. history and literature are relevant to our lives today. In addition to exploring history and literature, students have many opportunities to strengthen their English language writing, reading, speaking and listening skills.

Course topics include:
- The antebellum period and the Civil War
- The Progressive Era
- The Roaring Twenties and the Harlem Renaissance
- The Great Depression
- World War II

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Night by Elie Wiesel
Multiple short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Caroline Bond Day, and Ernest Hemmingway
Significant Assignments: 

Students write a literary analysis of Kindred using a critical lens.

Students write a comparative literary essay analyzing one of Yezierska's short stories and her novel, Bread Givers.

Students write historical short stories based in the 1920s.

Students participate in an academic debate and develop a persuasive writing piece based on their reading To Kill a Mockingbird

Students write and perform poetry based on their study of WWII and Night by Elie Wiesel.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

The Civil War and Kindred by Octavia Butler: This historical science fiction novel follows Dana's journey through time into her ancestral past of slavery. Student groups will be asked to conduct historical research on the antebellum period and the Civil War and present to the class through drama, Power Point or tableau. While reading this novel students focus on analysis of literary techniques such as characterization, foreshadowing, symbolism, and irony.

The Progressive Era and Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska: Students conduct an author study of Anzia Yezierska and examine her characters by reading Bread Givers and two of her short stories set during the Progressive Era in the United States. Students visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and create historical walking tour brochures of the neighborhood.

The Roaring Twenties and the Harlem Renaissance: Through this unit, students will have an opportunity to read multiple short stories by Fitzgerald, Hughes, Bond Day, and Hemingway. After reading these short stories and analyzing plot structure and literary techniques, students research and create a group short story based in the 1920s, which is performed in class. In addition, students write their own historical short story based in the 1920s and practice using literary techniques.

The Great Depression and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee: Students explore the Jim Crow south and the effects of the Great Depression by reading this classic. The unit focuses on a group academic debate and culminates in a persuasive writing piece.

World War II and Night by Elie Wiesel. Students study the main events of World War II and the Holocaust. While reading Night, students explore themes of indifference, resistance and identity through this novel. In order to gain a deeper understanding of Jewish culture, students interview a Jewish Rabbi who visits each class. Throughout the unit, students read and analyze poetry connected to WWII and the Holocaust. Students create poetry that is exhibited and presented during one of the monthly school performances which we call The Brooklyn International Coffee House.

Sample PBATs: 
Students conduct an author study of Anzia Yezierska and examine her characters by reading Bread Givers and two of her short stories set during the Progressive Era in the United States.