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Reading & Language Arts

49 Posts authored by: snituama

ESDN-wcs_nyaquarium_2016-pc-697.jpgFranky Abbott is an ACLS Public Fellow working on outreach, education, and content-related projects for DPLA. She has worked at a variety of academic institutions on digital programs and projects and as a 10–12 grade English teacher and college-level instructor. She has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Emory University.

 

The Digital Public Library of America is a free online library that provides access to books, photographs, maps, audiovisual materials, and more from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. At its one-year anniversary this week, DPLA includes 7 million items from more than 1,100 U.S. based partners. It is a one-stop shop where teachers and students can easily find primary sources and other materials from a wide range of institutions, from small historical societies to large national archives.  All items have been curated and vetted by cultural heritage professionals. No registration or subscription is required.

DPLA aims to expand the realm of openly available materials and make these riches more easily discovered and more widely usable in three ways:

  • A portal for discovery. DPLA delivers digital resources to students, teachers, scholars, and the public, wherever they may be in America. Browse partner content using a map, timeline, virtual bookshelf, and exhibitions. Search using facets to refine results by date, location, type, language, subject, and more.
  • A platform opening our cultural heritage. With an application programming interface (API) and maximally open data, DPLA can be used by software developers, researchers, and student coders to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and engaging apps. Its growing app library includes apps for visual exploration and serendipitous discovery, apps that integrate DPLA content into library systems and other online resources, and mobile apps that show resources related to the user’s geographic location.
  • An advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century. For most of our nation’s history, the ability to access materials for free through public libraries has been a central part of our culture, producing generations of avid readers and a knowledgeable, engaged citizenry. DPLA works, along with like-minded organizations, to ensure that this critical, open intellectual landscape remains vibrant and broad. DPLA seeks to multiply openly accessible materials to strengthen the public option that libraries represent in their communities.


Uses in the Classroom

 

DPLA offers teachers movement toward educational goals that align with Common Core State Standards: helping students build digital literacy and 21st-century skills and teaching students to work critically with primary sources. It represents the kind of online resource that students will increasingly navigate as they grow as researchers. As such, it helps refine their critical searching skills, helps them to better assess the relevance of resources and to develop an understanding of how to interpret contextual record information and build citations.A search for “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” for example, will yield more than 2,277 results from 100 institutions in a variety of formats: text, image, sound, and moving image. Students can use a faceted search to focus on specific aspects of MLK’s life and work. For example, they can use the map feature to identify items related to MLK’s birthplace—Atlanta, Georgia—and the timeline to highlight items from 1968, the year of his assassination.DPLA provides tutorials and help with searching, browsing, and the creation of accounts in order to save and share lists, both privately and publicly. These activities help students to focus search results and research questions for a particular research topic. A search activity can be completed alone or within a larger project to align with Common Core Anchor Standards for English Language Arts in Writing such as: 7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation and 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Primary Sources

 

Use DPLA to tap an abundance of primary sources. You can find online exhibitions that tell the story of a significant topic or event by pairing readings with relevant primary sources. Here is a sampling of popular topics in history/social studies and science:

 

Research and reading activities incorporate these exhibitions and align with Common Core State Anchor Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in Reading such as 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively as well as words and 9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.Exhibitions offer a curated approach, but DPLA content can offer a wealth of other primary source possibilities for teachers and students searching and browsing the collection. A small fraction of the available examples that could help meet similar CCSS objectives include:

 

Opportunities for Educator Involvement

DPLA’s easy-to-install search widget can be used to add a DPLA search box to any course, library, or other school website.

 

For educators engaging students in coding activities, DPLA offers instructions and support for work with the DPLA API for app building.

 

The DPLA Community Reps program recruits representatives from the public to work with the project in their local communities. The first class of reps—100 reps from 36 states and 2 international countries—includes a strong cohort of teachers, school librarians, media specialists, and curriculum developers who believe in DPLA’s open mission and its value as a resource. These reps use the project with classes of students and share it with colleagues, and then provide the organization with use cases and feedback. This supports DPLA’s plans to develop future education partnerships and design new education resources.

 

DPLA is now accepting applications for a second class of community reps and we’re specifically looking to grow our group of educators. The deadline is April 30, 2014.

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

Aquarium, Battery Park, New York City [Postcard], ca. 1931. From the New York Aquarium Postcards collection of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives. Via Empire State Digital Network. http://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16124coll7/id/83

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month (NPM) brings together lovers of poetry from around the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Along the way, the Academy has enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials, educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations to help.

 

EDSITEment has been involved in this annual effort since the project’s inception in 1997. Over the years, EDSITEment has created features with a variety of themes highlighting the best open source resources to teach poetry in the classroom.

 

 

 

 

New Poetry Resource for the Common Core

This year EDSITEment has created a new feature: National Poetry Month Exemplars: Poetry for the Common Core.

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide....

 

- A Shropshire Lad II: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now by A. E. Housman


The poetry selections within this new feature represent Common Core State Standards Exemplars (ELA: Appendix B.) You’ll find examples of classic and contemporary poets and poems that can be integrated into your English Language Arts classroom to meet the new grade level standards of elementary, middle, and high school levels of college and career readiness. For each of the twenty-three poems or poetic forms included, there is a link to the poem and a host of open-source multimedia resources to teach it.

 

These multimedia resources include EDSITEment lessons as well as EDSITEment-reviewed websites that discuss the poem, its context, and the poet. Media incorporated in these resources include audio clips, video, primary source documents, and photographs, along with other useful tools such as student-driven interactives. The resources relate to each poem and offer unique ways to build the content and skills for understanding poetry with English Language Arts classes. It is part of EDSITEment’s continuing commitment to support the success of teachers and students in meeting the Common Core State Standards initiative.

 

EDSITEment also offers a literary glossary of terms cross-referenced with EDSITEment lessons. The glossary serves as a convenient tool for poetic devices and forms as students work through the close readings of the poems and lesson activities.

 

New Poet-to-Poet Project

This year, the American Academy of Poets is offering students a new way to engage with memorable poetry. For National Poetry Month, the Academy is introducing their Poet-to-Poet Project, a multimedia educational opportunity that invites young people in grades 3–12 to write poems in response to those shared by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.

 

For students to participate in Poet-to-Poet, have them watch the videos linked below, which show the Chancellors reading and discussing their poems. Then, have students write an original poem as a response. Email the poem to the American Academy of Poets at poet2poet@poets.org by the April 30, 2014 deadline. Please have students include their name and the name of the Chancellor poet who inspired their poem. The Academy will consider all student poems for publication on Poets.org in May 2014.

 

Teachers interested in using Poet-to-Poet in the classroom can tap into a series of activities developed by the Academy to align with the Common Core. EDSITEment-reviewed Poetry Foundation also offers Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars: Poems to integrate into your English Language Arts classroom.

 

Previous Annual National Poetry Month Resources from EDSITEment

Photograph of a low stone wall on farmland in Derry, N.H. once owned by poet Robert Frost. Some believe this area inspired Frost to write his poem, "Mending Wall." Source: AP, May 29, 2011. Courtesy NBC Learn K-12The Robert Frost Farm website hosts a Teachers' Resources page with EDSITEment and READWRITETHINK lessons on the poet.

 

               SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,

               That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

               And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

               And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

 

for-frost.jpgRobert Frost opens one of his most famous poems, “Mending Wall,” by remarking on gaps in a traditional New England stone wall used to separate the property of two neighbors. He surmises this wall has been compromised by “SOMETHING” — a supernatural force (perhaps “elves” as he suggests later in the poem). Whatever force is responsible, it clearly doesn’t appreciate the fact that this wall exists. The actual cause for this breach in the wall is not “hunters” but a natural phenomenon. The ground underneath the wall has expanded due to winter cold causing its stones to lift and become dislodged. Frost observes the resulting gaps caused by this expansion are so wide that two people can move through them side by side. Frost goes on to clarify his meaning.

 

The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

 

Thus, Frost enlists his neighbor (and the readers) in the annual spring task to “walk the line” and re-set this wall. Good neighbor that he is, Frost is careful to keep the boundary between them as they do.

 

The Common Core State Standards suggests using “Mending Wall” as an exemplar to teach poetry in Grades 11–College and Career Readiness [p.161 in Appendix B: Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” The Complete Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949. (1914)].

 

EDSITEment’s lesson, Robert Frost's "Mending Wall": A Marriage of Poetic Form and Content, guides students through a close reading, line-by-line, analysis of the poem to arrive at an understanding of why Frost chooses and places certain words within the poem to shape its meaning.

 

Close Reading of the Poem

 

By performing a close reading, students can begin to comprehend Frost’s masterful integration of form and content. Moreover, a close analysis into how Frost structures “Mending Wall” also speaks directly to the following Common Core Anchor Standard:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

 

Activity 1 of this lesson directly addresses form by having students carefully examine the rhythm and meter of the first four lines (see the poem’s opening lines, above) and note the rhythmic changes in line four. From a content perspective, students will observe how this same line introduces “the gaps” in the wall. The form of the line, which projects a rhythmically, more unruly line that those preceding it, itself has breaks (gaps) in rhythm. Here is the first glimpse of Frost's marriage of form and content in this poem.

 

The rest of the lesson is based on this fundamental technique of observation, which gives students the tools to discern how formal change, repetition, and word relationships affect the meaning and significance of content. With the help of the worksheet, "Frost's Form and Content" in Activity 2, students can move on to an analysis of Frost’s figurative language, word relationships, and word meaning, which encourages discussion of the broader themes through group work. The following questions help unpack these themes:

 

  • How do we describe the speaker and his tone? How do we describe the neighbor? How do they compare?
  • What is the meaning and significance of the word "mending" in both the poem's title and in the action carried throughout the poem? (Notice how the word can be used as both an adjective and an action.)
  • In what way(s) does Frost directly and indirectly use this word? Does anything else in the poem need mending?
  • In what ways do "walls" become metaphorical and/or symbolic in the poem?
  • Why does the neighbor think that "good fences make good neighbors"? Why does Frost choose to close the poem on this note?

 

Deeper Analysis of the Craft and Structure Once the first level of understanding has been demonstrated, students are ready to make the descent into the subterranean meanings within the poem. This level of reading addresses the more subtle figurative and metaphorical levels of language noted in the following Common Core Standard:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)Activity 3 encourages students to focus on the poem's form in relation to themes they have identified and discussed. A teacher's version of the worksheet contains a helpful analysis of selected lines. Frost employs the word “gaps” and the word “walls” by playing with form to convey the multiple meanings of these antonyms and to get their figurative and connotative meanings across. The following questions (with suggested responses in brackets) are designed to encourage students’ understanding.

  • What “gaps” are coming up in this poem?
    [The breach in the physical space between the neighbors on either side of the wall; the emotional emptiness within their neighborly relationship.]
  • Can such emotional gaps be deeper even than the one under repair? How does Frost make these all too human gaps evident?
    [The superficial conversation exchanged by the neighbors in the poem. The neighbor doesn't understand the nuances of the speaker's comments and the speaker doesn't understand his neighbor's attachment to provincial clichés.]
  • What “walls” are being built in this poem?
    [The repetition of the word “walls” literally creates them within the poem and underline the physical walls that exist between neighbors; the “father’s saying” becomes a figurative wall — the neighbor’s belief in it without questioning perpetuates it.]
  • What is being “walled in” and “walled out” here? Does Frost think human beings should love “walls” and try to keep them up or like nature is it better to have walls come down?
    [As Frost tells us there are “no cows” to keep contained, each neighbor’s property—one containing pine trees and one containing apple trees—are being walled in; two different personalities are being walled out.]
  • Ask students to frame ultimate questions around the gaps and walls that surface in this poem?
    [Why can’t the gaps that divide human personalities be fixed as easily as natural (or supernatural) forces break down a wall? How can a broken wall between two properties be built up with effort, but an authentic relationship between two neighbors cannot be willed?]

For a culminating activity, have students to explain how Frost shoots the old cliché in the foot to arrive at a fresh understanding of this truth: Good fences do not (necessarily) good neighbors make!

 

Additional EDSITEment resources for teaching “Mending Wall”

 

EDSITEment-reviewed Poetry Foundation cites “Mending Wall” as the leading poem responsible for establishing Frost as “a major force in modern poetry.”

One place understood helps us understand all places betterӉۥEudora Welty

 

The author

Eudora Welty was a Mississippi author who lived and wrote of life in the rural American South in her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi, in the early to mid-20th century. In her lifetime, Welty was awarded many honors including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a National Book Award, and the National Medal of Arts. In praise of Welty, Katherine Anne Porter once wrote: “There is no blurring at the edges, but evidences of an active and disciplined imagination working firmly in a strong line of continuity, the waking faculty of daylight reason recollecting and recording the crazy logic of the dream.”

 

The story

Welty’s home in Jackson was close by the Natchez Trace which she used as the setting for her story “A Worn Path.” (1941) The “Ole Trace,” as this ancient trail is referred to by locals, runs from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi and served as a main artery for the transport of people, goods, and services through that region. Welty’s inspiration for the story came as she sat with a painter friend out on the Trace and observed an elderly women walking laboriously down the trail. That vision led her to wonder where the woman might be coming from and going to. During the early 1940s when “A Worn Path” was written, Welty worked as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration. Undoubtedly, her experiences in the WPA contributed to themes in the story.

 

Eudora Welty and “A Worn Path” fall squarely within the 9–10 grade band of exemplary texts though they are not explicitly listed in the CCSS Appendix. “A Worn Path” often appears on English teachers’ syllabi as a related text to follow a study of Homer’s Odyssey, a CCSS 9–10 grade exemplar for Poetry. The passage the main character undertakes in “A Worn Path” can indeed be viewed as a pilgrimage and a 20th-century manifestation of the hero’s journey archetype.

 

The lesson

EDSITEment lesson Character in Place: Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” for the Common Core serves as an application for the following Anchor Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. It invites students to describe and analyze Welty’s use of characterization and setting to communicate the struggle and reward of that journey for the heroic main character—poor, black, and elderly—during the Great Depression.

 

The story’s protagonist, Phoenix Jackson, is an aged, impoverished, rural African American woman in pursuit of medicine for her grandson. In the course of a single day, Welty’s character, Phoenix, encounters multiple obstacles in the form of various white people whose treatment of her ranges from patronizing to insensitive. As such, her story depicts the Depression in the United States from the vantage point of a victim insufficiently represented in art—though a victim who, like the mythological phoenix her name evokes, resists annihilation, Phoenix transcends the abuse she experiences.

 

Common Core applications

Activity 1 enlists Worksheet 1. Characterization to prepare students for a class-wide discussion of characterization in the story. Follow up questions focus on descriptions of the main character and other characters as well as instances of figurative language and how those literary devices advance the story. Students are encouraged to present evidence from the text when formulating their answers. Activity 2 uses Worksheet 2. Setting to prepare students for a class-wide discussion of setting in the story by focusing on and fleshing out Welty’s detailed descriptions of place. Follow up questions focus on the impact of setting on meaning. Students consider how setting affects their appreciation and understanding of the story CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).


Activity 3 presents students with basic ways of combining text and imagery through a creative writing and drawing activity that has them render a new plot event into their own graphic panel. Students consider how imagery and text communicate together and separately. They see firsthand how meaning becomes more complex and multi-layered as words and pictures rely on each other. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.


“A Worn Path” is marked by intense and dramatic imagery that illuminates one character’s difficult and triumphant journey through a single day. Through this CCSS application students understanding moves into creative extension and the story becomes their own.

 

[Image: Sunken part of the Old Trace. 2002.  Photographer: Jan Kronsell. File:OldTraceSunken.jpg - Wikimedia Commons ]

   http://edsitement.neh.gov/sites/edsitement.neh.gov/files/imagecache/thumb/images/content/hopper-house-sml.jpg

The arts have a central and essential role in achieving the finest aspects of the common core…The great news is that the standards call on so many things the arts do well. The tradition of careful observation, attention to evidence and artists’ choices, the love of taking an artist’s work seriously lies at the heart of these standards. —David Coleman, architect of the Common Core, Americans for the Arts

 

EDSITEment has heard and answered this clarion call for the visual arts to be integrated into English Language Arts via College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading » 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

 

Our newest CCSS lesson application, House by the Railroad: Painting and Poem for the Common Core, invites a comparative close reading of Edward Hopper’s painting House by the Railroad and Edward Hirsch’s poem “Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad” to explore how form affects content in both painting and poem.

 

These two views tell the story of a particular time and place in American history: the tail end of the industrial revolution in the United States, when the traffic of industry aggressively reconfigured the American landscape. Even as that traffic brought work and culture to some parts of the country, it ravished others and compelled their abandonment. What for some was progress was for others decline. Both works address additional subjects, including the role and impact of the artist.

 

The Painter

The American landscape painter, Edward Hopper’s (1882–1967) approach is consistent with his classification as a realist painter of modern American life in the early to mid-20th century. His subjects include street corners, theaters, and gas stations—wherever common Americans lived out their lives—as well as land- and seascapes. Desolation is a common theme identified by critics, but so are intimacy and human sensuality. On the Picturing America website, go to the English language Resource Book (Image 16a) for basic biographical and contextual information about Hopper and House by the Railroad.

 

The Poet

Edward Hirsch (b. 1950) is a contemporary poet known for his advocacy of poetry who writes in a range of genres and addresses many themes, making him difficult to classify; he has published free verse and formal odes; and his primary preoccupations include emotional life, history, politics, and most recently, “the divine.” Biographical information is available on the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets website (where you can also access his brief essay “How to Read a Poem”). His “House by the Railroad” poem belongs to the tradition of ekphrastic poetry, which the Academy of American Poets defines as poetry that “confronts” art.

 

Common Core Applications

Activity 1 engages students in detailed description of a painting to facilitate supported artistic analysis. Using the Worksheet 1: Basic Elements of Art handout and the Worksheet 2: Looking Closely graphic organizer to begin looking closely at the artist’s use of his medium. Students should build or add to their list in the first column of the graphic organizer and then, in the third column, note everything they can about line, form, space, color, shape, and contrast, eventually sharing out their observations with the rest of the class. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 

Activity 2 uses the Worksheet 3: Reading Closely graphic organizer to capture a detailed description of the poem, "Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad" (1925). Figurative and connotative meanings are carefully considered in order to uncover the cumulative impact of Hirsch’s specific word choices on meaning and tone in the poem. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

 

Guiding questions in Activity 3 form the basis for a cumulative discussion on how the painter and poet treat their subjects differently. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

 

Such a media-rich lesson connecting visual images to poetic ones will imprint students and stay with them long after the signal to move on to another subject. More information on the American painter Edward Hopper can be found at the MoMA website. Additional background on Edward Hirsch and his poetry can also be found at the EDSITEment-reviewed Poetry Foundation website.

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

16-A Edward Hopper (1882–1967), House by the Railroad, 1925. Oil on canvas, 24 x 29 in. (61 x 73.7 cm.). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously (3.1930). Credit: Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a8/Old_North_Cemetery%2C_Portsmouth_NH.jpg/320px-Old_North_Cemetery%2C_Portsmouth_NH.jpg


“Indeed the play's success across cultural borders around the world attests to its being something much greater than an American play: it is a play that captures the universal experience of being alive.”

—Donald Margulies, (Foreword) Our Town.

 

The play

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town explores the evolving relationship between two young people, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, and traces the circle of their life together as they transition from neighbors to friends, then to lovers, and finally to marriage and parenthood. This simple story of a love affair dramatizes the particular events in a small New England town at the beginning of the twentieth century, yet it transcends that specific place and time, presenting the audience with a universal experience and posing eternal questions about the meaning of life and death, love and marriage.

 

From the very beginning Our Town developed into a favorite production in schools and in amateur and professional theatres around the world. Since its first performance at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey almost a century ago, on January 22, 1938, the play has enjoyed wide acclaim. Often referred to as a quintessential work of American theater, it earned Thornton Wilder the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes. Our Town continues to be an especially moving theatrical experience for audiences despite the most minimal of sets and only a handful of props. Indeed, the play begins with the Stage Manager on an empty stage, dragging a few chairs and tables into their places while the theater audience is still taking their seats!

 

EDSITEment’s Dramatic and Theatrical Aspects in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town: A Common Core Exemplar maintains that the power of this play emanates from this very simplicity. This lesson focuses on various theatrical elements, including the play's allusions to spectacle without distracting production details and its elegant characterization and character development. It also focuses on the essential human conflicts and contrasts that animate the stage.

 

The play’s flexibility allows for it to be frequently and creatively staged. Productions of Our Town continue to garner as many enthusiastic reviews today as its first production did. Critics originally noted Wilder’s choices of “a liberatingly severe aesthetic to map the topography of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire,” and such qualities such as “a cosmic dimension, where joy and sorrow are equal modes from the vantage point of the stars.” A review of a recent performance executed by actors with hearing impairments expresses the play’s ability to “reach into the universal soul.”

 

Common Core Applications

Our Town appears on the CCSS list of exemplary texts for Grades 11 – College and Career Readiness (Appendix B.) The following applications from EDSITEment’s lesson ground the lesson activities in Anchor Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.


Activity 1 takes the unusual tact of having students explore the impact of Wilder’s stage directions through an analysis of the sights and sounds on the play’s moods. Using a Sights and Sounds graphic organizer, teachers can lead the whole class through a close reading of Act 1 before students divided into small groups move onto an independent analysis of the rest of the play. This application relates to CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Activity 2 tracks the main characteristics of key characters in the play including their physical and biographical elements and their beliefs, motivations, emotions, and behaviors, as well as their impact on the play. Using the Role Call graphic organizer, each group is assigned responsibility for different characters. This application relates to CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).


Creative writing activity

A culminating creative writing activity assesses students’ understanding by having them write additional scenes for the play using themes and moods consistent with Wilder’s dramatic elements. Students are expected to incorporate the theatrical aspects they have covered in their three group work lesson activities: allusions to spectacle (what the audience is asked to see and hear); characterization; and conflict development and resolution. In the spirit of the Common Core, they are also required to explain and defend their choices with evidence from the play. This assessment applies to CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3d. Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.


It is important to encourage students to become active observers. This lesson helps to develop their understanding of a playwright’s subtle use of dramatic and theatrical devices to shape his drama. Engaging deeply and thoughtfully with a high quality literary text exemplar such as Our Town is a natural outgrowth of the Common Core State Standards’ drive to generate literate students in the 21st century.

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

Old North Cemetery, Portsmouth New Hampshire. Courtesy of John Phelan via Wikipedia.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” – Rudyard Kipling

 

Photo: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” – Rudyard Kipling (born Bombay India December 30th 1865)Kipling was one of the most popular writers in England, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through his work as a journalist and a poet, Kipling was heralded worldwide as "the voice of the British Empire." But it was his fiction, where he blended the best of both skills that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 in recognition of “the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas, and remarkable talent for narration which characterizes [his] creations." Turn the corner to the New Year by entering the world that Kipling brought alive in his classic tale, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." This famous short story from a collection of fables published as The Jungle Book (1894) issues moral lessons through the guise of animal characters. Kipling invested nearly everything he knew or "heard or dreamed about the Indian jungle" in this collection of stories...For applications of this classic to the Common Core State Standards: http://www.thinkfinity.org/groups/closer-readings/blog/2013/12/30/kipling-for-the-common-coreOn the occasion of his birthday this week, EDSITEment pays tribute to Rudyard Kipling with this College and Career Readiness application of his literary classic (and it's not just for the elementary set!)

 

The Author

 

Born in Bombay India on December 30, 1865, Rudyard Kipling became one of the most popular writers in England, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through his work as a journalist and a poet, Kipling was heralded worldwide as "the voice of the British Empire." But it was his fiction, where he blended the best of both skills, that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907 in recognition of “the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas, and remarkable talent for narration which characterizes [his] creations." For background on the life and work of Rudyard Kipling, visit EDSITEment-reviewed Victorian Web.

 

Kipling’s “How the Camel Got His Hump” appears on the ELA Common Core Exemplar text list for Grades 2–3 under Read Aloud Stories. Though his classic narratives have often been pigeonholed as elementary, if approached with an open mind, Kipling’s timeless truths transcend the artificial barriers of age as well as race and culture.

 

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”

 

Turn the corner to the New Year by entering the world that Kipling brought alive in his classic tale, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." This famous short story from a collection of fables published as The Jungle Book (1894) issues moral lessons through the guise of animal characters. Kipling invested nearly everything he knew or "heard or dreamed about the Indian jungle" in this collection of stories.

 

Kipling’s ability to mix scientific and historical fact with imaginative characters to create a believable and entertaining story can be tapped for CCSS application: English Language Arts Standards » Anchor Standards » College and Career Readiness CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas. While the following EDSITEment Lesson activities are indicated for elementary school level students, they can be easily adapted for older grades.

 

[Note: The Illustrated E-text of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" at the University of Virginia is available through EDSITEment-reviewed Center for Liberal Arts.]

 

Lesson 1: Mixing Fact and Fiction

 

Encourage students to use interactive materials to learn how Kipling effectively infuses personification into
his animal characters by mixing fact and fiction.

 

In Activity three, students are asked to separate the facts from the fiction in Kipling's story. First, they read an encyclopedia article on mongooses. Then they look back through the text to find the examples Kipling included of actual mongoose characteristics and behavior, and record two or more in the appropriate box on the Fact or Personification? Chart. They repeat the exercise for the characters of cobra and tailor-bird. This exercise can be done in a large group, individually, or in small groups with a large-group presentation at the end. It speaks to the following applications: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.3.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

 

Lesson 2: Mixing Words and Pictures

 

Lead students through a close reading of the illustrated version of "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" to examine how Kipling and visual artists mix observation with imagination. Then, students can follow similar principles to create a work of their own.

 

In Activity one, introduce students to the EDSITEment-reviewed "Art Safari" from the Museum of Modern Art saying they will be taking a closer look at how artists create "stories" in their works. This site encourages learning about art by looking and sharing interpretations. A series of questions guides them to create stories based on four different artworks. Younger children can be prompted to talk about what they see, and type in their replies; older children can interact with the program on their own.

 

The questions proposed in the activity help students develop observational skills by asking them to describe what they see. None of the questions assume knowledge about the history of art. Instead, they draw upon children's natural curiosity and often evoke surprising and insightful responses. Following each discussion, children can create their own artwork on the computer, or they can carry out projects by painting, drawing, or making a sculpture. When finished, have the class return to “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” to discuss original illustrations from the text. This speaks to the following application: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

 

Kipling on “Fiction”

 

Closer Readings’ bloggers have spent this past year teasing out distinctions between fictional and nonfictional texts as required by the Common Core. It is only fitting then to close the year with a line from a speech Kipling gave to the Royal Literary Society in June 1926 entitled “Fiction.” In this speech, he looks at the relationship between fiction and truth and maps out the connection between fiction and other disciplines---a theme we will return to next week as we open the blog forum for 2014:

 

For Fiction is Truth’s elder sister. Obviously. No one in the world knew what truth was till someone had told a story. So it is the oldest of the arts, the mother of history, biography, philosophy dogmatic..., and, of course, of politics.

 

 

Shelley

EDSITEment Literature and Language Program Specialist

 

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Reliquary_Three_Wise_Men_MNMA_Cl23822.jpg/250px-Reliquary_Three_Wise_Men_MNMA_Cl23822.jpg“… Magi, his most famous story, is the American answer to A Christmas Carol, only supplanted in the last generation by It’s A Wonderful Life, a film whose debt to O. Henry is apparent.”—Drew Johnson, “O. Henry’s Afterlife: Thoughts and Ephemera”

 

December is the perfect time of year to introduce your students to “The Gift of the Magi.” This classic short story with its message of what giving and receiving truly means is a universal theme permeating holiday literature. William Sydney Porter was a beloved early 20th century author who wrote under the pen name, O. Henry and became known as the “Master of the Short Story.” “The Gift of the Magi” remains his most popular work.

 

This delightful chestnut rolled out each Christmas now also appears on the list of Common Core Sate Standard English Language Arts exemplar texts for grades 9–10 (Appendix B.) In addition to its tried-and-true entertainment value, the longstanding seasonal favorite can be aligned with this Anchor Standard for Reading: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

 

Close reading

EDSITEment has developed a new student interactive Launchpad: “A Gift of the Magi”: A Common Core exemplar” with excerpts from the original text to guide English Language Arts students through an independent close reading of the story. The resource includes selected websites they can use to glean necessary background information on references within the text and a series of optional writing activities. “The Gift of the Magi,” is also available as an electronic text via the EDSITEment-reviewed Center for Liberal Arts.

 

In this Christmas tale the main character, Della, longs to buy a special gift for her husband, Jim, but is hampered by her meager savings of less than two dollars. With love trumping vanity, Della sells her glorious, waist-long hair for twenty dollars so that she can buy Jim’s present: a chain for his prized heirloom watch. O. Henry, famous for his “surprise” endings, concludes with a finale rich in situational irony sure to confound your students.

 

Writing activities

After unlocking the central themes and ideas in the text, students can try their hand at three expository and creative writing activities that directly align with the following CCSS Writing Standards:

 

  • Write a persuasive essay that discusses which partner makes the greater sacrifice in this story: Della selling her hair or Jim selling his watch? (Or, if they are equal sacrifices, make an argument for one position or the other using evidence from the text.) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
  • Choose one of several themes in “The Gift of the Magi” that are expressed in dichotomies and write an explanatory essay using evidence from the text to show how the author makes a case for the prevalence of one side of a theme over the other. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
  • Consider why O. Henry told the story from a female perspective, then compose an alternate story from Jim’s point of view.CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3


Gift-giving traditions

EDSITEment’s popular feature The Gift of Holiday Traditions: Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas expands the gift-giving theme O. Henry encapsulates in his ironic tale. The annual ritual of exchanging presents is certainly a holiday tradition in many families, and almost everyone can relate to the difficulty of finding that special gift for a loved one. The practice of gift-giving reverberates through holiday narratives of world literature and through the secular and religious customs of Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

 

Additional resources

Ohioana Authors (supported by the Ohio Humanities Council) provides Ohio connections to O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”

Early Multi-National Influences in the United States

Read Write Think Lesson: I’ve Got the Literacy Blues

Reliquary Chasse with the Adoration of the Magi (from the NEH-funded exhibit Treasures of Heaven)

 

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Reliquary with the journey of the Three Wise Men and the adoration of Christ. Engraved, chased, enameled and gilt champlevé copper, Limoges, ca. 1200.

EDSITEment has developed a couple new ELA Literature resources around ELA Common Core State Standards Exemplars.  We hope you will enjoy them!

 

Launchpad: O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi”: A Common Core Exemplar


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After Mark Twain and Edgar Allen Poe, William Sydney Porter may be the most widely-read author in the world. You can find out why he bears the title, “Master of the Short Story,” on Ohioana Authors, which provides more on the colorful background on the author who wrote under the pen name O. Henry.

“The Gift of the Magi” is one of O. Henry’s most popular and beloved short stories. It has been rendered into film adaptations that are rolled out during the Christmas season. This classic tale of giving with O. Henry’s signature “twist-ending” has long been a model for later writers. Literary legend has it this story was penned by the author in the second booth from the front of Healy's Tavern on Irving Place in New York City. This story was initially published in The New York Sunday World under another title "Gifts of the Magi" on December 10, 1905. It was first published in book form in 1906, in The Four Million.


EDSITEment's  has developed a new student resource, Launchpad: “A Gift of the Magi”: A Common Core exemplar” with excerpts from the original text to guide English Language Arts students through an independent close reading of this short story.  The resource includes selected websites for students to glean necessary background information on references within the text.

Dramatic and Theatrical Aspects in Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town": A Common Core Exemplar

 

Unitarian church

For almost a century, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has provided audiences with an exceptionally moving theatrical experience despite its minimal sets and only a handful of props—indeed, the play begins with the Stage Manager on an empty stage, dragging a few chairs and tables into their places while the theater audience is still taking their seats. The power of this play emanates from its simplicity: allusions to spectacle (what the audience sees and hears) without distracting production; elegant characterization and character development; and essential human conflicts and contrasts that animate the stage.

 

The activities in this lesson require students to be active observers, sensitive to the playwright’s subtle use of these dramatic and theatrical devices to shape his drama. Students will focus on the sights and sounds of the play to discover their impact on mood and theme; they will scrutinize Wilder’s character development to understand the many individual dramas that constitute the overarching drama; and they will investigate conflicts and contrasts whose resolutions or lack thereof have made the play meaningful to so many readers and audiences.

 

Shelley

EDSITEment Literature and Language Specialist

Capture.PNG

As the north winds of late November begin to roar, EDSITEment heralds three lions of American literature whose birthdays are celebrated this week. Stave off the winter cold with close readings of their classic tales while meeting the requirements of the Common Core.These authors and their novels top the list of CCSS Grade 6–8 exemplars under the category “Stories”: Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women; Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time; Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Appendix B.)

 

 

EDSITEment and the National Endowment for the Humanities have developed resources to support Common Core teaching applications for each of these literary masters and their masterworks and offer teacher opportunities to apply the following Anchor Reading standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

 

Louisa May Alcott

"Little Woman," a feature article from Humanities magazine, offers a fresh perspective on the beloved author of that old chestnut, Little Women. Teachers as well as students may be surprised to learn there were many sides to Louisa May Alcott. She was quite the “devilish dutiful daughterwho acted the part of an irrepressible tomboy in her youth. Louisa May “never liked girls or [had] many” girlfriends other than her three siblings. As a young writer, she could hardly imagine how much their family experiences would resonate with the world at large.

 

 

A host of teaching resources for this author are available on the website of the NEH-funded documentary, The Woman behind Little Women, which offers secondary lesson plans and other background materials on Louisa May’s life and work. Further engage students with Louisa's intellectual world by accessing EDSITEment’s interactive introduction to Thoreau’s Circle, in which students can draw interconnections among members of this small group of American literati. Students can chart the influence of Henry David Thoreau on Louisa May and uncover events that brought her fiction to life! CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

 

Madeleine L’Engle

In her Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech, Madeleine L’Engle pinpoints her connection to Alcott, “in boarding school I grabbed Invincible Louisa the moment it came into the library because Louisa May Alcott had the same birthday I have, and the same ambitions.” EDSITEment’s lesson on L’Engle’s Newbery Award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time, examines a young heroine, Meg Murry, who undergoes a series of coming-of-age trials. The lesson invites students to re-experience her archetypal journey through space and time in the form of a board game where, as in the novel itself, Meg's progress is either thwarted or advanced by aspects of her emotional responses to situations. By tracking the heroine's changing sense of self, students render the physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges she experiences through her mythic rite of passage into elements of the game they design themselves! CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.

 

Mark Twain

Twain opens his classic tale, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with a tongue-in-cheek warning:PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot!” Never mind. Critics have spent 130 years examining every literary device within this “Great American Novel” since its publication in 1885. EDSITEment offers students their own opportunity to flout Twain’s admonition with Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context. In this lesson, students compare and contrast the ideas presented in two published critiques of the novel. They examine two critical voices from two different eras and juxtapose their own 21st-century reading of the novel against them. Contemporary events and social mores in effect during the critics’ lives are used to determine the influence of cultural context on their reviews. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.9 Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.


EDSITEment provides students with a different means of delving further into this great American bard by investigating Mark Twain and American Literary Humor. This lesson offers a close reading of his story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and an opportunity to trace its literary predecessors. They discover how Twain masterfully combined the vibrant, storytelling tradition rooted in folk tale, fable, and gossip with the calculated literary devices of satire, irony, and wit. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.6 Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

 

Literary legends are big game to be tracked anew by each generation of readers of American literature. EDSITEment resources offer teachers a way to evaluate their texts in light of the new Standards and provide vehicles to safari students through traditional close readings of their timeless tales.

 

Additional Resources

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

From "The North Wind and the Sun," in The Æsop for Children, by Æsop, illustrated by Milo Winter. Wikimedia Commons.

Kandi.jpg

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kandi Maxwell teaches English at Modoc High School in Alturas, California. A teacher-writing consultant for the Northern California Writing Project, she has presented at teacher training workshops throughout Northern California. Kandi has worked in Indian Education for the past 15 years and is currently the vice-chair of the parent board for Resources for Indian Student Education. Her essays have been published in The Teacher’s Voice and California English.

 

You begin to string words together like beads to tell a story. … to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace. … to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work.—Anne Lamott

 

When content area teachers hear that their already full curriculum load will now include ELA standards in writing, many express doubt about their ability to tackle the challenge. When looking at the new Common Core State Standards for writing along with the new requirements to incorporate history, social studies, science and technical subjects, as well as nonfiction literature, such angst is understandable.

 

Basically what this means is that teachers of all disciplines as well as ELA teachers will need to teach writing frequently. Although the standards include some examples of performance tasks in writing, there essentially are no road maps. So how do teachers get there?

 

Tips to adapt current curriculum

One way to include more writing in the curriculum is to examine multiple choice tests and look for questions that can be developed into open-ended questions. Develop short answer questions. Ask the student to explain, analyze, compare, conclude, and synthesize using questions that are more cognitively demanding. These short writing activities prepare students for more complex writing later.

 

For vocational classes, teachers might begin with process writing. For instance, if students will be building a book shelf, have them write out the steps that will be required to create and assemble the shelves. This type of writing requires students to evaluate and organize the information and to determine what details are important to include. Once the book shelf is completed, instruct students to write a reflective piece about the building process: what worked, what didn't, and what steps to remember in order be successful in future projects. To add elements of argument, let students compose an advertisement for the shelf modeled on real advertisements for book shelves or other wood projects. Have them analyze persuasive techniques such as loaded language or emotional appeal, then write out their own advertisement. Here too, we see short writing that could develop into larger pieces such as research papers.

 

Practice reading and writing together

Reading and writing coexist. As students break down a complex texts, they are simultaneously moving into the writing process. Read and write the lessons you teach. Begin the process with a quick read of the text, then create the writing task that will go with the text. Read a short story and ask students to write about how the author uses conflict to reveal the theme. This provides a purpose for the reading. As students read the text, they will look for examples of conflict. They might write out quotes that show conflict on sticky notes, or get into groups and write out conflict quotes and explanations on a large poster. Have them look at their examples and determine a theme. Such short writings will become a piece of a larger essay.

 

Teachers model as writers

Teachers provide samples of their own writing for the lessons they assign in order to gain a better understanding of the writing process. They become aware of the challenges students face firsthand. Through writing a response, they can determine if the writing task is clear and discover strategies to help students with their structure and organization. For teachers who may not be confident in teaching writing, this process hones writing skills. Writing is challenging! Model for students the time it requires and a willingness to take risks.

 

Revise, revise, revise!

Most teachers observe the classic writing format: read the writing task; brainstorm ideas; write an outline; compose a first draft; then type a final draft (which is usually just another version of the rough draft with spell check). However, in reality that final draft is typically when students should just be getting started. Authentic writers and journalist revise numerous times. For years I would get frustrated at my students for making the same mistakes in writing. After that "final draft," I provided no opportunity for revision.

 

Now, when my students have the opportunity to revise, they begin to see patterns in their writing. Do they continuously shift tense? Is structure an issue? I provide writing comments on these early drafts without grading the piece. In this way, students don't give up. Small writing groups are a good way to make revisions; students exchange papers and discuss their work. By reading their drafts out loud, most students can immediately spot problems that exist.

 

Adding more writing to content area curricula does not have to be daunting. As CCSS has teachers incorporating writing into their current curriculum, teachers can simultaneously provide students more cognitively complex lessons. This is not only good for teachers, it is what matters to students in school and beyond.

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There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

—Chinua Achebe

 

A CCSS Exemplar text for grades 9–10 (Appendix B), Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart deals with the clash of cultures and the violent transitions brought about by British colonialism in Nigeria at the end of the 19th century.

 

Published in 1958, just before Nigerian independence, Achebe’s novel recounts the life of the village hero Okonkwo and describes the arrival of white missionaries in Nigeria during the late 1800s and their impact on traditional Igbo society. Achebe tried to achieve a “new” English that would capture and preserve the African experience of an Igbo village. Things Fall Apart made Achebe “the father of African literature.” Over the last decade, his novel has become a staple on high school reading lists worldwide.

 

EDSITEment offers a new World Literature lesson, A “New English” in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Common Core Exemplar. This lesson provides an opportunity to see how Achebe integrates elements from the Igbo oral tradition into his narrative: figurative language that draws on every-day village life; the ubiquitous proverbs of African conversation; and the folktales that both entertain and instruct. Students will undertake a close reading of passages in Things Fall Apart to evaluate the impact of Achebe’s linguistic and literary techniques on the narrative. This expands their cultural understanding and broadens their base of world literature.

 

Achebe’s New English

With a childhood in the Igbo town of Ogidi and an education in English at the University of Ibadan, Achebe was conversant with both Igbo and English language and culture. In a famous essay called “The African Writer and the English Language,” Achebe pointed out the difference between ethnic language and national language, which originated in the artificial drawing of national boundaries by the colonizing powers without regard to ethnic fault lines. Thus, the people of Nigeria speak numerous ethnic languages—Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and Fulani, and 500 additional languages. Achebe states that if he were to write for the people of Nigeria, he had to write in the one language they all understood: English.

 

Upon the author’s death in March 2013, NPR complied a number of interviews and broadcasts that had been conducted over the years to feature Achebe and speak to the legacy of Things Fall Apart.

 

Applications for the Common Core

A “New English” in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Common Core Exemplar offers an application for the Reading Literature Anchor standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

 

Lesson activities guide students in an examination of the elements of Igbo oral tradition as they appear in Things Fall Apart. Activity 1 launches students into an interpretation of Igbo words and phrases Achebe molds into literary devices. They see firsthand how Achebe shaped the English of his novel to the African experience. Worksheet 1 provides a vehicle for students to identify the author’s figurative language and record the meaning of each Igbo simile. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

 

Students move on to an examination of Igbo proverbs that Achebe peppers over his narrative to evoke a sense of time and place; set tone; convey mood; and provide local color. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

 

Finally students observe how Achebe plants several Igbo folktales at strategic points in the narrative. A close reading of these traditional African stories offers the American student a unique perspective into the Igbo people’s values and culture. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

 

The summative assessment has students consider how successful Achebe was in his stated intention to use the “English language to carry the weight of the African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit new African surroundings.”

 

Shelley

EDSITEment Literature and Language Specialist

http://www.floridamemory.com/fpc/reference/rc10403.jpgI belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads. —Zora Neale Hurston

 

A CCSS Exemplar text for grades 11 – College and Career Readiness (Appendix B) Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, is more than simply the coming-of-age story of a woman finding herself and extending her horizons.

 

A careful record of place and time, this novel brings to life the culture of the first African American-controlled town in Florida and the settlement of black migrant workers in the rich agricultural “muck” around Lake Okeechobee in the early decades of the 20th century. A trained anthropologist and ethnographer, Hurston imbued her characters’ dialogue and descriptive passages with firsthand knowledge of the folk life and folk language of this region.

 

EDSITEment’s new multicultural literature lesson, Their Eyes Were Watching God: Folk Speech and Figurative Language for the Common Core, provides students with an opportunity to observe how Hurston creates a unique literary voice by combining folklore, folk language, and traditional literary techniques. Students will examine the role that folk groups play in their own lives and in the novel. They will undertake a close reading of passages in Their Eyes Were Watching God that reveal Hurston’s literary techniques and determine their impact on the novel.

 

The Novel

Hurston’s masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) with its tale of Janie’s three marriages is the pre-eminent novel written by a woman who participated in the Harlem Renaissance. The protagonist of this early feminist “manifesto” liberates herself from the expectations of society and particularly from the men in her life. At the same time, the novel celebrates and preserves a particular time, place, and way of life with the accuracy of an anthropologist.

 

The National Endowment for the Arts The Big Read selected Their Eyes Were Watching God for “the syncopated beauty of Hurston's prose, her remarkable gift for comedy, [and] the sheer visceral terror of the book's climax,” that “transcend any label that critics have tried to put on this remarkable work.”

 

Applications for the Common Core

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Folk Speech and Figurative Language offers an application for the Reading Literature Anchor standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

 

Activity 1 introduces students to the specialized vocabulary of folklore and has them apply it to Hurston’s fictional writing in the novel. They go on to analyze the impact of Hurston’s choices regarding how she integrated folk groups and folk genre into her narrative. This is followed by Activity 2, in which students identify examples of Hurston’s “eye dialect”—a technique used by writers to simulate speech as it is actually spoken rather than in its polished, abstract, “correct” form.

 

Worksheet 3 aids students in their task of analyzing the impact of specific word choices on Hurston’s meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings and language that is powerful. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.

 

Regardless of whether Zora Neale Hurston was using dialect or Standard English, she clearly employed many figures of speech in her writing. The lesson concludes with Activity 3, in which students complete a close reading of several passages from the novel to uncover some of these figurative elements.

 

Overall, the lesson provides a series of steps in which students can evaluate the effectiveness of these elements in creating Hurston’s unique “voice.” CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings: (a) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5a Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text and (b) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5b Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.

 

Additional resources

Further background and resources to place Zora Neale Hurston’s life and work in context can be found at the University of Minnesota’s Voices from the Gap. More comprehensive biographical material is available on her official website, Zora Neale Hurston.

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Monarch_In_May.jpgA novel is not, after all, a historical document, but a way to travel through the human heart. —Julia Alvarez

 

A CCSS Exemplar text for grades 9–10 (Appendix B), In the Time of Butterflies is complex coming-of-age novel perfect for a high school English Language Arts course or literature circle selection. With its unique structure of time frames and alternating voices, this novel provides a context for students to examine the struggles of women to secure their human, civil, and economic rights in countries around the world today.

 

EDSITEment’s new World Literature lesson, Courage In the Time of the Butterflies: A Common Core Exemplar, conducts students through a careful analysis of multiple characters demonstrations of different types of courage. Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies”—was the name used by the people of the Dominican Republic to describe the Mirabal sisters, who were assassinated by the dictator Rafael Trujillo for trying to lead a democratic revolution. It also offers a close reading of an informational text, a recent speech delivered by a daughter of one of the sisters to help students better understand the historical legacy of these extraordinary women.

 

The Novel

Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) tells this story in historical fiction through the voices of the four Mirabal sisters. Based on Alvarez’s personal knowledge of the political situation in the Dominican Republic and her family’s own participation in the resistance movement, the novel conveys authenticity. It is also grounded in extensive research. Alvarez interviewed the surviving sister Dedé and other family members to create unforgettable characters and bridge the gap between biography and fiction.

 

In the Time of the Butterflies concludes with a postscript in which the author asks herself: What gave the Mirabals that special courage? Alvarez notes this is the question that drove her to write the novel. Her stated intention was to immerse her readers “in an epoch of the life of the Dominican Republic that can only finally be understood by fiction, only finally be redeemed by the imagination.” As they enter the turbulent world of these courageous sisters, your high school students will let you know how successful Alvarez was in accomplishing that goal.

 

(The Big Read from the National Endowment for the Arts has selected In the Time of Butterflies for its “homage to the bravery and sacrifice of the Mirabal family and a literary work of high grace.”)

 

Applications for the Common Core

Courage In the Time of the Butterflies offers an application for the Reading Literature Anchor standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

 

Activity 1 has students generate an extended definition of “courage” a central theme in this text, followed by Activity 2, where the development of the sisters’ courage is tracked over the course of the text in order for them to acertain how it emerges in the actions of the sisters throughout the novel. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

 

Students unearth the complex motivations of each sister’s character and consider their changing relationships as the story evolves. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

 

The lesson concludes in Activity 3 with a speech given by Minerva Mirabal’s daughter Minou on the subject of violence against women. It provides a unique first-hand perspective and special insight into their lives and legacy. This informational text broadens students’ scope and reinforces their understanding of the types of courage they have examined in Alvarez’s characters. A close reading of the speech is followed by a discussion on its relevance to contemporary women in the United States and around the world. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

 

Extending the lesson offers additional activities to commemorate the United Nation’s annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.

 

Additional Resources

Julia Alvarez (Official website with biographical information, articles, photos, and interviews) contains a film interview of Julia Alvarez on writing In the Time of the Butterflies.

 

PBS documentary, Latino Americans [Part IV. The New Latinos (1946–1965)] features an interview with Julia Alvarez. In her writing, Alvarez explores the hybrid identity taking shape in a new generation of Latinos, who are now demanding their place in America.

 

ABOUT THE IMAGE

Photo of a monarch butterfly by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson, courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

Faulkner.jpg

 

William Faulkner was born on September 25, 1897 ~ this week EDSITEment honors his birthday with applications of his fictional work, As I Lay Dying, and his 1949 Nobel Prize Speech for secondary students' College and Career Readiness.


In his classic introduction to The Portable Faulkner, Malcolm Cowley writes, "Faulkner's novels have the quality of being lived, absorbed, remembered rather than merely observed. And they have what is rare in the novels of our time, a warmth of family affection, brother for brother and sister, the father for his children—a love so warm and proud that it tries to shut out the rest of the world." That familial glow is one we can all bask in as we strive to fulfill the rigors of the Common Core.

As I Lay Dying

William Faulkner’s self-proclaimed masterpiece, As I Lay Dying, originally published in 1930, is a fascinating exploration of the many voices found in a Southern family and community. This novel is an English Language Arts text exemplar for CCSS Grades 11 – CCR. (See Appendix B.)

 

EDSITEment offers a Curriculum Unit As I Lay Dying: Form of a Funeral to unpack this masterpiece of fiction from the American South. Faulkner's ability to shift narrative voice in this novel results in a rich tapestry of often competing perspectives, where information is doled out in small bits, left to the reader to piece together in an understanding of the larger (yet not complete) family portrait of the Bundrens.

 

How does Faulkner's form for the novel—a series of competing voices and perspectives presented as a multiple-voice narrative—work for or against the novel's title? This guiding question aligns with grade standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama.

 

The Nobel Prize speech

Teachers looking for an informational text to accompany their reading will find one in Lesson 5: Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Concluding the Novel. In his Nobel Prize speech Faulkner said that "the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself […] alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat." In this brief speech (only 553 words) he spoke of that conflict: of "love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice." His assessment of mankind's future is surprisingly optimistic: "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail."

 

Activity 1 has students compare the central themes of hope and loss found in both Faulkner's Nobel Prize speech and As I Lay Dying. Consider Faulkner’s final portrait of the Bundren family:

  • Are they as rotten as Addie's corpse, full of despair and dissolution? Or are they a tribute to the vigor and resolve of a Southern family, who successfully complete an overwhelming task?
  • Does Faulkner truly resolve this issue?
  • Is the sense of hope more evident in his Nobel Prize speech than in As I Lay Dying?
  • Beyond the title, what else might be "dying" in this novel? The South? The authority of the narrator? The institution of the family? Faulkner's artistic depth allows for all of these possibilities.

 

What kind of promise does Faulkner offer after death? Is the novel simply pessimistic, or is there some hope throughout? Is that redemption reflected in the Nobel Prize speech? CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

 

Sense of place

Faulkner wrote about a time and a place he knew well. Lesson 1: Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Images of Faulkner and the South can be used to examine social and economic conditions in the rural South to allow students to "place" Faulkner's novel historically and sociologically. Faulkner's life is presented, briefly, so that parallels can be drawn between his life and the life depicted in the text. Students can explore how the small Mississippi town where Faulkner grew up supplied models for many colorful characters like the Bundren family. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

 

NEH Humanities magazine feature, “Faulkner at 100,” discusses Faulkner’s view of love as “an active response to something that we choose.” The conflicting impulses he fielded to both escape and indict his home state were trumped only by his abiding affection for it. His Mississippi is all embracing—his characters in spite of (and perhaps because of) their shortcomings are his own folk. Thanks to Faulkner’s genius, they also become ours.

 

Additional Resources


 


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