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Ch 6: American Literature: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9

About This Chapter

Find lessons for eleventh and twelfth grade English based on the Common Core Reading Literature standard for American Literature (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9).

Standard: Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

About This Chapter

Students who have mastered this standard will be able to recognize major American authors and their contributions to the nation's cultural, literary and philosophical history. Students will be able to identify, compare, and contrast characteristics of the various literary periods.

Lessons in this standard cover concepts and literature from the following time periods, cultural groups and literary movements in America:

  • Native American oral traditions
  • Puritan literature
  • Early political writing
  • Romantic Period
  • The Dark Romantics
  • Transcendentalism
  • Literary Realism Movement
  • Naturalism
  • Modernism
  • The Imagist Movement
  • Harlem Renaissance/Jazz Age
  • Contemporary American Literature
  • African Poetry in America

Students demonstrate mastery when they are able to read foundational American literature critically, recognizing themes and central ideas within a text. Mastery is also demonstrated when students can identify characteristics of literature within particular literary movements or time periods in American history.

How to Use These Lessons in Your Classroom

Here are some tips for how to use these lessons to support instruction in the CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9 standard:

The Romantic Period Lessons

Pose questions to the class such as, 'What does romanticism mean to you? If you heard the phrase romantic American literature, what do you think the literature would be about?' Discuss. Show video The Romantic Period in American Literature and Art. Compare and contrast the students' preconceptions of Romanticism with information presented in the video lesson.

Transcendentalism Lessons

Divide the class into groups of 2-3. All but four groups will research and prepare a brief presentation on a current and relevant artist, politician, athlete, etc. who champions the concept of independent thought and/or nonconformity (you come up with the list of people). The remaining four groups will research Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. After presentations, watch video Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendental Poetry: Self-Reliance.

The Harlem Renaissance Lessons

Have students watch video The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz Age. Generate a class discussion about the power of music, poetry, and prose. Explore how a group of repressed and disenfranchised people could spark a cultural revolution. Provide poems and excerpts from the works of pioneers of the Harlem Renaissance and have students take turns reading them aloud.

23 Lessons in Chapter 6: American Literature: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
Native American and Colonial Literature

1. Native American and Colonial Literature

What types of writing were popular during the early days of the United States? In this lesson, we'll look at three major categories of 17th and 18th century American writing in more detail: Native American oral stories, Puritan writing, and early American political writing.

The Romantic Period in American Literature and Art

2. The Romantic Period in American Literature and Art

This video introduces American Romanticism, a movement where literature focused on intuition, imagination and individualism. Authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow contributed to what became known as the American identity, as the new country did its best to distance itself from European tradition.

The Dark Romantics in American Literature

3. The Dark Romantics in American Literature

This video introduces the characteristics of Dark Romanticism, a movement at the end of the Romantic period where literature embodied creepy symbols, horrific themes, and explored the psychological effects of guilt and sin. Authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote short stories, poems, and novels that encouraged Americans to see evil in everything.

Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

4. Transcendentalism: Impact on American Literature

This video defines Transcendentalism, a literary movement of the mid-19th century. Authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman used their literary platforms to encourage Americans to transcend society's presumptions and create a personal, progressive relationship with spirituality and nature.

The Literary Realism Movement: A Response to Romanticism

5. The Literary Realism Movement: A Response to Romanticism

In this lesson, we will learn about Realism in American literature, how this new literary movement grew out of Romanticism and what circumstances in our changing nation made that literary shift possible.

Modernism in American Literature

6. Modernism in American Literature

In this lesson, we will discuss the concept of literary modernism in the United States. We will explore its historical backdrop along with the very unique characteristics and authors that define American modernism which lasted from 1914-1945.

The Imagist Movement: Poems, Examples & Key Poets

7. The Imagist Movement: Poems, Examples & Key Poets

The Imagist movement in modern poetry focused on describing objects as opposed to the long philosophical discussions of traditional poetry. Read on to find out more about Imagism and read poems by two of its founders, H.D. and Amy Lowell.

The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz Age

8. The Harlem Renaissance: Novels and Poetry from the Jazz Age

The Harlem Renaissance was a movement in the 1920s and 1930s during which there was an explosion of African-American art and literature. This lesson looks at the themes, causes, and important figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

The Contemporary Period in American Literature

9. The Contemporary Period in American Literature

Learn about how Contemporary literature developed and understand its fundamental characteristics. Find out how American history and cultural norms really defined and developed the Contemporary period in American literature.

Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

10. Contemporary American Literature: Authors and Major Works

This lesson helps you decipher pieces of contemporary American literature by looking at famous examples from some of the greatest authors of the time.

The Scarlet Letter: Summary and Analysis of an Allegory

11. The Scarlet Letter: Summary and Analysis of an Allegory

See how Nathaniel Hawthorne uses allegory and symbolism to illustrate the affair and resulting guilt between a minister and a Puritan woman in his novel 'The Scarlet Letter.'

The Great Gatsby: Summary, Themes, Symbols, and Character

12. The Great Gatsby: Summary, Themes, Symbols, and Character

F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' is considered by many critics to be the greatest American novel. Watch our video lesson on the novel to find out why!

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God: Summary & Analysis

13. Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God: Summary & Analysis

Zora Neale Hurston's novel 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' is a famous Harlem Renaissance novel that examines race and gender issues through the eyes of its main character, Janie Crawford. This lesson gives a synopsis of the novel and examines how it approaches race and gender.

Miller's Death of a Salesman: Summary and Analysis

14. Miller's Death of a Salesman: Summary and Analysis

In 'Death of a Salesman,' Willy Loman just can't catch a break. And if the title is an indicator, things won't end well. In this lesson, we'll look at Arthur Miller's 1949 masterpiece about a salesman and his family.

Emily Dickinson: Poems and Poetry Analysis

15. Emily Dickinson: Poems and Poetry Analysis

Emily Dickinson was a well-known poet of the mid-1800s whose numerous works have stood the test of time. But what in the world did her poems really mean? In this video, we'll explore one of her most recognized pieces and analyze its meaning and purpose.

Walt Whitman: Transcendental and Realist Poet

16. Walt Whitman: Transcendental and Realist Poet

Walt Whitman is now considered one of the greatest American poets of all time, but his work was not so well-loved when it first debuted. Find out what made the man and his poems so controversial.

Poe's The Cask of Amontillado: Summary and Analysis

17. Poe's The Cask of Amontillado: Summary and Analysis

This video explores Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Cask of Amontillado,' a Dark Romantic short story that illustrates the horrors of evil. By breaking down the elements of plot, we can see that Poe's intentional selection of details in the story create his 'unity of effect.'

Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Summary and Analysis

18. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Summary and Analysis

Multiple narrators, stream of consciousness writing and a family airing its dysfunctions while carting along their mother's coffin. You'll find all that and more in William Faulkner's Modernist masterpiece 'As I Lay Dying.'

Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Summary and Analysis

19. Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Summary and Analysis

Everyone loves a scary story now and then. Learn how Washington Irving's famous story, ''The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,'' uses imagination and the supernatural to make it a Romantic piece of American literature that is still adapted by television today.

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: Summary and Analysis

20. Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: Summary and Analysis

This video introduces Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven.' Through Poe's use of poetic devices and dark Romantic characteristics, he is able to achieve the 'unity of effect' to appeal to critics and the masses both during his time and even still today.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes and Analysis

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Themes and Analysis

In this lesson, we will continue our exploration of Mark Twain's most acclaimed work, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, through an analysis of plot, characters, and theme.

Uncle Tom's Cabin and the American Civil War

22. Uncle Tom's Cabin and the American Civil War

In this lesson, we will explore the context, characters and plot of one of the country's most influential novels, Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' Then, find out how it inched America closer to the Civil War.

Phillis Wheatley: African Poetry in America

23. Phillis Wheatley: African Poetry in America

Phillis Wheatley was a slave and poet in 18th century America who wrote about religion and race. In this lesson, we'll learn more about her and examine one of her poems for the themes of religion and race.

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