About This Chapter
Contemporary American Literature Lesson Plans - Chapter Summary
Use these convenient teacher resources to plan contemporary American literature lessons and enhance your literature curriculum. Inside the chapter, you'll find lesson plan outlines, as well as in-class teaching tools, quizzes and class discussion questions. These mobile-friendly lesson plans and supplemental resources cover the following American novels and authors:
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Push by Sapphire
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- True Grit by Charles Portis
- Zora Neale Hurston novels
How It Helps
- Additional resources: Contains useful teaching tools, including lessons and assignable practice quizzes
- Curriculum standards: Outlines American literature topics that meet education standards
- Class discussion questions: Includes discussion questions to strengthen your students' critical thinking skills and understanding of contemporary American literature
How It Works
This helpful resource offers teachers lesson plan outlines with relevant tools to make planning contemporary American literature lessons easy.
- Find lesson plans for specific contemporary American literature topics you want to cover in class.
- Formulate your contemporary American literature class outline using the suggested classroom tools offered in the lesson plans.
- Share the related contemporary American literature lessons for each lesson plan with students in class to make learning fun and engaging.
- Use related lesson quizzes to ensure your students understand the most important contemporary American literature concepts from the lessons.
- Engage your students with relevant contemporary American literature activities, discussion questions or other materials found in the lesson plan outline.
1. Dances with Wolves Lesson Plan
Increase student understanding of the novel 'Dances With Wolves' with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson summarizing plot and analyzing characters, then apply concepts with discussion questions and interactive learning opportunities.
2. Dances with Wolves Book Summary
''Dances with Wolves'' is the story of John Dunbar and his journey from Civil War soldier to a friend of the Comanche Indians. This lesson summarizes the classic novel.
3. Steven Millhauser: Biography, Short Stories & Books
Steven Millhauser is a wonderful writer who has provided audiences with fantastical stories that have delighted audiences of all shapes and sizes. Find out how this writer took a slice of Americana and bound it together with words to win a Pulitzer Prize.
4. The Help Novel Lesson Plan
Increase understanding of the novel 'The Help' with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson that summarizes plot and analyzes characters, ask and answer discussion questions, and complete a culminating activity. Finish up with a quiz.
5. The Help: Book Summary & Characters
What must it have been like to be a black maid working for a white family in the 1960's deep South? Kathryn Stockett's debut novel, ''The Help,'' examines the issues of race and friendship with three narrators to tell the tale.
6. Discussion Questions for The Help by Kathryn Stockett
'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett is a novel about black domestic workers in white homes in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this novel.
7. Chuck Palahniuk: Books & Short Stories
Though the name Chuck Palahniuk might not ring a bell, you probably know some of his work. In this lesson, we will look at the novels and short stories of this prolific contemporary author.
8. Chuck Palahniuk: Biography & Quotes
Chuck Palahniuk lures readers in with his novels, like ''Fight Club,'' and continues to mesmerize with his grim, witty, off-the-wall writing. His inspiration is life. Read about this and the quotes that inspire us to know a bit more about him.
9. Chuck Palahniuk: Essays & Poems
He's well known for his anarchist novel, 'Fight Club', which popularized the phrase 'the first rule of fight club is, you don't talk about fight club,' but Palahnuik is a writer with a broader range than novels. In this lesson, a overview of his lesser known essays and poems will be discussed.
10. True Grit Novel Lesson Plan
Use this lesson plan to increase understanding of the novel 'True Grit'. Students will read a text lesson summarizing plot, digging more deeply into meaning and character traits with discussions and analysis. Test understanding with a quiz and close with a culminating activity.
11. True Grit: Book Summary & Analysis
Charles Portis's novel ''True Grit'' is so popular that it has been made into a movie - twice! Read on in this lesson for a short summary of main character Mattie Ross's adventures and an analysis of some of the novels' themes!
12. Realism in American Literature Lesson Plan
What is Realism in American literature? This lesson plan explains Realism to students with the help of a video lesson. An activity challenges students to analyze the language of select poems.
13. Carl Hiaasen: Biography & Facts
Are you interested in reading books about the effects of tourism and development on Florida? Carl Hiaasen's fiction and non-fiction works are often set in the state where he has spent his life.
14. Carl Hiaasen: Books & Quotes
In this lesson, we will learn about the author Carl Hiaasen, who has an eclectic body of work, but is best known for the Newbery award-winning novel 'Hoot.' We will discuss his novels and learn more about the author through his quotes.
15. Mother Night Essay Topics
This lesson includes essay topics to help your students comprehend, analyze and evaluate ''Mother Night'', a fictional account of a Nazi Propagandist's life by Kurt Vonnegut.
16. Orphan Train Book Lesson Plan
This lesson plan focuses students on the themes and events in the book, 'Orphan Train,' by Christina Baker Kline, through discussion of the book and the development of character trunks.
17. Orphan Train Book: Summary & Themes
How similar can the stories of two orphans, born years apart, be? Find out in this lesson, which will go over a summary of 'Orphan Train' by Christina Baker Kline and discuss one of the major themes.
18. Orphan Train Discussion Questions
'Orphan Train' by Christina Baker Kline shows that relationships can flourish between two people regardless of age. These discussion questions encourage learners to analyze characters, relationships, and themes.
19. A Wagner Matinee Lesson Plan
This lesson plan will help students cite text evidence when drawing inferences about characters and analyze the author's choices regarding the settings in a story as they read ''A Wagner Matinee'' by Willa Sibert Cather.
20. A Wagner Matinee: Summary, Analysis & Theme
Have you ever made a decision you regreted? In 'A Wagner Matinee,' we meet a woman whose choices have shaped her life - and not for the better. This lesson will explain the story and analyze Cather's meaning and themes.
21. Jack Gantos Lesson Plan
Through activities in this lesson, students will learn about the unusual life of author Jack Gantos, and how his experiences have shaped his love of books and his writing. Using Jack Gantos quotes as leads, students will write original stories focusing on a strong narrative voice.
22. Author Jack Gantos: Biography & Books
Jack Gantos is an author whose work spans multiple literary genres. This lesson will introduce you to his background and to many of his most notable books.
23. Sharon Draper Lesson Plan
Teach your students about author Sharon Draper with help from this lesson plan. Students will use two text lessons to gather information, conduct mock interviews to reinforce key concepts, and put new understanding into context with a fun project.
24. Always Running Lesson Plan
This lesson plan may be used to help your students answer questions about the text, retell the story, and define unfamiliar words while reading ''Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.'' by Luis J. Rodriguez.
25. The Silence of the Lambs Lesson Plan
This lesson plan is a tool for helping students learn about Thomas Harris' ''The Silence of the Lambs.'' The students will answer questions about the text and analyze characters from the story.
26. The Silence of the Lambs: Book Summary & Quotes
''The Silence of the Lambs'', a fictional novel by Thomas Harris, tells the terrifying tale of an FBI agent's mind-bending encounters with a serial cannibalistic killer, while searching for the kidnapper and killer of many missing women.
27. Death by Scrabble Lesson Plan
This lesson plan explores the short story, 'Death by Scrabble,' by Charles Fish. Students read and summarize the story, discuss the characters actions, and support their predictions with textual evidence. The lesson concludes with the students creating video adaptations of the story.
28. The Poisonwood Bible Discussion Questions
'The Poisonwood Bible' is a novel full of complex themes, colorful characters, and multifaceted conflicts. These discussion questions will help you provide students with a guide for meaningful conversations about the novel's components.
29. The Kite Runner Project Ideas
'The Kite Runner' is a novel written by Khaled Hosseini telling the story of a young boy living in the Middle East. The projects in this asset can be used to help readers draw meaning from this story.
30. Big Fish Book Discussion Questions
Here are a variety of questions that can help students comprehend and conceptualize the text of 'Big Fish' by author Daniel Wallace. Questions cover the entire novel and can be used to further in-class discussion or through homework.
31. A Thousand Splendid Suns Discussion Questions
'A Thousand Splendid Suns' is the harrowing tale of two women married to an abusive man in Afghanistan. These discussion questions can serve as a guide for you to spur meaningful conversation among your students.
32. The Christmas Pearl Discussion Questions
''The Christmas Pearl'' is a novel about the true meaning of Christmas, family, and traditions. These questions can help your students work through a discussion on this book and its major themes.
33. Johnny Got His Gun Discussion Questions
'Johnny Got His Gun' is a novel by Dalton Trumbo about the realities of war following World War I. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this novel.
34. The Help Discussion Questions
Students may answer the following discussion questions regarding 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett to help better grasp the book. They'll also have a chance to explore their opinions and feelings about sensitive topics outlined in the story.
35. Where'd You Go, Bernadette Discussion Questions
Published in 2012, ''Where'd You Go, Bernadette'' is a fictional novel made into a major motion picture (August 2019). This discussion guide can be used for any audience that reads the book.
36. The Snow Child Discussion Questions
''The Snow Child'' tells a story about a young, feral child coming into the life of a childless couple. Your students can explore the plot, characters, and themes of this novel using these discussion questions.
37. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Discussion Questions
'Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet' is a novel that just begs for meaningful, careful discussion. Use these questions about the story, literary elements, historical context, and personal response to get your group talking about this important novel.
38. A Land Remembered Discussion Questions
High school students will learn about the history of Florida through the eyes of a young boy in 'A Land Remembered' by Patrick Smith. This guide will help students think critically about the plot and historical context.
39. The Secret Life of Bees Book Discussion Questions
'The Secret Life of Bees' is a novel by Sue Monk Kidd that takes a realistic view of a teenager's experience in the South in the 1960s. This lesson will guide classroom discussions about this novel.
40. The Help Unit Plan
''The Help'' is a novel set in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi. This unit plan will assist you as you engage your middle or high school students in exploring the important historical context, as well as the characters, setting, and events of the novel.
41. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid Discussion Questions
''The Reluctant Fundamentalist'' explores ideas of prejudice, imperialism, and identity in a world shaped by 9/11. There's a lot to talk about in this book, and these questions can help guide a discussion with your students.
42. A Prayer for Owen Meany Discussion Questions
'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving is a popular novel about an unusual friendship between two young boys. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this novel.
43. The Bite of the Mango Discussion Questions
''The Bite of the Mango'' tells a story about Sierra Leone's civil war from the perspective of a girl caught in its violence. There are many intense events and themes in this book, but these questions can help your students work through them.
44. The Color of Water Discussion Questions
Students may answer the following discussion questions about ''The Color of Water'' by James McBride during or after they have read the book. These questions ensure students' comprehension of the storyline while offering them an opportunity to discuss their beliefs.
45. This Is Water Discussion Questions
These discussion questions will help shape a deep discussion of the commencement speech by author David Foster Wallace. These questions are meant for post-secondary students, as there is some adult language in the speech.
46. A&P by John Updike Discussion Questions
'A & P' is a humorous short story by John Updike about social norms and dressing for the occasion. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this story.
47. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance Discussion Questions
'Hillbilly Elegy' is a memoir written by J.D. Vance about his Appalachian upbringing before becoming a venture capitalist. These discussion questions support classroom review of this book.
48. Between the World and Me Discussion Questions
'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a letter to the author's son about race relations in America. This asset contains classroom discussion questions about this novel.
49. Big Little Lies Book Discussion Questions
'Big Little Lies' is a fictional book by author Liane Moriarty. The book was published in 2014 and is suitable for high school, post-secondary or adult readers.
50. The New Jim Crow Discussion Questions
'The New Jim Crow' is a book by Michelle Alexander that compares mass incarceration of African-American men to racial social control of the Jim Crow era. These questions may be used to lead a classroom discussion about this book.
51. The Woman in Cabin 10 Discussion Questions
'The Woman in Cabin 10' by Ruth Ware is a murder mystery that takes place on a luxury yacht in the North Sea. This asset is comprised of discussion questions about this novel.
52. Dear Martin Discussion Questions
'Dear Martin' is a fictional book by Nic Stone about a young, African-American teen named Justyce. In the book, Justyce navigates the difficult journey of racism and stereotypes.
53. True Colors by Kristin Hannah Discussion Questions
''True Colors'' is a 2008 novel by Kristin Hannah about family, justice, and horses. These questions can help your students work through their thoughts on this book in a class discussion.
54. Angela's Ashes Discussion Questions
''Angela's Ashes'' is a compelling memoir by Frank McCourt that explores the Depression era in Ireland. These questions can help your class discuss the book and its main ideas.
55. Saving Sophie Discussion Questions
'Saving Sophie' is an exciting novel that can introduce conversations about world events, morality, and conflict. These questions will help facilitate a class discussion on this book's characters, plots, and connection to other issues.
56. Still Life with Bread Crumbs Discussion Questions
Teachers assign the following discussion questions about 'Still Life with Bread Crumbs' by Anna Quindlen to confirm students understanding of the book. Students will also be able to integrate their opinions and experiences for a deeper reflection.
57. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides Discussion Questions
''Middlesex'' is a 2002 novel by Jeffery Eugenides that deals with issues of gender and identity. These questions can help lead a class discussion about this book and its themes.
58. Lincoln in the Bardo Discussion Questions
''Lincoln in the Bardo'' is an acclaimed novel, but one that can be difficult to work through. These questions will help guide your class through a discussion on George Saunders' experimental novel.
59. The Five People You Meet in Heaven Discussion Questions
'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' is a soul-filling book that was written by Mitch Albom in 2003. The book provides excellent fuel for discussion for older middle and high school students.
60. Breath, Eyes, Memory Discussion Questions
Edwidge Danticat's 'Breath, Eyes, Memory' is a challenging novel to tackle with your upper high school or college students. These discussion questions can help you guide your students through the mature themes and complex characters of this novel.
61. The Tipping Point Discussion Questions
Teachers assign the following discussion questions after students have read 'The Tipping Point' by Malcolm Gladwell. Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the story line and implement critical thinking skills through deeper reflection.
62. The Marriage of Opposites Discussion Questions
Use these questions after students have read 'The Marriage of Opposites' by Alice Hoffman. These prompts will encourage students to demonstrate comprehension and share their beliefs and values with peers.
63. We Need to Talk About Kevin Discussion Questions
'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver is the story of a mother coping with the reality that her son committed a school massacre. The questions in this resource may be used to lead a class discussion about this novel.
64. Fallen Angels Discussion Questions
'Fallen Angels' is a novel by Walter Dean Myers that follows an African American soldier on the front lines of the Vietnam War. Teachers may use this resource to lead classroom discussions about this novel.
65. Enrique's Journey Discussion Questions
'Enrique's Journey' by Sonia Nazario is the true story of a Honduran teenager who travels to the United States in search of his mother. This resource offers classroom discussion questions about this book.
66. The Last Rung on the Ladder Discussion Questions
'The Last Rung on the Ladder' is a short story written by author Stephen King. Although it is only 10 pages long, it comes highly acclaimed. Use the questions to enhance your students' understanding of the story.
67. Refugee by Alan Gratz Discussion Questions
''Refugee'' is a young-adult novel that follows three families of refugees from different eras. It's a novel suited for class discussion and can help transition into discussions about refugee issues in history and in today's world.
68. Sweat Discussion Questions
''Sweat'' by Zora Neale Hurston is a short story about a hardworking African American woman who suffers from domestic abuse. This asset offers classroom discussion questions about this story.
69. And The Mountains Echoed Discussion Questions
'And the Mountains Echoed' is a novel about family and loss, opening up a lot of options for students to explore it further. Use these questions to help guide a class discussion about this novel and its themes.
70. Less by Andrew Sean Greer Discussion Questions
Reading 'Less' with your high school students can be a fun-filled, yet poignant, exploration of travel, relationships, and memories. Use these discussion questions to guide students to a deeper understanding of the novel's fascinating themes.
71. Shooting Kabul Discussion Questions
'Shooting Kabul' is a children's novel by N. H. Senzai about a family of Afghan refugees who come to America. The questions in this resource support upper elementary and middle school discussions about this novel.
72. The Book of Unknown Americans Discussion Questions
Complex themes and mature topics are tackled in 'The Book of Unknown Americans'. Use these discussion questions with your high school students to help guide their conversations around the thematic elements of this novel.
73. The Tortilla Curtain Discussion Questions
Reading ''The Tortilla Curtain'' can be a great way to get your students thinking about topics of immigration and opportunities. Guide that conversation in a class discussion of this novel using these questions.
74. The Godfather Discussion Questions
'The Godfather' is a novel by Mario Puzo about the Italian mafia, which was later adapted into an Academy Award winning film. These discussion questions will encourage critical thinking about this book.
75. The Girls by Emma Cline Discussion Questions
Are you reading 'The Girls' with your students or reading group? These questions can be the catalyst for your discussions of story, literary elements, and students' personal responses to this fascinating novel.
76. Discussion Questions for Everything I Never Told You
'Everything I Never Told You' is an exploration of a Chinese American family navigating the complexities of life and relationships. These discussion questions can help you guide high school students as they analyze character, theme, and setting.
77. Between Shades of Gray Discussion Questions
'Between Shades of Gray' follows the Soviet oppression of the Baltics, a moment rarely explored in historical fiction. These questions can help students dive deeper into this novel and its themes.
78. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Discussion Questions
These discussion questions can help guide your students as they work through their thoughts, feelings, and observations about the novel ''The Heart is a Lonely Hunter''.
79. Discussion Questions for A Visit from the Goon Squad
In a survey of contemporary American literature, 'A Visit From the Goon Squad' delivers an apt window into discussions about structure, content, and vision. These discussion questions will help you delve into Jennifer Egan's novel with your students.
80. Day of the Butterfly Discussion Questions
'Day of the Butterfly' is a short story by Alice Munro about children who isolate and bully one of their peers. This asset contains discussion questions about this story.
81. Discussion Questions for The Invention of Wings
These discussion questions can help your students work through their thoughts and reactions to 'The Invention of Wings', a story that should help them think about American history in new ways.
82. Plainsong Discussion Questions
Kent Haruf's 'Plainsong' tells a story of tumultuous change, loneliness, and community through multiple perspectives. Use these discussion questions to guide your high school students as they analyze the novel's characters, style, and themes.
83. Let The Great World Spin Discussion Questions
Exploring the novel 'Let the Great World Spin' with your high school students can take them on a thrilling journey through multiple perspectives. Use these discussion questions to engage them in conversations related to novel.
84. History of Wolves Discussion Questions
These discussion questions can help you guide your students work through their thoughts and reactions to Emily Fridlund's novel 'History of Wolves'.
85. Some Luck Discussion Questions
The following discussion questions are designed to help guide your students as they work through their thoughts and reactions to the Jane Smiley novel 'Some Luck'.
86. All The Pretty Horses Discussion Questions
'All the Pretty Horses' is a coming of age novel by Cormac McCarthy about three friends who travel to Mexico on horseback. This asset provides discussion questions about this novel for classroom use.
87. For One More Day Discussion Questions
'For One More Day' tracks the emotional journey of Chick Benetto as he travels beyond life and sees his mother on the other side. Use these discussion questions to explore the thematic threads of this novel with your high school students.
88. The Lovely Bones Discussion Questions
'The Lovely Bones' is the haunting tale of a teenage girl who is brutally raped and murdered, her experience of the afterlife, and her family's grief. Use these discussion questions to help your high school students process the novel's themes.
89. The Plague of Doves Discussion Questions
The following discussion questions are designed to help your students better appreciate the plot, structure, and themes of the novel 'The Plague of Doves' by Louise Erdrich.
90. In Cold Blood Part 4 Discussion Questions
'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote created the genre of the true crime novel through its dramatic telling of the Clutter family murder in 1959. This asset contains discussion questions for students about part 4 of this book.
91. In Cold Blood Part 3 Discussion Questions
'In Cold Blood' is a true crime novel by Truman Capote about the murder of the Clutter family in 1959. This resource offers discussion questions for students about part 3 of this book.
92. In Cold Blood Part 2 Discussion Questions
'In Cold Blood' is the true crime novel by Truman Capote about the 1959 murder of a Kansas family. This asset provides discussion questions for high school students about part 2 of this novel.
93. Home Front by Kristin Hannah Discussion Questions
'Home Front' is a timely book dealing with the struggles of a soldier and her family as she faces deployment, combat, injury, and homecoming. Invite your students to join you in candid discussion after carefully reading this novel together.
94. The Forgetting Time Discussion Questions
'Forgetting Time' is an intriguing journey through the connections of two families as they face daunting challenges of grief and growth. Use these discussion questions to help your high school students analyze character, theme, and symbolism.
95. The Sandcastle Girls Discussion Questions
'The Sandcastle Girls' is a somber, thought-provoking tale with intense characters in an extreme situation. Capture your class's imagination with this novel, then help them process it using these questions on story, literary elements, and personal response.
96. War Brides by Helen Bryan Discussion Questions
'War Brides' is a historical novel set in Sussex, England in the early days of World War II. This harrowing tale is told from the perspective of five young women. Help high school students glean meaningful insights with these discussion questions.
97. Where the Crawdads Sing Discussion Questions
These questions can help you to guide your students through a class discussion as they examine their thoughts and reactions to Delia Owens' 'Where the Crawdads Sing'.
98. The Shoemaker's Wife Discussion Questions
'The Shoemaker's Wife' shares the love story between main characters Ciro Lazzari and Enza Ravanelli. These discussion questions can help you guide high school students through conversations about the themes of love, family, and community.
99. The Story of Arthur Truluv Discussion Questions
The following discussion questions can help you to guide your students as they work through their thoughts and reactions to the Elizabeth Berg novel 'The Story of Arthur Truluv'.
100. Before We Were Yours Discussion Questions
Craftily written by Lisa Wingate, 'Before We Were Yours' is the story of a family of children forced into the Tennessee Children's Home Society and the lives they led as a result. Use this lesson to encourage deeper discussion of this novel.
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Other chapters within the American Literature Resources for Teachers course
- Classic American Literature Lesson Plans
- Early 20th Century American Literature Lesson Plans
- African-American Authors Lesson Plans
- Classic American Literature Essay Topics
- Teaching Literature About Colonial America
- Contemporary American Literature Essay Topics
- Literature of Latin America Lesson Plans
- Teaching Toni Morrison Books
- Teaching Alice Walker Books & Poems
- Dreaming in Cuban Lesson Plans & Resources